UHH theater season showcases diversity


The University of Hawaii at Hilo was recently honored as the most diverse college campus in the United States, and the 2014-15 UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center’s season is a reflection of that diversity.

“I like the fact that we’re going all over the world, geographically and stylistically, as well,” UHHPAC Director Lee Dombroski said Wednesday. “We really have a truly eclectic season this year, which is truly exciting for the audience.”

The season opens Sept. 27 with an American musical giant, Mavis Staples, whose six-decade career has seen her transition from 1950s delta-influenced gospel to 1970s Top-40 R&B hits with the Staples Singers and back to her gospel roots.

“Her musical journey has been fascinating and to have the credentials she has — Rock &Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, National Heritage Fellowship Award — that’s amazing. Words escape me, literally, about her,” Dombroski said.

Tunisian singer/songwriter/guitarist Emel Mathlouthi takes the stage Oct. 4. Banned from performing in many venues in her homeland because of her protest songs, she took to YouTube and her music became anthems for the Arab Spring movement.

“She is young, vivacious and really compelling,” Dombroski said. “Her voice is amazing. It’s earthy. She runs the gamut with her traditional Tunisian sounds meeting rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop, trip-hop influences.”

On Oct. 18th, Indian Ink Theater Company presents “The Guru of Chai,” a theater piece featuring Jacob Rajan, which has garnered rave reviews in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.

“He has a live musician with him on stage,” Dombroski said. “They do this really wonderful piece — he plays every single character he talks about. … He finds a different physical iteration and vocal iteration for every character.”

The New Zealand Listener said of the production, “The sheer brilliance of Rajan’s performance, and the humanity he brings to every character, holds this whirlwind of dramatic storytelling together.”

The fall season will conclude with an in-house performance of UH-Hilo Drama Professor Jackie Pualani Johnson’s “Conquering the Sun,” an amalgamation of several Hawaiian legends she created in the 1970s at Colorado University.

The three-performance run of the play, which Dombroski said has not been performed in Hawaii, will be Nov. 14-15, with a Sunday matinee Nov. 16. UH-Hilo alum Kimo Apaka is the director.

“It’s exciting to have Kimo direct here on the stage where he’s been part of so many great performances,” she said. “We’re doing a shorter run of public performances because we’re doing a run of six school performances of this production,” she said.

The spring season starts Jan. 22 with Rani Arbo &daisy mayhem, a quartet touted as possessing “a rare gift for fashioning hip, sleek sounds from the solid cloth of vintage American music.”

“They do some great covers and they have original material, and lots of anecdotes and stories as well,” Dombroski said. “I think it’s gonna be a really lively evening.”

Grammy-nominated bluesman Eric Bibb will perform Feb. 11. An American-expatriate who lives in Helsinki, Finland, his style is reminiscent of Keb’ Mo’, who played UHHPAC in a non-season event last year.

“Eric is an artist I have been trying to bring for a couple of years now,” Dombroski said. “He’s very popular in Europe and he’s got a huge touring schedule over there. Getting him out in our direction has been difficult, but things have aligned for us.”

On Feb. 24, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion dance company of Philadelphia presents “Pavement.”

“It’s a modern dance piece with a story … about rival gangs and how they interact at the local basketball court,” Dombroski said. “Kyle is a young, energetic choreographer who is musically classically trained, as well as being a classical dancer. … This piece is really physical and really beautiful at the same time, and it’s set to classical music, in part.”

New Zealand’s Massive Company takes the stage March 10 with “The Brave,” a bold and honest work that interweaves the stories of eight diverse Auckland-based men who share their most sincere ponderings on what it takes to be a brave man in the world today.

“It’s one of those pieces where you’re laughing, and then, all of a sudden, you realize your eyes are moist,” Dombroski said. “… I hope people have the same emotional connection to it that I had when I saw excerpts from it.”

The season wraps up April 2 with The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles presentation “it gets better.” The choral concert focuses on awareness of the issues of bullying, tolerance and diversity.

“This is the culmination of a week-long residency program here on campus in conjunction with some of the public schools around Hilo. The company does workshops and round-table discussions,” Dombroski said.

Non-season events include: Great Leaps dance concerts, Dec. 6 and May 2; UH-Hilo Jazz Orchestra concerts, Dec. 11 and May 7; the annual holiday concert, Dec. 14; and Jackie Pualani Johnson’s “Hilo: Da Musical,” April 16-19.

Season subscription packages range in price from $74.40 to $157.60 and are available starting Tuesday by calling the UHHPAC box office at 932-7490 or online at www.artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu. Individual tickets for all events will be available starting Sept. 9.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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