Florence Chang, left, Lisa T.K.O. Lum and Kathy Hunter star in "A Little Bit Like You," a play by Darrell H.Y. Lum in which Dann Seki makes his directorial debut.

Seki's new challenge

The veteran actor is directing
Kumu Kahua's "A Little Bit Like You"

By John Berger

The new year is barely a week old, but 2003 is starting off already to be a big one for Dann Seki.

The veteran actor makes his debut as a director Thursday when Kumu Kahua's new production of "A Little Bit Like You" opens downtown.

Seki is no stranger to Kumu Kahua audiences. He's been seen in a number of their productions, including "Manoa Valley," "Yankee Dawg You Die" and last fall's excellent revival of "Aloha Las Vegas." He's also appeared in Diamond Head Theatre's production of "Golden Boy" and in Manoa Valley Theatre's superb revival of "The Wash" in 2001.

In addition to his stage work, Seki has appeared in local commercials and most of the network television series that have passed through here over the years, including "Magnum, P.I.," "Jake and the Fatman," "Raven," "Marker," "One West Waikiki" and "Byrds of Paradise."

So Seki has worked with a lot of directors over the years, but making the transition to directing is still a challenge to him.

"There's a tremendous difference (between the two)," he said Saturday at the start of rehearsals at the Kumu Kahua Theatre.

"I think the big difference for me is that when you're an actor, you can just concentrate on the one role that you're doing. But as a director, you have to really know everybody's parts. That part (of it) has been challenging."

Another challenge posed in re-presenting "A Little Bit Like You" is doing a play that many people are already familiar with -- Seki, in fact, knows better than almost anyone how the story and the characters were interpreted in Kumu Kahua's two previous productions of Darrell Lum's play.

"I was in the other two productions, so the challenge (for me) is breaking out of the mental mold of either going for change just for the sake of changing it, or to keep it the way it was before."

So Seki, who did the role of Grandpa Jiro Sakamoto in both the 1991 and '93 productions, decided to do a little of both (his current cast is doing the show for the first time).

"They were looking for a director, and they thought I might be OK for it, mainly because I had been in it before, and so that was kind of the motivation for me: It would be an interesting switch; maybe I could bring something to the direction," he said.

(A cast member said in private confidence that while Seki had told them he was nervous about directing for the first time, he had been thorough and well prepared throughout the rehearsal process.)

Acting, however, remains his first and foremost passion. He mentions "Aloha Las Vegas" and the character of Jinpei Fujiyama in "Easy Street" as a favorite show and favorite character, respectively, and says that he hopes to return to the stage soon, if the right role comes along.

"A Little Bit Like You,"
presented by Kumu Kahua

Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (through Feb. 9)
Tickets: $13 general admission on Thursdays only (with discounts for seniors, students and the unemployed); $16 all other performances (discounts for seniors, students and group sales of 10 or more)
Call: 536-4441

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