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Sharing Mana‘o

Today, Nov. 4, is a landmark day for me. It has nothing to do with the results of Tuesday’s elections; this column was written and submitted before the polls closed and the votes tallied. No, this is about a personal victory, nearly a decade in the making.

This is my 500th Sharing Mana’o column. Since Jan. 12, 2011, I’ve filled this little corner of The Maui News with some 350,000 words on a wide range of topics. Dave Hoff was the editor who first approached me about writing a weekly column. He retired not long after I started, so for most of my term, Lee Imada has been my editor, adviser, support system and cheerleader. He’s also a friend, but that began long before either of us was affiliated with the newspaper. Lee’s family and mine have known each other for a century, as neighbors in old Makawao town. A few of my columns have mentioned Lee’s grandparents and their shop on Baldwin Avenue, Ichiki Store, where I spent many after-school hours.

Both Lee and Dave encouraged me to write about whatever tickled my fancy; whether it was a trip down memory lane or musings on the issues of today, a longtime Mauian’s perspective was what they wanted. Many of my columns featured personal anecdotes or profiles of local folks. I’ve indulged in my love of words and music, riffing on song lyrics or well-worn phrases. Quite often, I’ve used this space to promote events I think you’d enjoy, or charities that are dear to me. I guess that sometimes comes across as blatant self-promotion, and I apologize for that. It’s only because I have the privilege of being involved in a lot of wonderful causes, all of which, I believe, enrich our community.

Column No. 500 sort of combines much of the above. I’ll start by pointing out that, if not for the coronavirus, this milestone would have been reached in mid-July. But The Maui News, like virtually every other business, suffered financial losses due to the pandemic, so my weekly column has been furloughed every other week since April 1st.

All of us — individuals, businesses and organizations — have been forced to make drastic adjustments to cope with multiple challenges. Still, as I’ve written in previous columns, even the COVID cloud has silver linings. Sometimes they seem to magically appear, and sometimes we have to weave them ourselves.

MAPA (Maui Academy of Performing Arts) lost virtually all of its revenue with the loss of dance classes and theater productions. The organization’s staff has been cut to a fourth of its pre-pandemic numbers, yet they remain dedicated to MAPA’s mission of “enriching individuals, building community and connecting our world through the performing arts.” In fact, Executive and Artistic Director David Johnston recently stated that this mission has never been more crucial.

Johnston is a true believer in the power of the performing arts to “connect our community and heal our hearts,” especially now, when so many of us are hurting. With the MAPA board, staff and volunteers, he has launched a new theatrical initiative, Uncommon Stages: New Theatre for a New World, which will include livestreamed, on-demand and, eventually, hybrid presentations of musicals and plays. “Songs for a New World” is the first of the Uncommon Stages productions, streaming live this Friday and Saturday evenings from the historic Iao Theater.

Written by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown, this show features thought-provoking, inspiring and sometimes hilarious stories of life and love, courage and choices. It’s a musical about defining moments and new beginnings, so appropriate to the new world in which we now find ourselves.

The production itself is a perfect example of resiliency and adaptation to enormous upheaval and change. Director Johnston has incorporated rolling plexiglass barriers as set pieces which keep the cast physically distanced and serve as ideal metaphors for the social barriers and safety measures which have become part of everyday life.

No in-person audience will be allowed, but livestream viewers will enjoy an intimate perspective of cast members Leighanna Locke, Dylan Bode, Danielle Delaunay and Calvin Orlando Smith, thanks to a four-camera shoot by Fuzzbox Productions. A four-piece orchestra led by Musical Director Vania Jerome and the technical wizardry of Maui OnStage will help to ensure a complete theatrical experience for the at-home audience.

Tickets for the livestream are reasonably priced and available on the MAPA website: mauiacademy.org. I’ve already got mine, and I’m pleased to say I’ve got the best seat in the house . . . er, my house.

Spoiler alert: The finale assures us that in this new world of ours, “We’ll be fine.” In many ways, MAPA’s production shows us that we already are.

* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM and KEWE 97.9 FM/1240 AM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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