My friend called me last night to let me know that our tickets for the current production at Kumu Kahua Theatre were for today. I think her call must have come while I was at the far end of the house starting a load of laundry, because I never heard the phone ring. It was too late to call her back when I found the message, so we talked this morning as soon as I was sure she would be awake. I arranged to meet her after I finished some necessary shopping. She picked me up in front of the warehouse-like pet supply place and we enjoyed a leisurely drive into town in light weekend traffic.
Kumu Kahua Theatre stages its productions in the historic old Kamehameha V Post Office Building, on the boundary that separates Honolulu's modern high-rise business district from the pungent aromas and busyness of Chinatown. On days when scheduling is not so tight, we go early for our theatre dates. We wander around the quaint little shops and garish import emporiums, sometimes buying tea and trinkets and silk shoes. We sample the street foods or find a table in a noodle shop next to Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai families sharing a Sunday dinner. Today we arrived about thirty minutes before curtain time, so we lounged in the small park adjacent to the theatre waiting for the doors to open. A homeless man, his worldly goods in bags and boxes secured to his bicycle, sat nearby playing an ukulele.
The doors opened a little late today and we joined other patrons already lined up on the broad lanai waiting to enter. It was only then that I saw the posters for today's production. Living Pidgin by Lee Tonouchi! I know that y'all know
that I've recently re-read this wonderful book by Da Pidgin Guerrilla. The play was comprised of a collection of Lee's stories. His writings are personal and he was portrayed in each act. The actors, both male and female, swapped off his role so that each played him several times throughout the production. This might have been confusing had not each actor worn his trademark mustache and backwards baseball cap while speaking for Lee. Sometimes they walked into the scene prepared to play him. Sometimes they pulled a marker from their pockets and became Lee by sketching his identification on their upper lip while speaking their lines.
Audience participation is a frequent feature at Kumu Kahua, and was well-utilized today. Shortly after the play opens a videographer wanders round filming actors and audience. He asks for volunteers to provide local input for his film about living pidgin in Hawaii. I was the last of about six or eight to raise my hand. He gave me a hostile look and then addressed all of us, telling us that "hey, dey got actors to do dat. Put you ego away." In one sequence the cast wound its way through several narrow rows between seats, bumping knees and interacting with the patrons as they searched for the hidden entrance to a rumored all-pidgin world. A group of students explores what might be different in an all-pidgin world and envisions pidgin dancing. Audience members were chosen to serve as partners. Some were embarrassed and reticent. An older man sitting in front of me brought the house down with his enthusiasm. Spontaneous applause and laughter were the primary audience contribution to todays wonderful presentation. I've been going to Kumu Kahua for three or four years and always look forward to enjoying "Plays about life in Hawaii. Plays by Hawaii's playwrights. Plays for Hawaii's people." Today's production of Living Pidgin by Lee Tonouchi
was da bes evah! That last link will take you to a viewer's guide and cast photos.
I spotted Lee Tonouchi on the lanai while we were waiting to enter, and he stayed for the entire play. I wanted to approach him and tell him what a fan I am. I wanted to mention my recent posts about Hawaiian pidgin, and that he is mentioned in them. Common sense prevailed. I can relate local stories, but I'm by no means an expert. He is. He's Da Pidgin Guerrilla! I don't think I want to invite him to critique my efforts! Besides, I got him to sign all of his books for me when I attended Kumu Kahua's production of Gone Feeshing
a few years back!
Labels: Kumu Kahua Theatre, Lee Tonouchi, life in Hawaii, pidgin