Over the past 15 years, I’ve been blessed with numerous opportunities to perform at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center as an actress, storyteller, comedian, dancer and mistress of ceremonies. Through this column, I’ve shared some of my favorite memories of those shows and celebrated my fellow artists.
Today, I’d like to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of theatre: the tech crews who receive just a smidgen of the applause that those of us on stage, behind the microphones, or in front of the cameras enjoy. It’s a theatre tradition to acknowledge the men and women in black with a wave at curtain call, or a mention in the end credits. But unless the show has suffered technical difficulties, this is pretty much the only time the audience gives a thought to the folks behind the scenes.
Last weekend, emceeing the Hawaiian Airlines Made in Maui County Festival, I worked with audio and stage techs Joe Arias, Harrison Tatik and Danny Owen. After a nine-hour day (more like 12 for them), I stopped by MACC Technical Director Mark Astrella’s office to thank him and commend his staff. In more than a hundred gigs at the MACC, I’ve never had cause to complain about the crew’s expertise or professionalism. Talking with Mark reminded me of many enjoyable moments backstage with his predecessor, Rusty Conway, and various stage managers and technicians who have worked there over the years.
My appreciation for off-stage talent began at Baldwin High School, where Sue Ann Loudon gave her students a thorough education in all aspects of theatre. Actors did their own makeup, built sets and fashioned props, and learned at least the basics of running sound and lights. The best example of an all-around theatre pro is my fellow Loudonite Eric Gilliom. Audiences on Maui and beyond know Eric as a triple-threat performer, but most have no idea of his backstage skills.
In preparation for his highly anticipated one-man show, “White Hawaiian,” (Nov. 29 and 30 in McCoy Studio Theater), Eric is likely sewing his own costumes, hammering together set pieces, and producing audio/visual aspects of the show. Fortunately, he has the assistance of co-writer, director and good buddy Brian Kohne on this project. Without giving away any surprises, I will say that “White Hawaiian” audiences may gain some insight into the less glamorous aspects of stage stardom.
Through decades of performing, my appreciation has evolved into admiration for theatre folk who play the unseen roles, as well as the sound and light technicians who facilitate concerts and broadcasts. Having started in radio back in the low-tech 1970s, I know enough about audio engineering to realize that we announcers are far more replaceable than the technical experts whose voices are never heard.
And then there’s the stage manager, often unappreciated by both audience and actors. Currently, I have the great fortune to be working with one of the best I’ve ever met. Angel Emerson Carter is production and stage manager for the Maui Academy of Performing Arts, and we are about to launch MAPA’s 2019-20 Educational Theatre Tour, our third year working together.
Starting this Friday, we will perform for some 6,000 preschoolers and elementary school students over the next three months. “Birds of a Feather” is an original play set on Maui, with songs written and composed by Marti Kluth, about feathered friends finding the meaning of aloha.
Based on my previous school tour experiences, I know my fellow castmembers Kiegan Otterson, Logan Jacob Heller and Carlyn Leal, along with tour musician Gilbert Emata and yours truly, will be rewarded by enthusiastic applause and cheers after each show. Our young audiences won’t know it, but the real stars, the ones who make the magic happen, are our director, Hoku Pavao-Jones, and Angel, who serves as stage manager, tour director and sound technician.
We actors only have to memorize our lines and portray our own characters; Angel has to know all of our parts and every little detail of staging and scheduling. I am in awe of her organizational skills and work ethics.
Older theatre lovers will have only a couple of opportunities to see “Birds of a Feather,” on Jan. 24 at Kaunoa Senior Center, and on Feb. 7 during Wailuku First Friday. If you do catch either of those performances, please remember to shout a “Bravo!” for our amazing Angel.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.