Monday, August 10, 1998

Performing arts academy
invests in new home

The Maui academy has
produced some illustrious
alumni in its 25 years

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU - Greg Poirier, who wrote the screenplay, "Rosewood," once was a young actor/writer performing and producing with this group on Maui.

Na Hoku Hanohano award winner Amy Gilliom sang in their productions.

The Maui Academy of Performing Arts, a nonprofit arts and education group, has helped to develop some distinguished alumni in its 25 years on the Valley Isle.

Now, the academy is taking a major step in securing its future financially by purchasing a building in Wailuku town as its headquarters and main location for productions.

The new location, now under renovation, is the former National Dollar Building, with about 13,000 square feet of space.

"It will give us financial stability," said Francie Von Tempsky, the academy's managing director.

Last October, the group obtained a 10-year lease with an option to buy the property from Waiwai Loa Ekahi Partners.

This year, the academy obtained a $250,000 grant from the county and a $500,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program to buy the building.

Von Tempsky said the purchase will help to reduce the cost of its operations in the long run and enable it to produce more plays and musicals.

She said the group pays about $5,500 in monthly rent.

The renovations at the new location are being done in phases, as funding becomes available, she said.

The academy offers youths the opportunity to learn the performing arts and also brings theatrical performances to schools in Maui County.

About 200 youths are enrolled in its arts education program and its touring group performs for about 20,000 students a year.

Recent productions included the play, "James & The Giant Peach," and the dance performance, "Pieces XVI," both produced at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

Youths and other volunteers have the opportunity to act and sing on stage and also help in the designing and building of sets.

Poirier's mother, Gloria Keeling, said the academy - then known as Maui Youth Theatre - gave her son an incredible amount of creative support and freedom as a teen-ager.

Poirier not only acted but also wrote and produced plays for the academy.

He's now working on the screenplay for John Grisham's "Runaway Jury" and will be writing and directing a film for Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks studio, she said.

Keeling praised her son's early mentors, including Linda Takita and Sue Loudon, and the academy for its support of the arts.

"It was the only really creative outlet for kids with a lot of energy and creativity," Keeling said. "It was a godsend for my son."

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