A little over five years ago, I made a very foolish assumption. I first met Steven Dascoulias while performing in the Maui Academy of Performing Arts production of "The Music Man." He was working as a stage hand, and I assumed that was his forte. We all know what happens when we assume.
Three months later, our roles were reversed as I watched him portray King Mongkut in Maui OnStage's "The King and I." It was then that I realized he was perhaps the most talented performer on Maui. Since that time, I have worked with Dascoulias on more projects than I can count, a favorite being opposite his Max Bialystock in last season's "The Producers." I interviewed him last week to find out more about his show business journey.
"My first theatrical endeavor was in high school," he said. I was playing in the pit for 'Annie Get Your Gun.' The musical director asked me to sing one of the songs for the director, and the director responded with 'Next year you're in the show!' Next year was 'The Sound of Music.' I've done that show eight times now."
Steven Dascoulias (center) performs in last year’s production of “The Producers.”
The story of ‘Aukelenuiaiku will unfold Sunday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Photo courtesy Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Prior to his current full-time position as production manager at the Historic Iao Theater, Dascoulias was active in theater throughout New England and known as the singing chef of New Hampshire.
"I started working in my family's restaurant as a kid, 13 or 14 years old. Later on while working in another restaurant, I had the position of chef, although I never felt fully qualified. Whenever I could get away from the line, I would go out into the dining room with my guitar and sing for the guests. I became a sort of local celebrity and ended up on New Hampshire's WMUR television in their 'Cooks Corner' segment. It was great fun cooking and singing on live TV."
In addition to his acting and singing career, Dascoulias regularly directs and serves as a musical director several times a year. His Maui credits include "A Christmas Story," "Arsenic and Old Lace," and "On Golden Pond" for direction and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "Grease," "The Wizard of Oz" and many others as musical director. Currently he is directing the Maui OnStage production of "RENT," which opens on July 12. I asked him if he had an all-time favorite project.
"Wow! Are you trying to get me in trouble? If I don't name one of the projects I've worked on with Alexis (his wife, Alexis Dascoulias, executive director for Maui OnStage), who knows what will happen," he joked. "The Rodgers and Hammerstein shows have been very good to me; 'Sound of Music,' once playing opposite Alexis, once with Alexis as the director; 'South Pacific' (He has played the role of Emile de Becque four times,); 'The King and I' (also four times); and 'Carousel' with Alexis. Another really fond memory is working with Sherman Hemsley in thirty plus performances of 'The Odd Couple.'"
I inquired how the two balance life and work.
"Okay Michael, you're really are putting my back to the wall," he joked. "Working with Alexis has always been one of the greatest joys of my life. We've played opposite one another on stage, directed each other in shows, we've run youth theater programs together and we run a performing arts camp program. As for balance, we go in and out of work mode any time we're away from the theater and we're often talking about our camp program or whatever our current projects may be."
Dascoulias has quite the full plate this summer. In addition to "RENT" he'll be traveling back east in August to play Inspector Javert in "Les Miserables," while at the same time serving as activities director for Camp CenterStage, a youth performing arts camp in Maine. I asked if he had any advice for young people that wanted to get into theater.
"Live life, experience it. Get good training. Build your actor's toolbox. Hone your skills. Read, read, read, history, biographies, literature, don't settle for good enough."
So what can Maui theatergoers expect from Dascoulias in the future and the upcoming production of "RENT?"
"I would really love to direct a small ensemble musical called 'The Spitfire Grill.' I haven't yet convinced Vania Jerome (the "RENT" musical director) that she should be the musical director. I'm very excited about our ("RENT") production. Maui audiences can look forward to performances by a fantastic cast and a great band."
The "RENT" cast will feature Jonna Ahn ("Shout!"), Charles Cook ("Chicago"), Kelsey Greenway ("Cats"), Ricky Jones ("Man of La Mancha"), Kisha Melling ("Hollywood Arms"), Eric Peterson ("Grease") and Francis Tau'a ("Fresher Ahi").
Advance tickets for the July production are available by calling 242-6969 or online at www.mauionstage.com.
Don't miss the latest offering from the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Storytelling Festival, 'Aukelenuiaiku, performed by students from Lahainaluna High School and members of Halau Hula Kauluokala, under the direction of Kumu Hula Uluwehi Guerrero.
Pomaika'i Krueger, Hawaiian Studies instructor at Lahainaluna, has developed the presentation. The waters of Kane, or the waters of life, surround us constantly and provide life for all living things. The story of 'Aukelenuiaiku is of a hero's quest to find these waters and to learn what every young man must know to be mature in this coming-of-age tale performed in chant, hula, and Hawaiian language.
"These high school students have taken on the challenge to bring the story to life for today's audience. Krueger has been working with them to learn new dances, chants, and to express through bits of Hawaiian language, a truly Hawaiian myth," says Hokulani Holt, cultural program director at the MACC. "People of all ages will enjoy this glimpse into Hawaiian culture as conveyed by these Lahainaluna students. and a narrator will guide the audience through the story as it unfolds."
* 'Aukelenuiaiku will be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday outdoors on The Pa at the MACC. Admission is free.
Join award winning teacher/choreographers David Ward and Vanessa Cerrito for their 2013 Summer Dance Intensive happening Monday through May 31. Classes are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the dance studio on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Tuition is $160 if registered by Friday; $180 thereafter.
This workshop is open to dancers of all ages and abilities. Ward and Cerrito have been working to build dance in Hawaii for the past 25 years. Come enjoy this creative dance intensive with two of Hawaii's most successful choreographers.
The week will conclude with a free one-hour informal presentation at noon on May 31 for friends and family. To register, call Ward at 269-2410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks may be mailed to Ward at 480 Olinda Road, Makawao, 96768, payable to David Ward.
Maui Academy of Performing Arts' summer dance classes and camps are filling up, but it's not too late to register. Weekly classes will be from June 4 through July 27, and range from pre-ballet, ballet, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, dance conditioning, and more. Each class, for ages 3 and older, meets once a week for eight weeks in both Wailuku and Lahaina.
Costs range from $80 to $195. For detailed information about each camp and class, or to download a registration form, visit www.mauiacademy.org or call 244-8760.