'AU'A 'IA: HOLDING ON by Kennedy Theatre

'Au'a 'Ia at UHM Kennedy Theatre 7 (Captioned).jpg

Au‘a ‘la: Holding On

Kennedy Theatre

Sep 27, 28, Oct 4, 5, 6

Fri, Sat at 7:30pm, Sun at 2:00pm

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents the world premiere of ‘Au‘a ‘la: Holding On September 27, 28, and October 4, 5, at 7:30 p.m. and October 6 at 2:00 p.m. on the Kennedy Theatre mainstage. In this new production, four UHM haumāna (students) are transported into pivotal moments in the history of Hawai‘i, meeting legendary figures, experiencing mele and hula in those times, and witnessing their cultural history transpire. Kumu Tammy Hailiopua Baker, Associate Professor and Director of the Hawaiian Theatre Program at UHM, is the playwright and director of this Hana Keaka (Hawaiian Theatre) play which will be performed predominantly in the Hawaiian language. Free pre-show chats will take place at 6:45 p.m. preceding the performances on September 28 and October 5.

At the heart of ‘Au‘a ‘la: Holding On is a faithful account of Hawai‘i’s past, from the perspective of the four haumāna. Tasked with a daunting research project for class, they embark on a journey that takes them into the repository of 19th century Hawaiian language archival materials. They connect with their kūpuna (ancestors), explore the meaning of mana (divine power/authority), and interrogate the histories of Ko Hawai‘i Pae ‘Āina (the Hawaiian archipelago).  “It’s a story that parallels my experience and the experience of my friends and colleagues who have made a commitment to learn our language which has helped us to make sense of our history so that we can stand firm on that foundation and not hide from our history,” Baker shares. Much of the script integrates source materials from the time, including newspaper accounts, correspondence, and other historical documents. The majority of the play is in the native Hawaiian language, with bi-lingual segments throughout.

Authenticity is a key feature of the production, not only on stage, but off stage as well. Baker is assembling a vast, diverse group of collaborators from the Hawaiian community to bring the play to life. The group includes R. Keawe Lopes Jr. & C.M. Kaliko Baker (professors from Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language) as well as Kihei Nahale-a, Ka Hale ʻAuamo LLC- Hawaiʻi Content Specialist and Producer of Project KULEANA, Leah Kihara, Filmmaker and kumu of film and television production at Kamehameha Schools, Jace Kaholokula Saplan (UHM professor of music) and Kanaka Maoli visual artist Ahukini Kupihea. Many of the cast members are of native Hawaiian ancestry (Kānaka Maoli) authenticating/strengethening the representation of Kānaka Maoli on stage.

One of the strengths of the play is how accessible it is. As Baker posits, “Not everyone is on the same canoe…on the same journey.” The four main characters all have different connections with their heritage. Some are very much grounded in their culture, while others are still discovering their “Hawaiian-ness” for the first time. Through the collective journey they take, however, they come out of it more connected with their past. “They push each other, and they become better people from it,” Baker says.

This is the Hawaiian Theatre Program’s second mainstage Hana Keaka production. The previous offering was Lā‘ieikawai in 2015, produced as part of the Department of Theatre and Dance mainstage season at UHM Kennedy Theatre. The production subsequently toured to the neighbor islands, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and was re-mounted as an invited production for the Region 8 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. “At the very least, I hope our community feels like this is a space where their stories can be told.” Baker also hopes that people will have a transformative experience and be enlightened by a history that has oftentimes been kept hidden: “It is seldom to hear the history of Kānaka Maoli from the perspective of Kānaka Maoli, and this play offers an immersive, authentic experience of just that.”

Tickets to ‘Au‘a ‘la: Holding On are on sale online at etickethawaii.com, by phone at (808) 944-2697, and at official outlets. Sales at the Kennedy Theatre Box Office begin on Monday, September 23, 2019.  Ticket sales at the Box Office are available Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with extended hours on show days.