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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, November 4, 1999

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Actress Eden-Lee Murray who stars in "The Little Foxes"
says of the theater, "There is no pay. This is total love,
worth every penny I don't get."

‘Foxes,’ ‘Glengarry’
have their own
kind of magic

By Cynthia Oi


THE Little Foxes," the play Eden-Lee Murray stars in tomorrow, doesn't have a Huey helicopter or a 1959 Cadillac like the techno-theatric "Miss Saigon."

In that way, the drama in which Eric Nemoto opens today has a leg up on "Foxes"; in the script, a Cadillac is the motivation for the salesman he portrays in "Glengarry Glen Ross."

Unlike the "Saigon" mega-show, "Glengarry" and "Foxes" are small theater productions, and both Nemoto and Murray like it that way. Not that there's anything wrong with the really big shows.

"There's a place for all of us," says Murray. "The spectacle of musicals has magic, but you can't just live on candy."

"I'm not putting down anyone," says Nemoto, "but what we have is different."

"The Little Foxes" is Hawaii Pacific University Theatre's production of Lillian Hellman's classic. David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Glengarry Glen Ross" will be staged by The Actors' Group. Although the two plays are worlds and decades apart, both involve desperation and greed.

"Foxes" focuses on the Hubbards, a Southern family torn apart by ruthless ambition, sibling rivalry, deception and lies. "Glengarry" pits real estate salesmen against each other in a 24-hour contest to sell the most. First prize is the Cadillac and second is a set of steak knives; come in third and you're fired.

It is interesting that two people from vastly different backgrounds can come to love the same thing -- performing.

Murray, born in Kansas City, Mo., graduated cum laude from Harvard with a degree in comparative literature, joined the Missouri Repertory Theatre, then headed for the bright lights of New York. She worked off Broadway, joined a mime company, went back to school to earn a master's of fine arts and got married.

After her child was born, Murray, 45, and husband Roger Jellinek, an editor and publisher, decided to move to Hawaii. She and son Everett, now 11, arrived in the islands 10 days before Iniki hit in 1992.

"I thought, 'what have I done?,' " she recalls.

Eric Nemoto, 43, is a lifelong resident of Waimanalo. He graduated from Kailua High, the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and has a master's degree in student services from Oregon State. He has a son, Cory, 12, and a daughter, Kristen, 14, who has a walk-on role in "Glengarry."

Nemoto works weekends as a deejay; rehearses for "Glengarry" every night; and has done numerous commercials ("I'm the guy that comes off the plane from a business trip, and go next stop, Zippy's."), voice overs and independent movies, including "A Boy, A Girl and A Dead Cat," which screens Sunday and Nov. 13 on Oahu as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival. He's also written a number of plays staged by TAG, and is continuously writing screenplays.

"I do this for personal satisfaction," he says. "I'm dedicated to the performing arts. If writing is my obsession, acting is my passion."

He isn't waiting for someone to discover his talents.

"I'm writing the plays, the screenplays, always trying to think of ways to create opportunities for myself and others. If you're committed enough, if you have the talent and drive, things will happen," he says.

He does have a day job as director of financial aid at Chaminade University.

Murray has several day jobs. She and Jellinek run a literary agency, most recently working with Gardner McKay to publish his novel, "Toyer." She is an instructor and senior partner of the Alliance for Drama Education, director of Waldorf High's drama club and vice president of ArtMap. She's done independent films, voice overs, television, live comedy and has had roles with almost every community theater group on Oahu.

Neither Nemoto nor Murray do stage work for money.

"There is no pay. This is total love, worth every penny I don't get," says Murray.

"With our group," says Nemoto, "we take up a collection and end up paying for productions out of our own pockets."

So beyond costumes and stagings, HPU and TAG shows don't come with a lot of bells, whistles or Hueys.

"Our theater is just a hole in the wall place. If we have 30 people in there, that's a full house," Nemoto says. "That's the way we like it."

TAG chose to do "Glengarry" because of the substance of the play.

"It is a very powerful piece of work," he said. "There is no real good person in the play; these guys are creeps. All these salesmen are in their own little world and that's all they care about."

The play may be something "that will hit home -- it might be primarily in the sense of Hawaii's constant tough economic times," Nemoto says.

'Foxes' world

Murray sees 1999 resonance in the 1900 world of "The Little Foxes."

Money wrenches family members from each other. One brother hopes to build a cotton mill where workers will be paid less than the going rate. But he needs money from the ailing husband of his sister, Regina, who is disillusioned by the men in her life.

"I think there's a universality here. Look at the newspapers; the CEOs are making more than they've ever made while the workers are making less than ever before," Murray says.

"Regina gets close to what she wants, loses it, gets close to it again, loses it and when she finally gets what she wants, she isn't sure of its value.

"That's what happens when you're on top. Look at Bill Gates. Is there one person who doesn't sneer when they say the name Bill Gates."

Murray says "Foxes" falls in the category of drama, but "it isn't boring, just because it doesn't have song and dance."

"People get into trouble when they go into a play like this and they go for the earnestness of it," she says.

Theater shouldn't be intimidating, Nemoto says. And he has a promise from TAG: "If you want to see a top play with great acting, in a unique environment, where you don't come for the helicopters, for the lines of dancers, you should come to us."

On stage

Bullet What: "The Little Foxes"
Bullet When: Starts tomorrow. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 5
Bullet Where: Hawaii Pacific University Theatre
Bullet Cost: $12, $8 students; ticket stubs from "Miss Saigon" may be used to get one free ticket when buying another
Bullet Call: 245-0853

Bullet What: "Glengarry Glen Ross"
Bullet When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays to Nov. 20
Bullet Where: The Yellow Brick Studio, 625 Keawe St.
Bullet Cost: $10
Bullet Call: 533-3406

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