Anyone can sell anything if they love what they sell. It's selling something we are indifferent to that is difficult. I could attempt to write a column about Maui County politics, but it would be absolutely horrible. Show business is my soul mate, it is what I love, which is likely the reason I am still single.
Conflict of interest? In the interest of complete disclosure let's address the elephant on the lanai. I work with Maui OnStage and MAPA. I promote theater, perform in plays and make public appearances promoting plays. Now I find myself in the strange place of promoting and marketing to, well, me. Ironic to say the least. From time to time I may choose to remind Maui readers of my PR rep/columnist conflict, but your time is best spent reading about Maui theater.
That said, my intention is to have an honest discussion with the Maui theater-loving community on what's new. I'd like to contribute to the type of conversation we have when the crowd has left, the reporters are off the record and the DJ just broke for a commercial. Yes, Virginia, not every show on Maui is "great, you'll love it!"
Angela Thompson, Kevin Hazelton, Jonathan Yudis and Chaney Cramer star in the witty “Social Security,” ProArts’ next production opening Sept. 2 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.
Photo by Jack Grace Photography
Occasionally every noteworthy theater company in America is required to take artistic and financial risks or otherwise be content to eventually go out of business. Option two is produce and reproduce the hits, which in time will compromise a theater company's artistic integrity.
This is an exciting time for theater on the island as it appears the entire community is throwing caution into the wind. If there is a trend it might best be described as bigger, bolder, better and, of course, much more expensive. All the more fitting that the outdoor stage at the Maui Tropical Plantation is called the field of dreams - if you build it they will come. But do they?
For the most part, attendance is up over the past few seasons but that depends on what particular show you are talking about. "South Pacific," "Sound of Music," "Cats," "Annie," "Cabaret" and "Chicago" were big hits. The real question is why can't you sell comedy and drama on Maui?
If half the people who attend the large lavish musicals attended every Maui show with the same fervor, the end result would allow Maui theater to grow and rival communities like Seattle, San Francisco and Portland and also -dare I say? - pay its actors. Some of the finest Maui productions over the past several years were financial flops. In all likelihood this trend will continue. In a sense it is the responsibility of individuals who read articles such as this one to attend theses shows or be content with a similar rotation of Broadway classics every decade or so. We gladly pay $100 for a dinner because it's the new hip, spot, $20 film festival tickets, $20 covers for Mainland DJs working off a laptop, $50 to watch a comedian whose only real need is a microphone, but when it comes to theater we scoff at the $25 price. A price that is barely enough to cover the costs of costumes, the set, props, expensive royalties and the list goes on and on. I'm hard-pressed to think of any other business in the world whose ultimate goal is to simply break even.
The alternative becomes that option two I spoke of -crank out a "Showboat" or "Fiddler on the Roof" again, which every theater in America has to do from time to time. It's exciting that our Maui theater companies are adding lesser-known plays along with bold interpretations of classic works to their seasons. In time this experiment may fail, making it less and less likely for local playwrights to ever see their original works presented. In some cases, productions are cancelled based on the talent pool available. Some of Maui's finest actors simply do not want to do certain well-worn shows.
Of course, if you dislike theater and have accidentally fallen upon this column, nothing I have said applies. Everyone loves to have a local ballet company, but in the end no one ever goes. So what do you do? You do "Nutcracker," and you're back in the black. In return, the local audience has the right to shape the arts that they support. Devil's advocate suggests perhaps Maui already has spoken; maybe Maui really does want to see Mame charm the husk off of corn or be invited by a teacup to be their guest. If so " 'Showboat's' comin.' "
"Social Security": ProArts presents its first show of the season, "Social Security" by Andrew Bergman. Trendy art gallery owners Barbara and David have their life upended when Barbara's uptight sister and brother-in-law, Trudy and Martin, deposit their eccentric mother, Sophie, on their doorstep while they head to Buffalo to rescue their sexually precocious daughter. Sophie is introduced to a suave, aging artist named Maurice who brightens her life in ways she never expected. A Broadway hit, the original production starred Marlo Thomas, Ron Silver and Olympia Dukakis. The New York Post wrote, "Laugh out loud, joyfully. The play is a hoot, a sophisticated, civilized hoot." "Social Security" features the best of Maui talent including veterans Chaney Cramer, Kevin Hazelton, Joyce Romero, Norman Halip and newcomers Angela Thompson and Jonathan Yudis.
* "Social Security" contains some adult content. It shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 2 through 18 at the ProArts Playhouse. There will be no performance on Sept. 4. Thursdays and Saturdays are kamaaina nights, with $15 tickets with Hawaii I.D. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students 18 and under. Call 463-6550 for tickets or more information.
Wanda Sykes at the MACC: Called "one of the funniest stand-up comics" by her peers, Wanda Sykes is ranked among Entertainment Weekly's 25 Funniest People in America. From movies to TV shows to stand-up and comedy tours, Wanda Sykes has proven that funny is her business. She is coming to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sept.9. Get tickets early!
* Tickets are $46, $66 and $76, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or mauiarts.org.