The Hawai'i Shakespeare Festival opens at Windward Community College's Paliku Theatre tonight, featuring three of Shakespeare's best loved plays: "Macbeth," featuring Jennifer Robideau as Lady Macbeth, top left, and Alvin Chan, second from left, as Macbeth; "Henry the Fourth, Part One," featuring Jeremy Pippen as Prince Hal, center; and "Twelfth Night," opening on Aug. 1 featuring Kathy Hunt as Viola, top right, and Moses Goods as Orsino, second from right.

Play’s the thing
for tweaking
at isle festival

"To adapt, or not to adapt?" That is the question directors wrestle with in staging Shakespeare for contemporary Americans. Is it nobler to be a purist and attempt to re-create as fully as possible a Shakespearean play as it would have been presented during his lifetime, or better to adapt the language, costumes or story lines to accommodate the expectations of a modern audience?

R. Kevin Doyle, Tony Pisculli and Harry Wong III stayed true to the language while taking a few calculated gambles in the way of costumes and casting when they inaugurated the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival at the Paliku Theatre last summer. Expect more of the same careful craftsmanship and creativity this year.

For instance, the witches in Pisculli's production of "Macbeth" won't be the familiar old supernatural hags.

"Back when Shakespeare wrote 'Macbeth,' people believed in witches, and in particular, King James I, who was in the first audience -- and Shakespeare knew he would be there -- had just written his own book on witches and how to discover them, and (he) was very much concerned with the rituals and trappings of witchcraft," Pisculli says, adding that the scenes with the witches later became so popular that they "took over the play." Additional scenes were written for them by a later playwright whose work was grafted onto the original script. The witch scenes eventually evolved into "these big musical numbers," Pisculli said. "People would go to see the play for the spectacle of these singing, dancing witches.

"I think having the witches be an external force in our day and age makes it too easy to dismiss them, so in my production, rather than being external supernatural horrors, they're inner psychological demons (represented by) images, and one is actually an image of his wife, Lady Macbeth, and the others are reflections -- an idealized version of her.

"They're comforting and kind of cruel, but he uses them as a device so he can urge himself on to things that he wants to do. They're like Norman Bates' mother in 'Psycho.'"

Pisculli, Hawaii's only Po'okela Award-winning fight choreographer, has also added a battle scene so that Macbeth's prowess in battle can be shown rather than discussed, and the portrayal of the witches as seductive figures suggests Macbeth fears the power that women can exert over men.

"They have the ability to give or withhold pleasure, and he fears that. Its a type of power that he can't control in the way that he (is able) on the battlefield. He's confident on the battlefield, but when it comes to the bedroom, he is not that powerful."

That's why Pisculli's witches won't be "old women with beards."

Doyle is also delighted to be directing "Henry IV -- Part 1."

"Falstaff, who is kind of a major comic character in 'Henry IV,' is considered to be one of the great comic characters in Western literature, and yet 'Henry IV' the play hasn't been done in Honolulu, to my knowledge in at least 20 or 30 years, maybe longer, since Terry (Terence Knapp) says he can't recall a production of it since he'd been out here.

"It's burdened with the classification of being a 'history play,' which I think is a turn-off to a lot of people, but it's sort of a rollicking adventure story about fights and battles and drinking and comedy. It's written more as an adventure story, at least from my perspective."

Doyle also promises Shakespeare with a slightly different look. He's using Beijing-trained fight choreographer Nicholas Logue for his play's battle scenes, so expect to see what Doyle describes as "Chinese opera-style fighting" rather than conventional European swordplay.

With Harry Wong directing "Twelfth Night," Doyle is hoping people will decide to buy a season ticket good for discounted admission to all three shows.

"The plots for all three plays are fairly straightforward, and the characters are very clear ... and our goal with the festival once again is to create something that is entertaining ... and not just an 'artistic experience.'"

Hawaii Shakespeare Festival 2003

Where: Paliku Theater, Windward Community College

When: Begins with "Macbeth," running 8 p.m. today, tomorrow, July 24 and 26; and 4 p.m. July 27. Also "Henry IV -- Part 1, running 8 p.m. July 25 and 31 and Aug. 2; and 4 p.m. July 26 and August. The last production is "Twelfth Night," running 8 p.m. Aug. 1, 8 and 9; and 4 p.m. Aug. 2 and 10.

Tickets: $16 (discounts available for seniors, military, students, and groups; season tickets for all three shows are also available); available at Paliku Theatre box office, all UH ticket outlets, by phone at 944-2697, or on-line at

Call: 235-7433 or visit

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