Edgar Allan Poe tales are generally thought of as dark, disturbing, depressing and downright creepy. So how does one transform that into a teen comedy? I suppose I'll have to find out this weekend when King Kekaulike High School's beginning acting class, under the direction of Chris Kepler, performs "Usher, A Totally Teen Comedy" by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus.
The production is described as a skillful adaptation and mix of Poe's writing and characters, weaving them together into a teen-savvy comedy loosely based on "The Fall of the House of Usher." "Usher" also touches on some issues that haunt the teens such as isolation, loneliness, suicide and peer pressure.
The clever teen farce features several comical characters like Eulalie, an inane Southern Belle; Raven, a crabby valley girl; Edgar, a guilt ridden bus driver; and Mann, a 1960s hippie ghost. Then there's Eleonora, a horrible psychic who surprises herself when she apparently has some powers; Furtunato, a snobbish rich kid with a huge vocabulary; and Swede, a mime who writes everything down on a hand-held chalkboard.
See Kaya Lara as Tarr (from left), Olivia Moke as Swede, Brie Wearing as Eulalie, Liam Grinell as Roderick, Ariana Garcia as Tamerlane, and Angel Fergerstrom as Pym in King Kekaulike High School’s latest production.
JACK GRACE photo
While on their way to a school competition, the bus breaks down in a desolate area on a dark and stormy night. The closest shelter they can find is the spooky House of Usher, and they're forced to spend the night in the haunted house where the spirits of Usher ancestors are cursed to stay trapped in the house forever. The cast of teens leads the audience through a farce of the collective works of Poe such as "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Tell Tale Heart" and "Annabel Lee," but with plenty of laughs, shrieks and ghost-filled chase scenes a la Scooby Doo, minus a dog.
* King Kekaulike will present "Usher, A Totally Teen Comedy," loosely based on "The Fall of the House of Usher," and other works by Edgar Allen Poe, Jan. 11 through 20. Performances are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays at the King Kekaulike High School cafetorium. Tickets are available exclusively at the door, a half hour before the show; adults $6, students $4.
Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) is well known for its weekly classes in dance, drama and music. Recently several MAPA alumni and current instructors, wishing to continue performing as adults, have created the Ampersand Dance Company, designed to showcase Maui's exceptional dance talent.
Artistic Director Rebecca Owen explains, "We want younger dancers to be able to look up to professional adult dancers who they know and be artistically engaged in dance by people right here on Maui. We also wanted to take the time to challenge ourselves creatively by developing new dance pieces and sharing them with the community."
In addition to Owen, founding company members include Katira Arak, Ajja DeShayne, Katerina Dominguez and Jenna Kamikawa. In time, Ampersand will feature guest artists, providing a venue for dancers to showcase their talent and to continue to grow professionally.
MAPA Executive and Artistic Director David Johnston explained, "Dance is such an integral part of our work and we wanted to incorporate dance performances into our production season. While we're fortunate that prominent Mainland dance companies periodically perform on Maui, there is so much talent right here in our own community that deserves to be seen."
* MAPA's Ampersand Dance Company, will have its inaugural performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. The performance will feature original choreography set to a variety of contemporary music. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students younger than 18. For more information, call 244-8760 or visit www.mauiacademy.org.
ProArts has added three new shows to its 2012-13 season. "Lend Me a Tenor" by Ken Ludwig will open in late February, followed by "The Princess and the Pizza" (a fractured fairy tale) by Richard and Kim Vetterli in March, and "Misery" by Stephen King, adapted for the stage by Stephen Moore is scheduled for April.
Auditions for "Lend Me a Tenor," directed by Lisa Teichner will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Reservations are required and can be reserved by calling 463-6550. Auditions are for adults 20 and older, and actors should bring a current resume, a headshot and be prepared to read from the script. A stipend is paid to all participants.
Callback auditions will be at 10 a.m. Saturday. "Tenor" will open Feb. 22 and run through March 10, with a possible extension through March 17. Roles include Max (30s), Maggie (30s), Saunders (50s), Tito Merelli (40s-50s), Maria (40s-50s), Bellhop (age open), Diana (30s-40s), and Julia (40s-60s).
The farcical "Tenor" is set in 1934. Renowned tenor Tito Merelli, known to his fans as "il stupendo," is scheduled to sing the lead in Othello at a gala fundraiser for the Cleveland Opera Company. Unfortunately, even before the star leaves his hotel room, everything begins to unravel. Chaos ensues when Merelli's wife Maria mistakes an autograph-seeker hidden in his closet for a secret lover. She then leaves Merelli a "Dear John" letter and the distraught star is accidentally given a double dose of tranquilizers to calm him. Saunders, the company's general manager, determined that the show will go on, asks his assistant Max to impersonate the opera star. The immensely popular Tony Award winning comedy has been translated into sixteen languages and produced in 25 countries over the past 27 years.
Also this week
Maui OnStage continues its free theater series, ONO!, at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Historic Iao Theater. This month will feature "Art" by Yasmina Reza, starring Robert E. Wills, Brian Connolly and Don Carlson. "Art" is the sophisticated comedy about three middle-aged men, one of whom has decided to become an amateur art collector, spending $200,000 on an all-white painting. The free ONO! performances are held at 6:30 p.m. every second Monday of the month at the Historic Iao Theater.
Founded in 2003 by Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott, Kiegwin + Company presents an electrifying brand of contemporary dance and a vision that embodies theatrical sensibility with wit, style and heart. Keigwin has created 16 dances, including large-scale pieces set to "Bolero," and his most recent acclaimed work, "Bird Watching." Kiegwin + Company will perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. Tickets are $45, $32 and $12, plus applicable fees. To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
Broadway stars Gary Mauer and Elizabeth Southard will perform with Maui Pops Orchestra at 3 p.m. Jan. 20 at the MACC's Castle Theater, as they present a collection of memorable Broadway songs from hit shows such as "Les Miserables," "Show Boat," "West Side Story," "Chicago," "My Fair Lady," plus George Gershwin and Cole Porter standards. Southard and Mauer sang the lead roles of Christine and the Phantom in the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of The Opera." Tickets are $25, $35 and $45, plus applicable fees.
The New Shanghai Circus returns on?Jan. 21 and 22 to the MACC's Castle Theater. The wildly popular troupe features Chinese acrobatic skills passed on from framers and craftsmen to the current performers for dozens of generations. Building on the traditional performances, the artists of today's New Shanghai Circus add layers of complexity, daring new techniques and spectacular stunts, thrilling audiences around the world. It's always a family favorite (and a sold-out event), so don't delay in reserving a seat.
New Shanghai Circus performs at 4 and 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 21 and again at 7 p.m. on Jan. 22. Tickets are $28, $22 and $12, plus applicable fees.
Also making an encore appearance is "One Hot Winter's Night," an evening sexy, saucy and bawdy song and dance at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Historic Iao Theater. The 1940s-style burlesque revue will feature live performances by some of Maui's best entertainers including the Kit Kat Club Cabaret, Jonna Ahn, Kathy Collins, Charles Cook, Lia Krieg, Chino LaForge, Alison Mikes, Casey Murphy and many others. "One Hot Winter's Night" is an adult-themed nostalgic burlesque show, and is not appropriated for children younger than 17. Tickets are $17 to 28, and available through the Maui OnStage box office, by calling 242-6969 or online at www.mauionstage.com.