Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, April 22, 1999

A boy from Vanuatu, played by E.J. Manganag,
discovers yams from the Man in the Moon,
played by Sheilah Sealey.

HTY tours South Pacific
through ‘Sky’s’ tales


Bullet "Under A Shared Sky": Presented by Honolulu Theatre for Youth
Bullet The dates: 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 10:30 a.m. May 1 and 8
Bullet The venue: McCoy Pavilion, Ala Moana Park
Bullet Tickets: $10 regular admission; $7.50 for high school and college students; $5 for kids 3-12 and those older than 60
Bullet Call: 839-9885
Bullet Note: "Popcorn & Peanut Butter," based on poems by Michael K. Hase, exploring a child's world through the joys of cookies, cats and peanut butter sandwiches, will be presented by HTY at 1:30, 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. May 1 and 8 at McCoy Pavilion. Admission is same as above.

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


THREE actors and a few props are all it takes as Honolulu Theatre for Youth gets down to basics with its spring roadshow production, "Under A Shared Sky."

E.J. Manganag, Sheilah Sealey and Rolinda Emch are in the middle of a three-month tour of 60 Oahu preschools. The trio plays the first of four public performances as McCoy Pavilion this Saturday.

The performance begins and ends with hula. Brief dance segments bookend four short stories taken from the folklore of four Pacific island peoples. The show is designed to entertain pre-schoolers and kids in the early elementary grades. It was a big hit at St. Michael's School in Waialua yesterday morning.

The storytelling begins in Hawaii. Manganag stars as a young Hawaiian who can't talk. His kupuna (Sealey) tries using 'ili'ili (pebbles used as percussion instruments) and 'uli'uli (gourd rattles) to help unlock his thoughts. Neither works, but a magic 'I'iwi (Scarlet Honey-creeper) provides the solution in the form of a magic coconut whistle.

The next stop is New Zealand and a Maori explanation of why the sun is seen during the day and the moon comes out at night. We learn that the two celestial bodies were best of friends and traveled the heavens together until they quarreled over the relative merits of day and night.

The children in the audience yesterday were well-behaved, but they showed they enjoyed the escalation in the bickering as Sun (Manganag) and Moon (Sealy) each became frustrated at the other's attitude.

Imagine living on a diet of fish and fruit bats. That was apparently the lot of the people of Vanuatu until an curious young archer (Manganag) climbed to the moon on a ladder of arrows and learned about yams. Manganag gives another engaging performance as the protagonist. Sealy gives a hit of her versatility playing the zany Old Man in the Moon.

Emch has small roles in the first three stories. She gets a big role as the villain in a Samoan tale of how Pili (Manganag), a Samoan with magic powers, saved his beautiful sister (Sealy) from the evil king of Fiji.

The story -- and the large bushy-haired mask Emch wears -- may be too intense for extremely young and sensitive kids, but HTY director Cynthia See anticipates and defuses the potential problem by having the cast "introduce" various props and costumes at the beginning of the show. The kids at St. Michael's had no problems with the threatening character.

Pili transforms himself into a large lizard, then enlists the aid of a giant sweet potato to free his sister. Sealy suffers the perils of bondage in classic style as the masked Emch verbally abuses her and threatens to use her for fish bait.

The mask is one of several colorful items created by Lisa Ann M. Omoto (set and costume design) and BullDog (props) to help make this show a wondrous experience for its intended audience. Credit See and the cast for delivering a nicely subtle message that we can share each others' cultures just as we share the sky.

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