"What I Did for Love" is a new monthly series "spotlighting" Maui residents (and some visitors) who contribute to our vibrant, diverse performing arts community. In the spotlight this month is Amanda Taulere, creative director of the Comedy Hui, an improvisational comedy group performing in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's McCoy Studio Theater on the third Friday of each month.
Taulere first hopped onstage at the ripe old age of 7 and she hasn't really hopped off since.
"It's what I wanted to do, always," she recalled, "so, as soon as I turned 18, I headed for Hollywood and became a struggling actor. I never really focused on comedy until a classmate of mine, who was an intern on the set of 'News Radio' (the '90s hit sitcom), invited me to a Christmas party." It was there that she met Phil Hartman, who, she remembers,"was a really, really sweet guy."
JACK GRACE photo
Comedy Hui producer/ host AMANDA TAULERE is great at thinking outside the lines
She received some advice she'd never forget from the great comic actor.
"I was never funny until I joined the 'Groundlings,' " he told her. "You have to go and do it."
So she did.
* The Comedy Hui's "Who's Da Kine is it Anyway?" returns to the McCoy Studio Theater, 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $22, $11 for children 12 and younger, plus applicable fees, available at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org. Doors open at 6 p.m. Get there early for the best seats! Pre-show bar service begins at 5 p.m.; dinner service by Bale begins at 5:30 p.m.
The celebrated Los Angeles performance studio (which spawned such luminaries as Hartman, Paul Reubens and Will Ferrell) instilled in Taulere a passion for its unique brand of improvisational, audience-participatory sketch comedy and landed the actress squarely into the high-octane L.A. comedy scene. After finishing up with the 'Groundlings,' she started her own sketch-comedy group called "Store Bought Goods," which headlined at the venerable Comedy Store and brought Taulere even closer to the limelight she'd always thought she wanted.
"I did the standup circuit. I did every coffee house and comedy club in the L.A. area and then 9/11 hit. I was bartending at the time, and (the tragedy) made me ask myself, 'What am I doing?' "
The events of 9/11 served as a wake-up call for Taulere, who decided to put her comedy career on hold and join the American Red Cross' Rapid Response Corps. She went straight to the middle of the aftermath, providing aid for those affected by the attack on the World Trade Center. After returning from New York, Taulere was based in Compton, in South Central Los Angeles.
"Between assignments around the U.S., I would go around (the gang- and poverty-infested area) and teach children how to take care of themselves when they were left at home alone. It was then that something shifted inside of me. I realized the world was not about me, and it felt so rewarding to give."
But when Taulere's agent called one afternoon to tell her the execs at ABC had seen her act and wanted to invite her to their prestigious annual "Sitcom Showcase," she couldn't say no.
"Less than a dozen actors were invited to the event," she said. "It was a really big opportunity. When I got there, I saw all the ABC execs and then I noticed some of comic actors who had been my teachers at the 'Groundlings.' "
Her showcase audition led to a final call for a major role on one of ABC's new fall shows.
"I almost got it," she said, "but nerves got the better of me when, during the final reading, it was just the director, a camera and me. Afterwards, I thought, 'Is this what I really want?' I had spent a semester as an intern on the set of 'Friends' and been around a lot of celebrities. A lot of them were really, really unhappy. It all culminated in a perfect storm, I suppose."
A "perfect storm" that blew her straight to Hawaii.
Taulere purchased a one-way ticket to Kauai, but, as the plane descended for brief stop on Maui, she remembers feeling "a jolt of energy" the minute she saw its jaw-dropping beauty out the airplane window.
"I went to Kauai for a little while, but I just knew Maui was where I was supposed to be," she said.
Several years and many more stories later, Amanda Taulere is directing one of the most inspiring, successful comedy improv troupes ever to grace our comely shores. The Comedy Hui, which includes Rachel Deboer, Tom Althouse, Karen Stavash, Curtis "Chino" LaForge, Alexis Ziegler, John Ziegler and Kore Taylor, offers monthly laugh-'till-you-cry, family-friendly comedy at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's McCoy Studio Theater. This Friday it's "Whose Da Kine is it Anyway?"
All singers on Maui are invited to audition to join the Maui Concert Chorus' eighth season, "Sing On, Sing On!" Auditions are private, not complicated, and give the conductor the chance to learn about your voice. Call 870-5560 or e-mail MauiChoralArts @hawaii.rr.com for information about the auditions and to sign up for one. They will be auditioning basses and tenors until Sept. 21, altos and sopranos until Sept. 9.
The first rehearsal is from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21 in Wailuku. The chorus meets every Tuesday thereafter until the final holiday concert. For more information about rehearsals, attendance requirements, and other details, contact the chorus as above or check out MCAA's website at MauiMusicArts.org.
Brown Bags to Stardom is now registering elementary schools, middle schools and high schools for the Back to School Talent Contest. It's free to audition to represent your school. Winners representing their schools have a $25 registration fee per student. For more information on Brown Bags to Stardom, log onto www.brownbagstostardom.com or call 951-6699.