Star-Bulletin Features

A bound woman struggles with hope of freedom in the title piece to "What Keeps Me Here."

‘Meditation on change and
coping’ is basis of
Kennedy presentation

By Gary C.W. Chun

Sammie Choy has this newspaper to thank for inspiring her theatrical muse.

Choy, in her first year as a graduate student in directing at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, was aiming to put together a proposal for the Kennedy Theatre late-night series last October that would be relevant in these post-Sept. 11 times. The genesis for "What Keeps Me Here" -- what she describes as "a meditation on change and coping" -- was a Star-Bulletin article.

"It was a story about getting psychological help," she remembers, "and the Chaminade professor that was quoted in it said we have three choices (in dealing with) something that threatens change in our lives. We can either avoid, alter or adapt, and each of the pieces I've chosen that makes up the project is based on each one.

"I'm hoping the audience will have a chance to step back and see how the characters deal with change, and make analogies for themselves," she said.

Of the five pieces, the first four are short plays, and the last is the title prose piece by Seattle writer Rebecca Brown, done as a dramatic monologue.

'What Keeps Me Here'

Where: Kennedy Theatre, University of Hawaii at Manoa
When: 11 p.m. tomorrow and 8 p.m. Sunday; also 11 p.m. next week Friday and Saturday
Admission: $7 general/$6 students, seniors, military and UH faculty and staff/$3 UHM students
Call: 956-7655

"We will see a blindfolded woman sitting in a chair who's told not to move," she said, "about her struggle to hold on to the hopes that she will be released."

The four miniplays are "Drive Angry" (about "a couple of guys who are good friends cruising down the freeway, talking, like most guys do, about nothing of great consequence, even though one of them is dealing with a serious issue"), "Labor Day" (a young woman refuses to acknowledge the coming of the fall season), a David Mamet piece entitled "Sermon," and "Gas," in which the brother of a Gulf War serviceman fears for his safety.

Choy returned home after attending college in Ohio, then pursuing television and stage work in the Bay area. She got the acting bug again after landing a role in Manoa Valley Theatre's production of "Sisters Matsumoto" in 2000.

"Director Phyllis Look made the experience wonderful, fostering a sense of community. It was a revelation to me how much I missed the theater."

This is Choy's first year back as a graduate student, and she plans to stay here with the help of her master's degree. "What Keeps Me Here" is her qualifying project.

"I decided to approach the whole response to 9/11 more obliquely," she said, "rather than showing overt violence, the twin towers on stage, with bodies strewn about. But the program notes will refer to 9/11 directly."

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