Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, July 19, 2002

From left, Shakespeare's Coriolanus, Hamlet, Valentine and Proteus are brought to life by, respectively, Moses Goods, Robb Bonnell, Elizabeth Wolfe, and Luka Lyman.

Festival gives Shakespeare
modern touch

By Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

When Windward Community College's brand-new, 300-seat Paliku Theatre opens with its Shakespeare Festival, it should be a memorable occasion for theater fans.

"It is so new that we will be the first theatrical production there," says director and award-winning fight choreographer Tony Pisculli, who believes audiences will enjoy the facility's state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems and stadium-style seating. "It's a beautiful space. It's absolutely gorgeous and intimate, with not a bad seat in the house."

In what is billed as the first Shakespeare repertory in Hawaii, R. Kevin Doyle is directing "Hamlet," returning to what he believes is the original spirit of the tale. Pisculli will command an all-female cast in "Two Gentlemen of Verona," in direct contrast to the Elizabethan practice of hiring exclusively male casts. It was designed as such to create an opportunity for deserving actresses who are usually relegated to the scant roles available to females in Shakespeare's plays.

"For hundreds of years there have been all-male productions, so why not?" he says.

Harry Wong III, a director for Kumu Kahua and Honolulu Theatre for Youth, is in charge of "Coriolanus."

While Shakespeare's tales are generally considered timeless, Pisculli believes the directors' special touches will help keep them relevant to a modern audience. "The language used is beautiful and poetic, but it's archaic," he explains. "The challenge of dealing with the language and making the story fresh for today's audience nearly 400 years later is very exciting. People are used to MTV now, and car crashes and explosions every 30 seconds." In particular, he says, the swordplay and fight scenes in these productions will take up the entertainment level.

Shakespeare Festival

Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College, 45-270 Keaahala Road, Kaneohe
When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and 8 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 11
Admission: $15 general, $12 seniors and military, $8 students. The three-play package deal is $40 general, $32 seniors and military, and $20 for students.
Call: 235-7433

"There's an idea that Shakespeare is inaccessible or pretentious or arty, but what we're doing is the opposite of that. I would say we're making these stories accessible. No one should come expecting to see actors putting on British accents. These are really great, fun stories, as well told and as well explained as we can make them."

"Hamlet," for one, because of its tragic ending, has an undeserved reputation as being a dispiriting play, Pisculli says. "But anyone who's read the script can tell you it's got more good one-liners than most of Shakespeare's comedies. It's a very, very funny play, and R. Kevin Doyle is the right director to find the humor in play." (Doyle is a veteran member of the improvisational comedy troupe Loose Screws.)

The festival will be a tribute to retiring University of Hawaii professor and esteemed actor Terence Knapp, an inspirational figure to many involved with the festival. "He certainly gave me my first experience with Shakespeare ever, and had a lot to teach R. Kevin Doyle," Pisculli attests. "R. Kevin's written a dedication to him in the program because he's been a huge influence on all of us."

When Knapp cast him in one of his first roles nearly a decade ago, Pisculli says he found an immediate appreciation for Shakespeare. "The thing about Shakespeare is, he's the foremost playwright in the English language," he explains. "He's the yardstick by which all other playwrights are measured. His plays are classic, brilliant, wonderful plays."

Tickets are available for each production separately or as a three-show package, with a special discount for students.

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