Hawaiian mo‘olelo bursts onto the Kennedy Mainstage


The Department of Theatre and Dance's third Mainstage production of this season at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (UHM)'s Kennedy Theatre will be the inaugural production of the Hawaiian Theatre program at UHM. It is also Kennedy's first Mainstage Hawaiian medium show. Entitled Lā'ieikawai, the new play incorporates the traditional Hawaiian performance forms of hula (dance), mele (song/Hawaiian poetry), 'oli (chant) and hula ki'i (puppetry) to create hana keaka (drama).

The show will be performed on the Mainstage Feb. 20, 21, 27, and 28 at 8 p.m., & Feb. 22 and March 1 at 2 p.m. A pre-show chat will precede the performance on Feb. 21 and 28 at 7 p.m. The Feb. 21 chat is called "Haku Hana Keaka: The Journey & Process," while the Feb 28 chat is called "Mo'olelo & Ka'ao: The Perpetuation of Hawaiian History, Stories and Tradition;" both will feature the different kumu who collaborated on the production.

Lā'ieikawai, adapted for the stage and directed by Assistant Professor Tammy Haili'ōpua Baker, follows the story of Lā'ieikawai (played by Kau'i Kaina), one of famed Lā'ie twins (Lā'ieikawai and Lā'ielohelohe) who were separated at birth.

The story focuses on her isolation from the outside world, and the numerous suitors that seek her hand. Among them is Kauai chief 'Aiwohikupua (played by Ioane Goodhue), who brings his Maile sisters, renowned for their fragrant scents, to help him woo the princess. Ultimately failing, he leaves his sisters behind. Grief stricken and lost, they go to the princess for help. Eventually, a bond of sisterhood is formed between them that will help them weather the seemingly insurmountable challenges ahead.

The show will be performed in 'ōlelo Hawaii, that is, in the Hawaiian language, and marks a turning point for the department and for the university on a much broader level. After a 20 year process, a fully realized Mainstage Hawaiian show will finally be performed at the University of Hawai'i.

Baker's academic work focuses on the revitalization of Hawaiian language and culture, particularly in the realm of theatre. She is a co-founder of Ka Hālau Hanakeaka, a Hawaiian medium theatre troupe whose productions have toured internationally and throughout the Hawaiian archipelago. In addition to her Hawaiian medium plays, Baker's English and Pidgin (Hawaiian Creole English) plays have been produced at many theatres in Hawaii. (Look for a behind-the-scenes interview with Baker in Summit 2.0 later this year.)

In addition to Baker, a production staff of professionals from the community with a variety of skills is helping to shape this revolutionary production. Kumu Kaliko Baker, an instructor of Hawaiian at Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language, serves as the dramaturge and language coach for the production and Assistant Professor of Pacific Island Studies, Moana Nepia, contributes his modern dance expertise.

Kumu R. Keawe Lopes Jr., Assistant Professor at Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language, is a native of Nānākuli, Oahu. He currently teaches Hawaiian language courses that include the study and practice of mele to enhance language acquisition and is working with original compositions of chant and hula for the production. Kumu Keawe and his wife Kumu Tracie Lopes are kumu hula of the award winning hālau hula Ka Lā'ōnohi mai o Hae'ha'e.

Snowbird Puananiopaoakalani Bento is also native of Nānākuli, Oahu, and kumu hula of the prestigious hālau Ka Pā Hula o Ka Lei Lehua. Kumu Snowbird is contributing with original mele compositions and choreography for the production. Both hālau will be featured in a hula segment in the production.

This production is presented by the Department of Theatre and Dance and is hosted by the Asian Theatre Program. It is also co-sponsered by the UHM Hawai'inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language, and Halele'a Arts Foundation.


Kennedy Theatre, 1770 East West Rd.

Fri., Feb. 20, 27, Sat., Feb. 21, 28, 8pm

Sun., Feb. 22, March 1, 2pm

$8–25, all ages

(808) 944-2697




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