This weekend, Maui Academy of Performing Arts and Theater Theater Maui present the capstone productions of their youth theater camps.
MAPA presents "Honk, Jr." -a musical about an ugly duckling who discovers the hardships and joys of being different. The show, which was originally written for adults, explores the problems of bullying and prejudice.
"I was concerned at first because there are some heavier themes in the show, but there was no reason to worry," director Francis Tau'a said. When you give kids heavier material, they rise to it. They welcome it, because it's not just singing and dancing and fluff."
Kiegan Otterson (background) plays Ugly, who is rejected by his duckling siblings (Ka‘eo Sugimura (from left), Bethany Imonti, Emma Smith and Mitchell Harper) in MAPA’s production of “Honk, Jr.”
David Hessemer photo
For many of the kids, the show's themes hit close to home. "The kids in the cast, they're theater kids," Tau'a said. "They're not new to bullying. They deal with that every day."
Giving kids the tools they need to handle bullying in their everyday life is one goal Tau'a hopes to accomplish through the camp. He believes that simple awareness is a good first step.
"We're so guilty of it as a society," he said of bullying. "We and our cliques, we pick out those who are different and ostracize them. This show makes you stop and realize, 'Wait a minute, I'm a bully.'"
The kids are clearly taking the message to heart. Tau'a told me that one day some of the older kids came to him to say that there had been an incident of teasing backstage, but that they had already dealt with the problem and made it clear that the behavior was not acceptable.
"They're governing themselves!" he said.
Many of the kids are even a bit uncomfortable acting as bullies onstage. "It's to their credit that when we rehearsed this scene where they tease Ugly relentlessly, a lot of them were like, 'I don't like this scene. I feel bad,'" said Tau'a. "They wouldn't make eye contact while they were teasing him. But I told them, 'You have to, because you have to take the audience on this journey and give them permission to live through you, so that they really get it.'"
Giving every kid a chance to mature as a performer is another important goal Tau'a hopes to achieve. To help make this possible, MAPA has split the summer theater kids into two camps, a younger group that performed "Aristocats, Jr." a few weeks ago, and an older group that is working on "Honk." With only 18 kids and 26 speaking roles in "Honk," many kids get to play more than one role.
"We really try to stretch them," said Tau'a.
Theatre Theatre Maui's summer camp, which is preparing a production of Disney's "Camp Rock, The Musical," also makes sure to give kids a chance to learn, grow and show off their talent.
"Almost every kid has a moment where they can shine onstage, their moment to draw focus and be the center of attention," said technical director Derek Nakagawa.
Not only that, but Theater Theater Maui lets the kids get involved in every aspect of the production, "from building and painting the set, to the technical side to performing," said Nakagawa.
Theater Theater Maui has brought youth theater to the west side for 19 years. Appropriately enough, this year's production, "Camp Rock," is a show about a gang of kids and their adventures at a musical summer camp.
n "Camp Rock" opens at 7 p.m. Friday and continues at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa's Haleakala Ballroom in Kaanapali. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Lahaina Music or at the box office at the hotel's Haleakala Ballroom one hour before shows. For more information, call 661-1168.
* "Honk, Jr." takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, starting this week through July 24, at Steppingstone Playhouse. Tickets are $14 for adults and $10 for students. Call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org for tickets.
"Sesame Street Live, 1-2-3 Imagine! With Elmo and Friends": Kids of all ages can imagine singing and dancing with Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird and all your favorite Sesame Street Live friends! It's as easy as counting "1-2-3 Imagine!" This high-energy musical will transport audiences to faraway places as Ernie captains the high seas, Elmo dances to the rhythm of the African rain forest and Bert meets an octopus who has the blues. It's a story of adventure and fun that teaches children they can be anyone, do anything and go anywhere with the power of imagination.
* "Sesame Street Live" shows at 7 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m., 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, July 29 through 31, in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $10, $20, $33, $48 and $73, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or mauiarts.org.
MAPA's Summer Dance Camps: There's still room in MAPA's Weekly Summer Dance Camp for students ages 6-10. Taught by Rebecca Owen, the camp runs July 25-29 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuition is $175. Students will make new friends while learning a variety of dance techniques. The camp culminates in a dance performance for family and friends on the last day. No experience necessary.
MAPA's fall registration:?Registration for MAPA's fall semester begins Monday, July 18. MAPA is offering 94 weekly classes for students ages 1 to adult in drama, ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, contemporary, Broadway dance, "Mommy & Me" and - new this semester - "Glee Club." Also available are dance classes on the west side for ages 5-10. Multiple discounts and scholarships are available. Register early (before July 29) and get an additional 10 percent off total tuition.
For on summer dance camps or fall registration, visit www.mauiacademy.org or call 244-8760.