Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, May 6, 1999

Players plot war strategy on a konane board,
others move on stage in tandem with the game pieces.

Tale of Kamehameha
explores circumstances
of his birth

Genetic engineering is no modern phenomena, according to "Kamehameha Pai'ea," a uniquely Hawaiian drama being staged at Hawaii Theatre tomorrow and Saturday.

"Kamehameha Pai'ea," presented entirely in Hawaiian, uses hula and chant to tell the story of Kamehameha I, unifying sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.

The drama describes how ali'i genealogists orchestrated royal unions for generations with one goal: production of the perfect warrior chief.

Halau O Kekuhi provides a cast of 24 for the production, created with support from the Edith Kanaka'ole Foundation.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show range from $32.50 to $50, high for a local production. But publicist Suzi Mechler says the show is well worth it. "The quality of the show is online with anything that comes in for the mainland, and it deals with the Hawaiian culture."

Pua Kanahele, president of the foundation and one of the play's directors and kumu hula, said a portion of ticket revenues will go to a scholarship fund.

The story of Kamehameha was chosen partly because it was familiar, and partly because there was more to tell, said Kanahele. The play begins with the remarkable circumstances of his birth and delves into what made him such a formidable warrior. "People talk about him being a great warrior, but they don't really get into how warriors are trained. That's what we get into in the second and third acts."

The choreography makes the action easy to decipher, said Mechler. "You can watch the entire thing and really know what's going on, even if you don't understand the Hawaiian language."

"Kamehameha Pai'ea" will tour Los Angeles and Phoenix in September and October, and an Alaska run is scheduled for March of 2000. Kanahele also would like to put on a Maui show next year.

"For us its a very exciting endeavor," said Kanahele. "It gives us a chance to educate as well as entertain."

For information call 597-1888.

Star-Bulletin staff

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