Star-Bulletin Features

Michael Ng is Father Mantis in the the Leeward Community College theater production of "On Dragonfly Wings." Puppet designer Michael Furuya was hailed with an adjudicators' special award for his work.

'Ship' arrives

Diamond Head Theatre's
"Titanic" outpaces Manoa Valley's
"Wit" in the Po'okela Awards

The winners

By John Berger

It was "Titanic" by one over "Wit," and Diamond Head Theatre over Manoa Valley Theatre by that same margin as the Hawaii State Theatre Council announced the winners of the 19th Annual Po'okela Awards at the Koolau Golf Club last night.

DHT's magnificent production of "Titanic" received eight awards, including those for best ensemble performance and best overall musical. No show of the past season brought together a larger or more talented cast in a story in which no one individual was the designated "star." No production offered a bigger and more ambitious blending of cast performances and technical expertise.


Betty Burdick, left, took home the award for leading female role in a play for her part as Dr. Vivian Bearing, a professor dying of ovarian cancer in "Wit." Sharon Adair, right, plays professor E.M. Ashford. The production was named best overall play.

MVT's "Wit" received seven, including best overall play, for its success in exploring the meaning of life and death as framed by the sonnets of a 17th century poet. Betty Burdick, sole winner for "Featured Female in a Play," displayed a level of commitment not often seen in local theater in having her head shaved for her performance in the lead role.

"Wit" also benefited from excellent work by the tech crew, including Joseph D. Dodd (set design), Ed James (lighting design), and Jason Taglianetti (sound design), who also received awards for their contributions.

Army Community Theatre received two awards for its staging of "Flower Drum Song." Lisa Matsumoto's 'Ohia Productions received two awards for "On Dragonfly Wings," a fuzzy musical parable based on the Alana Dung story, in which the changes that come with puberty are equated with death.


Cast members rehearse for "Titanic," a Diamond Head Theatre production. The production won eight Po'okela Awards, including one of the top awards for best overall musical.

The "On Dragonfly Wings" script was one of only three that was eligible for consideration in the "Original Script" category. The win is certainly a nice promotional boost for 'Ohia, but comes with an asterisk since two other members of the Council, Kumu Kahua and Honolulu Theatre for Youth, currently refuse to have their productions considered for adjudication. That left most of the year's new scripts out of the running (HTY playwrights have won the "Original Script" category in the past).

The two groups' current policy also denies many talented actors and "techies" the opportunity to be acknowledged by Hawaii's organized theater community for their work.

Judge Bao

Hui-Mei Chang, left, played the Princess, and Ella Tereshchenko starred as the Dowager Empress in the University of Hawaii production of the Chinese opera "Judge Bao and the Case of Qin Xianglain," which won an adjudicators' special award.

Complaints that the Hawaii State Theatre Council, sponsors of the Po'okelas, aren't interested in the earnest work of local playwrights, and is not open to theater that addresses the heritage and experiences of Hawaii's people rather than Broadway fantasies, thus become self-perpetuating.

The Po'okelas are routinely mocked by some observers each year for having multiple honorees -- as many as three in some categories in some years (a sizable group within the theater community likes having multiple winners). Single winners predominate this year.

Cory Vas, bottom right, shared the Featured Male in a Musical prize with "Titanic" castmate Douglas Scheer. Other members of the award-winning ensemble production were, clockwise from front center, Ryan Lympus, Julius Dae-Sung Ahn, John Tolentino, Daren Kimura and Jimi V. Wheeler.


2002 Po'okela winners:

Leading Male in a Play

>> Joe Abraham, "Over the River and Through the Woods," MVT
>> Jim Tharp, "You Can't Take It With You," HPU

Leading Female in a Play

>> Betty Burdick, "Wit," MVT

Leading Male in a Musical

>> Laurence Paxton, "Jekyll & Hyde," DHT
>> Kevin Yamada, "Flower Drum Song," ACT

Leading Female in a Musical

>> Shari Lynn, "Mame," DHT
>> Stefanie Okuda, "Flower Drum Song," ACT

Featured Male in a Play

>> Brent Yoshikami, "Wit," MVT

Featured Female in a Play

>> Christine Berwin, "Eco-Circus," UH
>> Frankie Enos, "Rain," TAG

Featured Male in a Musical

>> Douglas Scheer, "Titanic," DHT
>> Cori Vas, "Titanic," DHT

Featured Female in a Musical

>> Katie Leiva, "Song of Singapore," MVT


>> Andrew Sakaguchi and Ka'ohi Yojo, "On Dragonfly Wings," OHIA

Director of a Play

>> Roger Long "Wit," MVT

Director of a Musical

>> Karen Bumatai, "Song of Singapore," MVT
>> John Rampage, "Mame," DHT

Musical Director

>> Melina Lillios, "Titanic," DHT

Set Design

>> Joseph D. Dodd, "Wit" MVT

Costume Design

>> Sukey Dickinson, "Titanic" DHT

Lighting Design

>> Ed James, "Wit," MVT

Sound Design

>> Jason Taglianetti, "Wit," MVT
>> Kurt Yamasaki, "Titanic," DHT

Non-Resident Guest Artist

>> Jennifer Waldman (director/choreographer), "Titanic," DHT


>> "Titanic," DHT

Original Script

>> Lisa Matsumoto and Roslyn Catracchia, "On Dragonfly Wings," OHIA

Overall Musical

>> "Titanic," DHT

Overall Play

>> "Wit," MVT

Pierre Bowman Award

>> Vanita Rae Smith

Adjudicators' Special Awards:

>> University of Hawaii at Manoa Kennedy Theatre for its production of "Judge Bao and the Case of Qin Xianglian," and Michael Furuya, puppet designer for "On Dragonfly Wings"

Betty Burdick as Dr. Vivian Bearing, a professor dying of ovarian cancer, talks to her class, played by, from left, Eric Field, left, Erich Steinwandt, Jaime Steinwandt, Stephanie Kuroda and Adria Roblee-Hertzmark.

Key to theaters:

ACT -- Army Community Theatre
DHT -- Diamond Head Theatre
HPU -- Hawaii Pacific University
MVT -- Manoa Valley Theatre
OHIA -- Ohia Productions
TAG -- The Actors Group
UH -- University of Hawaii at Manoa

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