My interactions with the Honoka‘a People’s Theatre (HPT) last week once again confirmed that it is the heart of our wonderfully eclectic town. The owner, Dr. Tawn Keeney and his daughter and Theatre Manager, Phaethon, have really amped up how the HPT is serving Honoka‘a since the Kick-Starter Campaign that gave them the funds necessary to go digital. (See Saving the heart of our town.)
Of course they run movies, two different movies every day, at discounted prices. Their café is open six days a week, serving healthy sandwiches, coffee, fun juice drinks and bubble tea, a milk tea popular in Asia containing 1/4 inch tapioca “pearls.” It’s the place to meet friends for coffee; I enjoyed a long- awaited conversation with Kris at that very table over an Italian Soda just last Friday. More importantly, lots of Honoka‘a kids find their first job at the café.
People consult the community bulletin board that is the theatre’s front window to find out what’s happening. There’s some ‘interesting’ stuff on that window because they support this diverse community with wide-ranging interests. I gave them a flyer Saturday and within minutes they had posted it.
But that only scratches the surface of what they do for Honoka‘a. Twice a week they open their stage space for Hula and Hawaiian Culture classes, where I got to know fellow-classmates, Tawn and Phaethon. In the past, Tango classes ran one night a week. On Saturdays they make the space available for two classes of Capoeira.
Capoeira? I looked it up on the HPT website. It’s “an interactive game of martial arts and acrobatic dance accompanied by live music. Created four centuries ago by African slaves in Brazil…Students will learn attacks, escapes, acrobatics, strength and conditioning, music instruments, songs in Brazilian-Portuguese, history and self-confidence.” Who knew? And who else but the HPT would provide space for something so out-there?
And then there are all the special events. In the last two weeks alone they have featured:
- 8/22: Plantation Days & Presentation: “Land Use and Culture Change in Honokaa Town, 1850-1950,” lecture by a local historian and free plantation-era movies,
- 8/22: Roger McGuinn of The Byrds in Concert (lots of free spirits of a certain age live here),
- 8/23: Ecstatic Dance presented by Sea Dandelion Café,
- 8/29: Waimea Community Theatre Presents Shrek the Musical.
Ecstatic Dance was another unfamiliar activity. Again I had to consult with the Theatre’s website: “…a place to dance…in a safe and non-judgmental space…inspired by music, allowing our bodies to move freely without judgment… Dance as if nobody is watching…a moving meditation that develops a direct body-spirit connection…No dance experience or partner is necessary…It is free-form, not a structured dance. It is also not a social dance. It is an environment without observers or conversation, where you can feel safe to try new things and really push yourself out of your comfort zone.”
Apparently this meditation- dance started here on the Big Island in 2000 and is now performed all over. There are even guidelines.
The lovely people at one of the newest cafes in town, the Sea Dandelion Café and Awa Bar, started these dances this summer while I was gone, donating the proceeds to different non-profits around town. I was delighted to learn that the proceeds from this most recent dance went to my favorite non-profit, the Hamakua Youth Foundation. But these dances wouldn’t happen at all if the HPT didn’t have the space. I can’t wait for the next one; imagine dancing to the sounds of a didgeridoo!
Saturday I saw a live performance of Shrek by the Waimea Community Theatre troupe at the HPT. They held their first four sold-out perform- ances at the very fine Kahilu Theater in Waimea. But last night’s special encore was held here at HPT. The town came out, some dressed up, many with children. Listening to the crowd chatting before the show, my friend Julia commented how different this setting feels than the performances she attends at Kahilu which feel more formal; there’s not this same kind of warm community interaction in the seats, and certainly not the intimacy of space between the performers and those watching. The show was mainly played out on the lower stage, the large space in front of the first row of seats. The audience was mere feet from the performers. Of course you have to come early to get a front-row seat in their egalitarian no-assigned seats process. No matter; it gives us more time to chat with friends and acquaintances.
After the show, the cast and theater-goers spilled out onto the street, mingling and taking pictures, as if these were the real Disney-world characters. One of the Three Little Pigs called me out by name (who was that under the theater make-up and costume?!) and conspiratorially whispered to me “Eat Beef.” I stopped to talk with the sweet little girl who played the Gingerbread Man. She was every bit as confident in person as in character. The cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf told me that this was the one role he really wanted. It was especially endearing to see my friend Stacy Disney (yes, the family is distantly related to Walt) posing with her daughter Alex who played Princess Fiona.
Dr. Keeney modestly stood off to the side. It was 7 pm. I asked him if he was really going to show Mission Impossible at 8. “Yes, that show will go on.” They must have started moving the sets out of the way immediately; now that’s accommodating!
Hula, Capoeira, Ecstatic Dance, community bulletin board and gathering place, live performances, local festivals. The name is the Honoka‘a People’s Theatre and they offer themselves up that way – our theater, for our community, helping us fly our freak flags, as one of the songs in the Shrek production said. We are so grateful.
For more essays related to the HPT see:
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