A consummate character actor, improv comedian and drama teacher last seen as a singing, dancing rodent in ProArts' musical "Rats!," Kristi Scott has never been afraid to think outside the box.
She decided to become an actress in 2nd grade and has never looked back. "I've actually never wanted to do anything else," she said.
Straight out of high school, she dove into the San Francisco theater scene, taking classes, auditioning for roles and figuring out how to make a living doing what she loved.
"In San Francisco I studied with anybody and everybody I could, with professors from American Conservatory Theater, with Jean Shelton Studio and with any other director or actor who was offering classes," Scott said. "If there was an acting class, I was taking it!"
Although lead roles did not come easy at first, Scott made the most of every opportunity to get onstage. "When I first started out professionally, it was harder for me to get work because I was a character actress," she said. "So I did a lot of ensemble work. I wasn't getting any lead roles until I was in my 30s. My 20s were all about learning to be in the chorus, learning to be a team player and learning how to do bit parts."
As her career progressed, she got the chance to try her hand at bigger and more unusual roles. "I've done everything from Shakespeare to 'Robot Rock Opera,' " said Scott. "The dialogue was just this gibberishy, bizarre, robot language, and I was actually acting with robots onstage. That's what you call experimental theater. So I was doing that, as well as working with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. I toured with them for a year, doing school shows. We did 360 performances of 'Much Ado About Nothing.' "
In addition to acting, Scott taught children's drama classes. One of her favorite things about teaching acting is helping kids find an outlet for their natural energy, sense of humor and urge to push boundaries.
"When I was a child, I was every teacher's nightmare" said Scott. "I was always thinking of funny things to say, thinking outside the box, which drove my teachers crazy. That was until I found theater, where I was always supposed to be outside the box. I find now that the kids that are always driving their teachers crazy academically often shine in my theater classes. They get to be loud, they get to be crazy, and they get to think outside the boxes."
While acting and teaching in San Francisco in the early '80s, Scott took a class in improvisation, which sparked a new passion. "I love improv. I love teaching it and I love doing it," she said. "It's so much fun! People are afraid of it, but it's amazing how once you stop thinking, ideas will just come to you. It's not as scary as it seems."
Scott sees improvisation as great training for everyday life. "For me, the skills that you use in improvisation are also life skills," she said. "Making your partner look good, being open to inspiration, saying, 'Yes, and . . .' We forget how often we say, 'No, but . . ."
She gave an example of how improv training has impacted her students' everyday thoughts and decisions.
"One of my catchphrases is 'Make another choice,'" she said. "If a kid is doing something I'm not happy about, I'll just say, 'Make another choice.' And one day, one of my kids was about to do something he knew he shouldn't do, and he heard that in his head, and thought, 'Oh, all I have to do make another choice.' And he did! He applied my teaching to his everyday life! I was like, 'Yeah, he got it!' "
In 2005, Scott decided to give up her theater career in San Francisco to move to Maui. "I'm an ordained minister, so I thought I would move to Maui and do weddings," Scott explained. "I was grumpy, I was cold, I was tired of living in San Francisco, so I gave away all my scripts, I burned my headshot, I got rid of everything, and I moved here. And the second day I was here I looked in the newspaper and saw an ad for a performance at MAPA. And I thought, I wonder if they have an education program? So I called them, and within a week I was teaching classes for them, and in another month or so I was working on one of their shows, and from that show I got hired over at the Iao to direct a show there, and then that led to becoming the artistic director for Maui OnStage. I've worked for all of the theaters on the island now, which is awesome."
Scott's most recent project was assistant directing ProArts production of "Greater Tuna." This summer she is working on two children's theater workshops, "Kamp Krazy Tales" run by ProArts, and a production of "Camp Rock," run by Theatre Theatre Maui. In August she will appear as Meg in MAPA's musical, "Damn Yankees."
Far from switching careers, Scott has become a mainstay of Maui's theater community. "I just love Maui, and I love what I do on Maui," she said. "I'm thankful that I'm able to make a living doing what I love doing. Not everyone can say that, regardless of where they live. To be able to do it here in paradise? That's pretty amazing."
"Disney's Aristocats, Kids": Presented by a cast of 40 youngsters in grades 3 to 8 and directed by Kathleen Schulz, "Aristocats" is packed with jazzy show tunes, memorable characters and big laughs. When Madame's jealous butler Edgar cat-naps Duchess and her Aristokittens and abandons them in the Parisian countryside, the upper-crust kitties fear they will never find their way back to Madame and their cushy mansion home. Luckily, Thomas O'Malley and his ragtag bunch of Alley Cats come to their rescue. This feline adventure is sure to get you tapping your feet to Disney favorites like "The Aristocats," "Scales and Arpeggios" and "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat."
* "Aristocats, Kids" shows 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, June 23 through 26, at Steppingstone Playhouse. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students. Call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org for tickets.
"Chicago": Maui OnStage makes a bang with a raunchy, razzle-dazzling production of the hit 1975 Broadway musical "Chicago." Winner of six Tony Awards and an Academy Award for Best Picture, "Chicago" follows the exploits of Roxy Hart, a murderess with a knack for show biz, as she navigates death row, vies for the spotlight with fellow vaudevillian murderess Velma Kelly, and discovers that fame and fortune may be only a gunshot away. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, this razor-sharp satire features music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, including unforgettable numbers like "All That Jazz," "Cell Block Tango," "Mr. Cellophane" and "Razzle Dazzle."
* "Chicago" comes to the Historic Iao Theater at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, July 8 through 31. Tickets are $15 to $40. Enjoy preshow dinner theater packages with Caf O'Lei in Wailuku or Bistro Casanova in Kahului. Call the Maui OnStage offices at 244-8680 for dinner theater information. For ticket reservations, visit mauionstage.com or call the Maui OnStage box office at 242-6969.
"Honk, Jr.": Sally Sefton directs MAPA's Teen Musical Theater Camp students, grades 6 to 12, in "Honk, Jr," an Olivier-winning, contemporary retelling of the Ugly Duckling story. With music by George Stiles and book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, "Honk" is a fun-filled adventure about overcoming prejudice and discovering the joys of being different.
* "Honk, Jr." shows 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, July 15 through 24, at Steppingstone Playhouse. Tickets are $14 for adults and $10 for students. Call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org for tickets.