Writer highlights local wordplay in his comedy


POSTED: Monday, November 02, 2009

Some playwrights take a seat at their typewriter or computer because they have a story to share. Others write for the money, or perhaps with their eye on a specific prize or award. Yokanaan Kearns admits that truckloads of cash would be nice but adds that his biggest thrill as a playwright has nothing to do with money, awards or prizes.

“;The coolest experience that I ever had watching my own play produced was (watching) a local guy, probably mostly Hawaiian, watching, I think it was 'Pidg Latin.' He was laughing so hard I thought he was going to pass out, and he has no idea that this haole guy a couple of seats away is the one making him crack up,”; Kearns said.

“;To watch different audiences eat something up because it touches their experience is one of the things you don't get in theater a whole lot in Hawaii. There are universal experiences that everyone has, but to actually have local people see themselves onstage, that's a really cool thing. To have their reactions - they're laughing because they recognize the truth in what you've written - that's really great.”;





        Place: Hawaii Pacific University, 45-045 Kamehameha Highway

When: Opens 8 p.m. Friday. Continues at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays from Nov. 6 through Dec. 6 (no show Nov. 26); also 7:30 p.m. Nov. 25.


Cost: $20 general; $15 for seniors, military, students and HPU faculty; $5 for HPU students (with valid ID)


Call: 375-1282




Kearns has been writing “;the truth”; for Hawaii audiences almost a decade.

“;I wrote my first play not knowing at all what would happen to it. I thought maybe I would amuse my family with it and it would go nowhere.”;

“;Pidg Latin,”; a one-act comedy about language and cultural identity, earned Kearns an in-house award from Kumu Kahua, and then public acclaim. The show was presented with a second Kearns one-act, “;How Kitty Got Her Pidgin Back,”; as a co-production by Kumu Kahua and Honolulu Theatre for Youth in 2001.

“;Luckily, after that I was commissioned, mostly by HTY, to write plays for them, and so at least I knew that if I write the play it's going to be performed.”;

Among Kearns' work for HTY was “;Dis/Troy,”; an excellent entry-level version of “;The Iliad”; that condensed the Greek epic into the story of 10 characters portrayed by a cast of four.

“;Dis/Troy”; and “;Pidg Latin”; would have been easy choices for Po'okela Awards in the best Original Script category in their respective years, but HTY and Kumu Kahua chose not to participate in the statewide award program in the years they produced Kearns' plays.

On the other hand, Hawaii Pacific University does participate in Po'okela Award adjudication, and it is there that Kearns' newest work, “;Quiptease,”; makes its world premiere on Friday.

IN “;QUIPTEASE”; a young California woman's plans for the future are turned upside down when her mother returns from a Hawaii vacation with a boyfriend named Lohi'au.

Kearns was reluctant to say much about the story lest some of the comic surprises be revealed. Suffice it to say that almost every character has a hidden agenda of some kind.

“;This play is a lot about family (and) dysfunctionality in a funny way. That's true for mainland families and local families. What we get here is one kind of dysfunctional mainland family and another kind of dysfunctional local family, and then put the two together, and hopefully comedy ensues.”;

What else can be revealed in advance? Well, that it's “;a bit different”; from some of his previous work.

“;It does bring together the local and the nonlocal, and there is an element of the classical world in it, but it's not so much about the clash of cultures,”; Kearns said.

“;It just so happens that this family is from Hawaii and don't quite do things the same way or talk the same way the LA family does, but the play doesn't make it an issue. That's just who they are.”;