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Sharing Mana‘o

Whether you’re counting age, ongoing achievements, or years of wedded bliss, a silver anniversary is a significant milestone. Twenty-five years is a long time. My three marriages combined fall short of the mark. So I applaud anyone celebrating a quarter-century of anything.

This Sunday, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center will commemorate its 25th anniversary with a free celebration for all. Though the word “community” was dropped from the original name, it remains central to the center’s mission of being “a gathering place where the community can celebrate creativity through personal and shared experiences of the arts.”

Ever since CEO Art Vento called to invite me to emcee the party, my mind has been reeling with MACC memories, too many for a Top 10 (or even 25) list. Like nearly everyone I know, I can reel off the names of great artists I’ve seen there: Elton John, Diana Ross, Dave Chappelle, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and on and on.

I’ve also been blessed to participate in MACC events as a performer, a frequent emcee, a behind-the-scenes volunteer, and a partner in education. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite MACC moments:

In its early years, the MACC’s Young@Art program provided numerous opportunities for Maui kupuna and keiki to enjoy cultural performances together. From Native American hoop dancers and South Seas choral groups to Asian acrobats and European chamber orchestras, Young@Art not only sponsored these morning shows virtually free of charge, but also arranged meet-and-greet sessions with the visiting artists.

Through my job with the County of Maui’s Kaunoa Senior Services, I witnessed many heartwarming encounters, including a tiny, bent-over tutu teaching hula to a troupe of African dancers. Kaunoa staff and seniors even produced and performed a couple of multicultural revues for intergenerational audiences in Castle Theater.

As a storyteller and comedian, I’ve done five one-woman shows in McCoy Studio Theater. “Tita Out” was the first, in 2004, followed by “One Mo’ Time” in 2005. A few weeks before my third Tita show, scheduled for April 2007, my husband, Barry Shannon, passed away unexpectedly. The MACC allowed me to postpone the comedy and instead hosted a celebration of his life on the Events Lawn. A year or so later, I returned to McCoy to perform “Kathy Collins’ Death Comedy Jam,” a slightly irreverent look at life, death and widowhood.

Next to Barry’s memorial, the Death Comedy Jam provided my most intensely emotional MACC moments. The most exhilarating came when I got the nod to open for Howie Mandel two years ago, but I can name a dozen other Castle Theater performances that came close: seeing myself on the giant screen in “Get a Job,” joining Willie K and his ohana on stage for the finale of his Christmas concerts, co-hosting with Barry several star-studded Hawaiian music benefits for Mana’o Radio, the time my skirt fell off during my first tap dance performance with Judy’s Gang; again, the list goes on and on.

I’ve emceed countless concerts and community events at the MACC; in fact, I’ve had the honor of introducing and/or performing with nearly all of the artists who will be there Sunday: Willie K, Henry Kapono, HAPA, Zenshin Daiko and the King Kekaulike High School Na Alii Big Band. The exception is Australia’s Strange Fruit, a troupe described as dance, theatre, and circus fusion. Strange Fruit will perform twice Sunday, atop giant spheres balanced on 14-foot flexible poles.

The party starts at 4 p.m. and features food trucks and booths, art activities, balloons, free birthday cake and a fireworks finale. Though it commemorates the MACC’s first 25 years, it’s really a celebration of and for our community. I’m looking forward to it as a reunion of sorts, an extended family gathering as the holiday season begins. Happy silver anniversary to all of us!

* 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 kcmaui913@gmail.com.