Charles Timtim, William Murray and Jime Bradner in Kāmau A‘e by Alani Apio

The play’s the thing

Summit + Kumu Kahua Theatre

Date
Place Chinatown
Text Summit Staff

Kumu Kahua Theatre, in downtown Honolulu on the Island of O‘ahu, offers one-of-a-kind live entertainment. When you want to enjoy cutting-edge performances about the life, history and future of Hawai‘i's people, this is where you come.

In the heart of historic Downtown Honolulu, a little theater thrives amid the mix of modern skyscrapers and 19th century Hawaiian architecture. The mission of this theater is to tell the stories of Hawai‘i and the diverse people who live here with honesty and care. Its success comes from telling these stories in such a way that audiences and artists alike are challenged, embraced and celebrated. Its existence mirrors that of the strong and accommodating community it serves.

The award-winning establishment produces five shows each season, most of them world premieres. Its mission encourages local playwrights to produce original works about their own Hawai‘i experience, and develops both the artists involved in those productions and the audiences who appreciate them. And they’ve been doing exactly that since 1971, when a group of graduate students at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa decided such a theater should exist in Honolulu and created Kumu Kahua Theatre.

“Their mission is in the vanguard of an important artistic expression that gives us voice and shares it across land and sea,” says Hawai‘i Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “There is no other theater in Hawai‘i solely devoted to this work; there is no other theater in the world devoted to us in this way.”

“It’s one thing to visit or live in a town and experience its beaches, nightclubs and restaurants. It is entirely another thing to get to know that place by learning about and enjoying the people, history and day-to-day lives of those who live there,” says Kumu Kahua Theatre Managing Director Donna Blanchard. “We ensure that residents, as well as visitors to Hawai‘i, have a place where they can both express and witness real lives here in the center of the Pacific.”

With more than 230 world premieres to its name, Kumu Kahua Theatre continues to produce seasons filled with comedy, drama, historical reflection, contemporary struggle and future hope. The rich landscape of cultures, experiences and identities in Hawai‘i has led to an equally broad array of scripts, each with a unique voice and a deep connection to place, brought to life on stage by the wealth of Hawai‘i’s theatrical talent.

Jo Ramsey and Kiana Rivera in My Name is Gary Cooper by Victor Roger

“There is no black-and-white here, no heroes or villains. The story is beautifully balanced.” — John Berger, Honolulu Star-Advertiser review of Joker by Yilong Lieu, 2015 season

“Kumu Kahua Theatre, where the plays just seem to be getting better and better.” — Eleanor Svaton, Hitting the Stage review of Joker by Yilong Lieu, 2015 season

“Kumu Kahua Theatre has maintained its commitment to high quality entertainment. I have been continually impressed by the content and quality of its productions.” — Former Hawai‘i Governor Neil Abercrombie

“Each actor was superb and so emotionally convincing. Bravo!” — Marilyn Kobata, Patron, All That Remains by Mona Z. Smith, 2013 season

“My only regret is that I did not discover the Kumu Kahua Theatre earlier in my life.” — Paul Shinagawa, Patron

Justin Fragiao, Daniel Nishida and Britni Keltz in Fishing for Wives by Edward Sakamoto

In the 2016–17 season, an Okinawan family living in Hawai‘i is challenged by its separation from homeland (UchinaAloha by Lee Tonouchi); a multi-generational Hawaiian hula hālau struggles to survive in the 21st century as the millennial generation continues to lose interest in ancient practices (iHula by Ryan Okinaka); Buffalo Soldiers and native Filipinos are forced to fight one another in the Manifest Destiny-driven Philippine War for Independence (Buffalo’ed by Jeannie Barroga); Samoan men and a Hawaiian-Filipino woman struggle with identity in communities not known for acceptance of homosexuality (Black Faggot by Victor Roger and Puzzy by Kiki); a local Hawaiian community shares stories among its members with biting wit and enduring love (Uncle’s Regularly scheduled Garage Party is Cancelled Tonight! by Lee Cataluna).


Kumu Kahua Theatre // 46 Merchant Street (in the historic King Kamehameha V Post Office), Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96813 // (808) 536-4222 // KumuKahua.org

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Summit is Hawaii's global magazine of ideas, style and smart living. We're named for Queen Kapiolani's motto, "kulia i ka nuu," strive for the summit. Summit is available on fine newsstands throughout North America and the Asia-Pacific region.

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