For too many kids, "Big Boys Don't Cry" hits painfully close to home. Written by Vern Harden and performed by the drama students at King Kekaulike High School, the show explores the darker side of family relationships and the problems of alcoholism, domestic violence and abuse.
The play is a collaboration between the beginning, intermediate and advanced drama students and members of the King Kekaulike High School Peer Education Program, designed to give students the knowledge and tools they need to help other at-risk kids at school and in the community combat problems such as drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
Chris Kepler, King Kekaulike High School drama director and Peer Education mentor, knows firsthand that for many of the students he teaches, these issues are a reality. Discussing "Big Boys Don't Cry" with his Peer Education class opened up a dialogue about problems students face in their everyday life.
Kimi Erickson and Cameron Sparks bring this compelling drama to life
King Kekaulike High School photo
Judy Ridolfino is surrounded by her young dancers, Savannnah Dougherty (from left, back row), Malie Watanabe, Dominique Turner, Makenna Sumibcay, Tawny Kiyota, Jayda Cortez (seated front) and Britney Bautista.
FRANK KRAU photo
"Some of them are truly living this scenario with abusive or alcoholic parents," he said in an interview last week.
Kepler believes that discussing tough topics like domestic abuse and alcoholism is the first step in solving them. "Alcoholism is pervasive in our society, and we're not going to have change unless we talk about it and challenge the kids to think about it," he said.
Kepler's drama students are enthusiastic about tackling the serious themes in "Big Boys Don't Cry."
"We could do a mystery, comedy, parody type thing, but a lot of my kids don't feel challenged by that type of acting," said Kepler. "They want something kind of heavy they can really sink their teeth into and develop a character for, and they can certainly do that with this one."
Kepler hopes the show will challenge not only his students, but also audiences and the larger community to consider the important social issues the show addresses.
"One of the coolest things about the show is that it's set in a courtroom and the audience is the jury," Kepler said.
"It's a trial, but there's no verdict rendered at the end. It's left for the audience to marinate on and think about for themselves, who in the show was at fault? And I think the answer is that most all of us are fault in some way, shape or form for the ills of society."
The show points out that social problems are rarely cut-and-dried, and the truth is not necessarily obvious.
"We jump to assumptions, we make prejudgments, and we're not always right," Kepler said. "You don't always know what you think you know."
Sure, it would be easier to do a farce, but "Big Boy's Don't Cry" makes an important statement Kepler and his students can stand behind.
"Believe me when I say that I know doing a show like this is a risk," said Kepler. "But I think that it has a powerful message that will do both our students and the community good."
* "Big Boys Don't Cry" opens this Friday and shows weekends at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 6. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students or staff with any school ID. Wear a football jersey on Sunday, Feb. 6, and pay half price. The production may not be appropriate for children under 11. Tickets will be available at the door.
"The Fantasticks": Don't miss the last weekend of ProArts's delightful musical "The Fantasticks." This wonderful parable tells the story of a young man and the girl next door, their scheming fathers, romance, disillusionment and the realities of love. Directed by Doug Kendrick, the show features some of Maui's most talented performers, including Robert Wills, Leighanna Locke and Tom Althouse. With book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, "The Fantasticks" includes such great tunes as "Try to Remember," "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "I Can See It" and "They Were You."
* "The Fantasticks" performs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sunday at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for kids 12 and under. Call 463-6520 for tickets.
Maui Fringe Festival: Edinburgh, Sydney, New York, San Francisco . . . Maui? What started as an art festival in Scotland in 1947 has become a little-known worldwide phenomenon. The 2011 Maui Fringe Festival, produced by Maui OnStage, is a weekend marathon of original one-act plays featuring local and Mainland playwrights. The eclectic lineup features original one-act plays by Pat Matsimoto, Marilyn Hirashima and Sharyn Stone, plus cabaret, comedy, and showcase performances from Maui's finest performance art troupes.
* The Maui Fringe Festival shows 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4; and 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 5 and 6 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $10. Call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com for tickets and information.
"Shake Your Body": Judy Ridolfino's annual production features more than 120 happy dancers with smiling faces and a multitude of talents, who will be moving in "Shake Your Body From Head to Toe." The dancers range in age from 3 to seasoned citizens, and they will be tapping and jazzing to songs with body parts in the title like "Hips Don't Lie," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "Happy Feet," "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" and check out who's got the cutest little "Baby Face" in this two-hour dance revue.
* "Shake Your Body" takes the Castle Theater stage at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center for one performance only at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5. Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors, students and kids 6-12 years, and free for kids 5 and under. Call 242-7469 or visit MauiArts.org for tickets.