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Sharing Mana‘o

“Going to Hana, Maui; Up and down the hills and around the bend . . .”

The title track from Pekelo’s 2011 album is one of the songs that has been swirling in my head for the past few days. Going to Hana is exactly what I’m doing today. In fact, as you read this, I’m probably singing aloud, alone in my car, winding my way to a talk story session with students of the Hana Arts after-school theater program.

I’m happy to be returning to this heavenly haven for the first time in three years, and ecstatic at the thought of sharing stories with Hana’s youth. As I often tell audiences, one of the great rewards of storytelling comes after a performance, when folks are inspired to tell me their own, true-life tales. I’m looking forward to hearing the youngsters and helping to nurture the tellers within them.

The other song that keeps repeating on my inner soundtrack is “Ho’onani I Ka Makua Mau,” the Hawaiian Doxology, thanks to Kumu Kahua Theatre. Still reflecting on last Sunday’s KKT performance of “The Conversion of Ka’ahumanu,” I find myself humming the tune while my mind’s eye focuses on various flashbacks. The excitement of watching live theatre after a two-year absence notwithstanding, this production deeply touched the audience, moving most of us to tears.

Every aspect of the show exemplified storytelling at its finest, as Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl’s script was brought to life by director Harry Wong III and an amazing cast: Anette Arinix, Kahana Ho, Anne Lokomaika’i Lipscomb, Alaura Ward and Lelea’e “Buffy” Kahalepuna-Wong.

In his director’s notes, Wong said, “I hope the production engages you, and the writing sweeps you into the story, and the acting awes you. And while that would be success, it still would not be justice. Doing justice means you forget time. … It means that when the play is over, you don’t talk about the production, but your life. And if we aren’t doing this for you, then we aren’t doing you justice.”

I’m sure my fellow audience members would agree, justice was done. The KKT team didn’t simply deliver a fine performance; they transported us into history and propelled us toward the future, simultaneously.

I’ll be back from Hana just in time to attend another story-related event, one which also ties together the past, present, and future of our community. Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., at 2121 Main St., Wailuku’s Small Town Big Art will unveil and bless the mural by artist Cory Kamehanaokala Holt Taum. In conjunction with the unveiling and immediately after the blessing, a contemporary dance piece will be performed in the courtyard of Hoapili Hale, the State Judiciary Building.

The STBA announcement reads, “As part of an artistic collaboration with Adaptations Dance Theater, Cory’s mural unveiling helps to commemorate three years of collaborative storytelling programming amongst a group of extraordinary individuals.”

A series of storytelling workshops by Kumu Leilehua Yuen led to the pairings of workshop participants with community kupuna for a collection of recorded conversations. Those talk story sessions became the basis for a project in which artists were invited to bring a story to life, through a work of visual, performing or experiential public art.

Taum’s mural and Adaptations’ dance piece were inspired by a conversation between Clifford Nae’ole, cultural adviser at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, and Hokuao Pellegrino, sustainability and aina-based learning designer and facilitator at Kamehameha Schools Maui. That conversation and five others from the STBA project may be found at archive.storycorps.org/user/stba/.

And there’s one more upcoming event I’d like to share with you (here comes the shameless self-promotion): As part of their Hawaiian Arts and Culture Series, I’ll be talking story and storytelling at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei on March 19. Made possible, in part, by a grant from the Hawaii Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, this show will be presented free of charge. You do, however, need to reserve your seat online at proartsmaui.com or by calling (808) 463-6550.

I may not be able to do you justice in the admirable sense that Harry Wong described, but I hope to give you a few laughs, at least, and maybe a bit of chicken skin. And perhaps leave you with a story or two swirling in your head — and heart — like a song.

* 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 e-mail address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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