COURTESY ELISSA JOSEPHSON
Strutting their stuff: The teenaged students of the Hawaii Theatre program "Summer Theatre 2007" will present scenes and vignettes about coming of age.
Teens transform feelings into art
Hester Kamin was surprised. As the very first education director for Hawaii Theatre, she didn't expect the emotional response the SummerTheatre program would get from its students in its inaugural year.
Presented by SummerTheatre 2007
Place: Hawaii Theatre
On stage: 7 p.m. Friday
Call: 528-0506 or visit hawaiitheatre.com
As the teenagers prepared to present "Transformations" Friday night at the downtown venue, "I was caught off guard by the intensity as the kids tackled the subject matter of coming-of-age," Kamin said. "It all went much deeper. Sometimes, when someone read something of theirs, it would make the whole cast cry. Because they took a tremendous risk with their writing and characters, the group became close very quickly, like they've known each other for years, even though they just met a few weeks ago."
Starting June 13, the students, ages 13 to 18, have been meeting four hours a day, Mondays through Fridays, with Kamin and her co-directors Carson Becker and Seleena Harkness to learn playwriting, acting and improvisation.
"It's been a very interesting experience," said Kamin. "With such a huge age range -- between teenagers just finishing seventh grade and others graduating from high school, there's been a big mix of interest levels, topics and points of view."
The students' pieces, written both individually and with others, are about their life changes as reflected in school and family life, "and how you make decisions as you get older."
The hourlong show consists of a series of scenes and vignettes, using a simple all-black platform set that will represent "a school, church, family houses and a parking lot," assisted by a lighting design by Carolyn Cubit-Tsutsui.
"We're trying to balance the intense scenes with the comedic scenes, like going on a blind date to the prom, and a bully and his grandmother coming to the cafeteria for breakfast."
That last piece was written by Honolulu student Jay Laeno, whom Kamin met was he was just 10. Another Honolulu student she's familiar with, Adriana Rappa, will be going to school in New York this fall. "One big student surprise for me was Butch Godwin. He was a technical theater apprentice with us last year, and I didn't know he was interested in performance. In fact, I thought his parents made a mistake when they signed him up for the program. It turns out he's very serious about writing and acting."
(Rappa and Godwin also were involved in the theater's Hawaii Young Actors' Ensemble that presented Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night Dream" in May.)
"The kids came to the program with a huge variety of experience levels, so they've helped each other out enormously -- learning their lines, creating characters and dialogue -- and have been very encouraging towards one another as well."