Sharing Mana‘o

I had that dream again, the recurring nightmare familiar to every actor I know. Folks who’ve never graced a stage may not empathize, but I’m sure they experience similar ordeals apropos to their professions.

In my version, I’m usually backstage at the Baldwin High School auditorium, as one of Sue Ann Loudon’s drama students or as an adult returning for an alumni show. As I wait in the wings for my entrance cue, I suddenly realize that: a) I’ve forgotten my lines, b) I’m wearing the wrong costume (or nothing at all), or c) the people on stage are performing an entirely different play. After a moment of anxiety, I improvise an appropriate solution and the show goes on, every time.

Except for last night. This time, I had a major role in a huge production, and it was closing night. Every seat in the theater was filled by the time I arrived, apologetically late and disheveled. Realizing I’d forgotten not just my costume and makeup, but an important prop as well, I scrambled around backstage in a panic. Several fellow actors jumped to my aid; I was impressed that Jane Fonda offered her lipstick.

The curtain went up as I frantically searched for a stuffed animal to replace the teddy bear I’d left at home. I’d already decided to go on in street clothes and no makeup (except for Jane’s pink lipstick), but the teddy bear was essential to the plot. Everyone else was onstage and I was alone in my hysteria, digging through storage boxes and trash barrels.

Act One ended, and I collapsed in tears as my cast mates joined me backstage and told me how the lead actor had ad-libbed his way through my absence. Never, not even in my dreams, had I ever missed an entrance, let alone an entire scene. I woke up with a big knot of frustration and self-loathing in my belly. I didn’t even bother trying to go back to sleep and resume the dream in hopes of a happy ending.

I’m a vivid dreamer; fortunately, most of my night visions are pleasant. It’s been several years since I’ve had a truly frightening nightmare. But I think I know what caused this one.

Last Friday, the MAPA (Maui Academy of Performing Arts) educational theater tour concluded with a public performance after three months of preschool and elementary school shows for some 6,000 students. The annual tour features a different production each year, always with a lesson or two and a feel-good message. “The Magic of Kamishibai” was my second MAPA tour and my first attempt at writing an entire play, albeit a short (40 minutes) and simple one.

After Friday’s finale, I thanked the audience for coming, but neglected to do the individual acknowledgements that I’d planned. Not until I was driving home did I realize my faux pas, and it bothered me all weekend. How could I have failed the team that’s become like family to me?

Hoku Pavao-Jones worked with me on the script, from concept to final draft. As director, she guided cast and crew with love and constant reminders of the importance of our work. Marti Kluth’s wonderful music and lyrics could not have been more suited to the tone and message of the play.

Jamie Tait designed and built our traveling set and props, allowing us to create a classroom, a preteen’s bedroom, and a Japanese forest atop cafeteria stages and in tiny preschool rec rooms. His innovative artistry elicited oohs and aahs, as the children watched the backdrops unfold and furniture transform.

Francis Tau’a and Rylee Hubin fleshed out the characters with their own personal histories and emotions, bringing life and love to the multiple roles they played. As tour musician, Gilbert Emata provided more than piano accompaniment to our singing; his improvised riffs and flourishes embellished the dialogue and action throughout the show.

And then there’s our Angel — MAPA Production and Stage Manager Angel Emerson. She oversaw or handled every aspect of the tour: logistics, staging, audio engineering, and even played the flute during performances. I’m still in awe of her organizational skills and considerable talent. She bakes great cookies, too.

In live stage performances, as well as in nightmares, there are no retakes. But thanks to this venue provided me by The Maui News, I have the opportunity to make up for my Friday night miscue. Maybe tonight I’ll be rewarded with sweet dreams.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is