Friday, June 12, 2009

youtube media

The Media Initiatives unit at the museum has created a short media piece about our production that is now available for viewing at:
Enjoy the video and watch for additional pieces in the near future!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Audience Evaluation

At each performance of The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu audience members were asked to fill out evaluation cards. Feedback on our programs is always important to us, but particularly so for this production. The play is the first that NMAI has produced in-house and as such was an experiment in whether or not the museum can build its own Native theater program. The evaluation cards asked audience members for their opinions on the performance, what they would like to see in our theater, and their impressions on doing local Native theater in our museum. Responses were overwhelmingly positive. Here is a sample of what audience members thought of the show:

“I have been to other presentations here and all have been of great quality, but this was absolutely the best. The play, set and actresses gave us a wonderful experience.”

“The play increased our understanding of how the Hawaiian culture was impacted by the missionaries. It was educational as well as entertaining.”

“This was an excellent production. I felt that the story was compelling. The actors were very persuasive and I feel as if I’m leaving thinking of the many complex issues presented.”

“Very excited that NMAI is doing this now! Wishing you great success!”

Following the successful presentation of The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu we are exploring possibilities for the future. Watch this space for updates on the continued work of building a Native theater program at NMAI and, as always, your comments and feedback are welcomed.

Article About Our Set Designer

The following is a link to an article about David Dwyer and his set design for The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu.

Suddenly it's all over...

On Friday, May 15 at 7:30 pm, and on Saturday, May 16 at 2:00 pm, in the Rasmuson Theater, NMAI Cultural Arts presented a production of Victoria Kneubuhl’s The Conversion of Ka’ahumanu. This play examines the complex relationships among Christian missionaries and indigenous Hawaiian women 40 years after the islands’ first contact with the West. There was a special event preview performance for NMAI members on Thursday, May 14, followed by a reception where members met and talked with the playwright and the cast. This was the first play produced by the NMAI’s Mall museum drawing entirely on local resources, including Cultural Arts Program Specialists Vincent P. Scott, director, and Janet Clark, stage manager. Prior to the Thursday and Friday evening shows the Mitsitam Café offered a special menu of Hawaiian-style tapas, with music provided in the café by members of Halau Ho’omau. Approximately 550 people attended the performances, which were received with great enthusiasm and standing ovations.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Here we are - time for our opening performance tonight. This last week we concentrated on technical and dress rehearsals. Last night we held a preview/final dress performance. This was a special "Sneak Preview" event for NMAI members. The rehearsal went very well. The audience was engaged in the performance during the entire play. Comments were very positive. Most importantly, we did justice to Ms. Kneubuhl's play. We have been honored to be hosting Victoria Kneubuhl this week. She was the featured writer in our Native Writer's Series this week and has been with us for dress rehearsals and performances.

Before the preview last night and the performance tonight, our famous Mitsitam Cafe is featuring a Hawaiian menu of:
Hui Hui Chicken Skewers
Kalua Pig
Ahi Poke
Lomi Lomi Salmon
Coconut Shrimp
Lumpia with ginger dipping sauce

Specialty Cocktail:
Pineapple Coconut Cocktail

While folks dine, the Halau Ho'Omau I ka Wai Ola O Hawai'i entertains cafe patrons with beautiful Hawaiian music. Mahalo to our cafe and to Halau Ho'Omau for making an evening of Hawaiian culture and performance an even more memorable one!

To the cast and crew and many folks who helped to get all of us to this opening night, I send a very heartfelt "Mahalo!"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Set

In the script for The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu the set is described as follows: "Downstage center is a free open Playing Area. Downstage right is a simple set to suggest a parlor of the Mission House. The set pieces include a table with benches and a few chairs, one of which should be a Boston rocker. Behind the Playing Area, on a slightly raised platform, is a lauhala mat with pillows, and a small western table. This is Ka'ahumanu's House. Downstage left is a lauhala mat covered with a small Chinese ruge, a table behind it, and a nice chair. This is Hannah's House."

As you will see, the NMAI's set for The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu varies slightly from this description. Factors such as the shape and size of our stage affected the set design. For our production, Hannah's house is not on stage but is instead represented by a stool in front of the stage, level with the audience. Our set designer David Dwyer, with the assistance of his son Garrett, has built a world that is true to the essence of Kneubuhl's description and does a wonderful job of bringing 1820's Honolulu to life.

Production Staff

Our set is up and lighting, sound, props, and costumes are being added and tweaked with each rehearsal. Victoria Kneubuhl's play is coming to life thanks to the hard work of some very talented people:


Vincent P. Scott, a Cultural Arts Program Specialist here at the NMAI’s Mall museum, has been a director and stage manager for over twenty years. Vincent has worked in many types of theater, including Native theater, classical repertory, summer stock, musical theater, opera, and touring theater, from regional tours that included Moose lodges and Elks Clubs in rural Montana, to international festivals in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Hong Kong. He has even directed at the Amundson-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica! Here at the NMAI, Vincent has most recently directed a reading of Drew Hayden Taylor’s Toronto at Dreamer’s Rock. Mr. Scott has a BA in Theater and Speech from DeSales University, an MFA in Directing for the Theater from Wayne State University, and an MA in Christianity and Culture from Gonzaga University. Articles and book chapter contributions by Mr. Scott appear in Baylor Journal of Theater and Performance (Spring 2007), Insights (Winter 2007), The Soul of the American Actor (Summer 2008), and Performing Worlds into Being: Native American Women’s Theater (2009). Vincent dedicates this production to the many Native cultural guides that have warmly welcomed him into their cultures and have helped him “steer the canoe:” Jim Shanley and the Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, MT, the Cup’ik people of Chevak, AK, the Native Ministry Training Program in St. Mary’s, AK, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, AK.

Set Designer

David Dwyer is delighted to be working with a fabulous production team on The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu. He holds a Bachelor's degree in theater and an Oral Communication Certificate with distinction from Marietta College, and a Master of Fine Arts in production design from Michigan State University. As a free-lance scenic and lighting designer he works and travels throughout the Eastern United States. His designs have been seen at The Boarshead Theatre, Theatre Winterhaven, Dance Ocala, Gemstone Productions, The Gorilla Theatre, and LiveArts Theatre. He has served as technical director for the Showboat Becky Thatcher, and Northern Michigan University. He is an Associate Professor of theatre at Southern Virginia University, where he is the principal theater designer and technical director, teaches theater classes, and directs theater productions. He resides in Buena Vista, Virginia with his wife and five children.

Costume Designer

Valerie St. Pierre Smith (Anishnaabe) received her MFA in Costume Design and Technology from San Diego State University. Valerie has worked as a costume designer and artisan for clients on both coasts including Warner Brothers Studio; Universal Studios, Hollywood; The Old Globe Theatre; La Jolla Playhouse and Sea World, San Diego. Most recently her designs have been seen on stage in DC in The Other Room for The Kennedy Center/VSA and Antebellum for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Some of her favorite show credits include She Loves Me, The Skriker, The Tempest, A Doll House and Tartuffe. Valerie also currently serves on the design faculty at The George Washington University's Department of Theatre and Dance.

Lighting Designer

Sam Kitchel is currently a Kenan Fellow at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As a fellow he has been assisting at Theatre J, Synetic Theater, Wooly Mammoth, and the Kennedy Center among others. He holds a Bachelor's in Fine Arts from North Carolina School of the Arts. His next design will be Rorschach Theatre's Brain People.

Props Designer

Carmen Gomez is new to the D.C. area and has just completed her first year as a design professor and the technical director for the Theatre and Dance Department at The George Washington University. While she grew up and received her education in Texas, Carmen has spent the last five years teaching and designing at Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Florida. She is excited to be involved with NMAI and looks forward to more new experiences.

Sound Designer

Edward Moser is a regional audio veteran whose recent theatrical credits include Native Son for the American Century Theatre, A Bad Friend for the Silver Spring Stage, Long Days Journey Into Night for the Quotidian Theatre, Rounding Third for the Accokeekcreek Theatre, and both As You Like It and 1984 for the National Players Tour 60. As a front of house engineer his work has been heard in the musicals Urinetown at the Clarice Smith Center, Godspell at Olney Theatre Center, and the world premiere of David at Theater J; and in concert for Grammy holders Walt Egan and Bill Danoff. He is a graduate of the Phoenix Conservatory and a member of AES.

Percussionist: 'olapa, Halau Mohala 'Ilima

Melissa Mokihana Scalph is a professional educator and duly graduated dancer of Halau Mohala `Ilima, a traditional hula school in Kailua, Hawai`i, under the direction of respected Kumu Hula (master) Mapuana de Silva. Mokihana’s family roots go back to the garden island of Kaua`i. She has been studying, performing and teaching hula in the D.C. area for over 30 years. Venues include Wolf Trap Theater-in-the-Woods, the Kirov Academy of Ballet, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the Historical Society of Washington D.C. and the Taste of D.C. Festival. A former Fairfax County school teacher and experienced performer, Mokihana combines her skills to help dispel the stereotypical ideas about hula, and to replace them with am educated awareness of the dignity and respect due to Hawaiian dance and culture, while encouraging the same for cultures of all peoples.


Christy Stanlake is an associate professor of English at the US Naval Academy, where she runs the Navy theater program. She is active in Native American theater through both scholarship and practical theater work. Stanlake dramaturged JudyLee Oliva’s Te Ata World Premiere and directed a staged reading of Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl’s Fanny and Belle. Her publications in the field of Native theater include articles in Modern Drama and Performing Worlds into Being: Native American Women’s Theater; she also guest-edited BJTP’s special edition of Nation’s Speaking: Indigenous Performances Across the Americas. This summer, Cambridge UP will release her first book, Native American Drama: A Critical Perspective.

Stage Manager

Janet M. Clark has been stage managing professionally in theater in Washington, D.C. and New York for over 25 years. Here in Washington she has worked extensively at Folger Theatre, Arena Stage, and Theatre of the First Amendment. She also works in dance, opera, and special events, and is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.

Production Assistant

Meghan Williams is interning in the Cultural Arts department at NMAI this spring, working primarily on The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu. She has been involved in many theater productions both onstage, in plays such as Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as a stage manager for Oklahoma and Romeo and Juliet. In June, Meghan will graduate with a master’s in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. She hopes to continue working in programming or museum education.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sneak a Peek at the Play!

The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu delves into relationships. Over the course of the play the women's relationships within their own culture and between cultures are affected and changed by religion, friendships, personal trials, and cultural conflict and collisions. The following rehearsal photos show two scences in which the women confront and negotiate their very different worlds and their evolving relationships with each other.

Act 1 Scene 6: The Hawaiian women meet the missionaries for the first time and are shocked by their foreign appearance and dress.

Act 2 Scene 6: While Ka'ahumanu gives Sybil a lomilomi massage the missionary relaxes and shares secrets with the Hawaiian women.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Please join us!

Mahalo to Kevin Cartwright and Leihua Stewart for this promotion!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rehearsal Photos

The NMAI's staff photographer Katherine Fogden has been photographing our rehearsals. Here are a few snapshots of myself and our actresses hard at work.





Rebecca and me

Group Shot

Rehearsal Progress Update

Well we are about to start our technical rehearsal and dress rehearsals. This means we have spent our time since our "work-throughs" on running the acts and then running the entire show non stop for the first time. This helps actors with usual challenges such as getting their lines down firmly, remembering their blocking so that it becomes second nature, and having a sense of progression of what scenes happen in which order. Running the play also helps actors realize some routes they have to take backstage after an exit in one area with their next entrance in a very different area; run-throughs also help with timing and pacing, and general continued comfortability with actor roles and character development in the play. These rehearsals are both challenging and rewarding.
The set and props have now been loaded-in to our venue, although more of the set arrives soon; the costumes arrive today and the sound designer and lighting designer are busy at work on their contributions to the production. Our in-house sound engineer helped us record actor voices which are used as a sound cue in a certain scene in the play. We have also begun to add musical cues performed on traditional Hawaiian percussion instruments as transitions and underscoring; these contributions are performed by Melissa M. Scalph.
Two of the actors and myself are going to do a live radio show promotion of the play tonight on WPFW on the Jay Nightwolf program. Promotion of the production is key as we don't wish to perform for an empty house!
Our next few rehearsals are for the designers and technicians to really focus on their aspects of the show and for the cast to add all of these technical and design elements to their acting; actors must now work with the entire set, with all of the props, in their costumes and make up, in all the lighting cues and hearing all of the recorded and live sound cues. It is all these elements added to the performing of the script which will make a production of this script come fully to life.
The countdown is on: technical rehearsals Sunday, dress rehearsals Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, NMAI members preview on Thursday, and performances on Friday and Saturday. Saturday's performance is followed by an audience discussion with the playwright, Ms. Victoria Kneubuhl. Following the final performance and talkback, it will be time to strike the set and all of the production elements to the bare stage of the Rasmuson theater and put our Hawaiian play to rest. The beauty and pain of live theater performances are in the realization that, like trade winds across the ocean, the experience is indeed an ephemeral one.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Behind the Scenes

While a theatrical performance is meant to convey the playwright’s words to the audience, the process leading up to a show can mean many different things for the cast and crew. Those of us who are living and breathing The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu, particularly now as we near the first performance, have made different connections to the play than a first-time audience might. As we continue on this journey I’d like to share with you how The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu is impacting the people who are working to bring Ms. Kneubuhl’s words to life.

Meghan Williams – Production Assistant

Being involved with The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu has afforded me the opportunity to work in programming at NMAI. In that sense the play represents something bigger than the actual work of putting on the production. I’ve just completed my Master’s in Museum Studies and I focused on programming and education with a research interest in Aboriginal representation in museums. I also have experience in theater and this internship combines all these things. I literally did a dance when I got accepted to come here, and I love every day of it. This museum truly is a wonderful place to work.

What I connect to most about the play is that it deals with a well documented historical period in a different way. By showing us how contact may have looked for female characters, Victoria offers us a refreshing perspective. The play is not a complete picture of the time, nor does it claim historical accuracy, but it does offer a realistic possibility of what may have happened between the women involved. I’m always interested in the untold stories behind mainstream versions, which is what this play provides. Although ironically, in The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu the untold story is the mainstream account of history. I like that twist.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hawaiian Organizations in Washington, DC

The following are descriptions of, and links to, local Hawaiian organizations:

Hawaii State Society of Washington DC

Hawaii State Society (HSS) serves as a bridge between Hawai'i and the Washington, D.C. community, and supports other organizations promoting the best interests of the State of Hawai'i. HSS brings together individuals and groups in a true `ohana (family) atmosphere, providing opportunities for friendship, sharing, support, and networking among its members. HSS is a social organization, dedicated to perpetuating the diverse cultures and traditions of Hawai'i's people.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA’s) mission is to mālama (protect) Hawai'i's people and environmental resources and OHA's assets, toward ensuring the perpetuation of the culture, the enhancement of lifestyle and the protection of entitlements of Native Hawaiians, while enabling the building of a strong and healthy Hawaiian people and nation, recognized nationally and internationally.

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program

The Smithsonian Institution, the nation's premier complex of museums, has embarked on an historic journey to incorporate the meaningful elements of Asian Pacific American (APA) heritages into its museum and offices.
Today the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program works to better reflect the APA experience in Smithsonian exhibitions, programs, and research. It therefore improves the public's appreciation of the crucial roles that Asian Pacific Americans have played in American history and, simultaneously, empowers APA communities in their sense of inclusion within our national culture.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Missionary Women

It has been said that the lives of happy women –like happy nations– are never written.

– H. A. Carter, Kaahumanu, 1899.

Throughout The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu the Hawaiian women comment on the missionaries’ unhappiness, their sad faces and lack of smiles. Yet the audience witnesses a broader spectrum of Sybil and Lucy’s stories, their strengths and weaknesses, and their ups and downs. We see a side of missionary work that is not often told. As Patricia Grimshaw writes in Paths of Duty: American Missionary Wives in Nineteenth-Century Hawaii, missionary ventures to foreign lands are usually described as male endeavors. Yet, Sybil Bingham and Lucy Thurston were among eighty American Protestant women who made the journey to Hawaii between 1819 and mid-century.

In the decades before the foreign missions, women were central to social reform initiatives. They were charged with being moral crusaders, and often dealt with the lowlier parts of religious efforts such as working with drunks, prostitutes, urban poor, and slaves. Female missionaries also had sex-specific jobs and were first and foremost their husband’s support system, but they nevertheless played an important role. Grimshaw describes the missionary wife as a sexual companion, friend, and counselor for her husband. She would create a comforting domestic setting to allow her husband to focus on his work. Mission wives’ first priority was their home, but their importance went beyond their domestic abilities. Women were a symbol of peace and thus provided protection against violence. By creating Christian households women provided models for how the indigenous populations might live. In addition, as we see in The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu, women, especially those who had been teachers in America, could have their own mission service through schools for women and children (xi-7).

The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu is a narrative of what contact might have looked like through its female characters, whose stories are rarely told, and the result is very moving.

For more information see Patricia Grimshaw’s Paths of Duty: American Missionary Wives in Nineteenth-Century Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1989).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Our Featured Playwright

Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl (Native Hawaiian/Samoan) lives and works in Honolulu. She has a master’s degree in Drama and Theater from the University of Hawai’i and has produced twelve plays, several of which have toured to Britain, America, the Pacific, and Asia. Her recent publications include Hawai’i Nei, an anthology of three plays, and Murder Casts a Shadow, a murder mystery set in 1930s Honolulu. She is a recipient of the Hawai’i Award for Literature.

Victoria will be at NMAI on Wednesday May 13th for a book reading, discussion, and book signing as part of the Vine Deloria, Jr. Native Writers Series. She will also be our featured guest at a brief talkback after the play's Saturday matinee performance on May 16 at 2:00pm.
Hana Hou!, the Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines, has recently published an engaging article about Victoria:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rehearsal Progress as of April 16, 2009

Our rehearsals are progressing nicely. For the first two weeks we did script work, where the cast, director, and stage manager sat around a table and read through the play. These rehearsals allowed the cast to become familiarized with their lines before getting up on stage. We made initial attempts to understand who each character is, and what each character wants, or, in stage talk, “what is their action.” Characters in plays try to achieve an objective. The missionaries in our play work to Christianize the Natives of Hawaii. Ka’ahumanu rules and leads her people at a very difficult time in Hawaiian history and gradually comes to embrace the Christian faith. Pali and Hannah serve in Ka’ahumanu’s inner circle and both become involved with their own conversion journeys. One of the focuses for our script work was locating each character’s individual conversions. Although the play's central conversion is Ka‘ahumanu’s decision to become Christian, each character has their own moments of conversion or change.

Last week we finished our script work and started blocking. For these rehearsals the actresses are still "on-book," meaning they have their scripts with them on stage. The goals for blocking rehearsals are for the actresses to get a feel for the stage and add movements to their lines, and for the production crew to work out entrances and exits, as well as the overall look of the scenes. The scene designer provided a working ground (or floor) plan that indicates to the director and actresses where Ka’ahumanu’s home is on stage, as well as where the missionaries house is located. Traffic patterns between these spaces as well as movements that happen when a character speaks directly to the audience are mapped out. Part of blocking is simply character traffic control!

The actresses are expected to have their lines memorized for Act I by April 21st and for Act II by April 27th at which time rehearsals will take place on stage, with no script; this phase of the rehearsal process is often called, “work-throughs.” Work-throughs are an opportunity for cast members to feel comfortable with their movement, character, actions, lines memorized, and the establishing of clear relationships among them as well as clear actions that are being portrayed to the audience yet to come. The “audience” during rehearsal is the director as well as the production staff. It is the director’s job to tell the playwright’s story clearly and to do the play justice – meaning that the playwright’s words, characters, story, and style of theatricality make sense so that the audience becomes engaged and believes what is happening on stage. Work-throughs are the first attempts at making this mighty task occur. It’s always important for us in our rehearsals to recall that we are not representing actual Hawaiian history, but Ms. Nalani Knuebuhl’s vision of a story composed of characters drawn from actual Hawaiian history.

Tittle-tattle and Mischief Making

The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu depicts contact between missionaries and Native Hawaiians through the stories of five women. Although men are frequently discussed, their point of view does not drive the narrative. The audience is privy to how the women regarded each other, but not to what their male contemporaries thought of them. In Act I, Scene 4, Hannah chides fellow Hawaiian Pali for gossiping. “You’re nothing but a chicken,” she says, “clucking gossip all over the village.” Although the missionaries Sybil and Lucy are at times outspoken, their characters appear more reserved than those of the Hawaiian women. Yet, the play might sound a lot different if male characters appeared onstage. The following quote is an excerpt from U.S. Commissioner to the Hawaiian Kingdom David Lawrence Gregg’s diaries. Gregg suggests, nearly forty years after the initial voyage to the Sandwich Islands, that the missionaries were the worst gossips:

“Thus it is always with Honolulu society. It is full of jealousies and scandals. No one can live in it without subjecting his character to the severest test. The Missionaries are the worst gossips and the most inveterate scandal-mongers. Their wives and daughters are far beyond anything St. Paul ever condemned in the way of tittle-tattle and mischief making.” (1858)

Text courtesy of the Hawaiian Historical Society from The Diaries of David Lawrence Gregg: An American Diplomat in Hawaii, 1853-1858, edited by Pauline King (Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society, 1982).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hawaiian Gods

"This masterful sculpture of the Hawaiian god Kuka'ilimoku was created for a temple of the great warrior and chief Kamehameha I, who unified the Hawaiian islands at the beginning of the 19th century. Chants, offerings, and processions honored the god.

Kuka'ilimoku, one of the many forms of the powerful and protective god Ku, became the favorite deity of Kamehameha I who was the supreme ruler of Hawai`i in the early 1800s. Kamehameha I built many temples for religious ceremonies dedicated to Kuka'ilimoku. After Kamehameha's death in 1819, his son Liholiho (Kamehameha II) succeeded him. He abolished Kapu, a political and religious system with strict rules governing social behavior, ended the worship of Kuka'ilimoku and other deities, and called for the destruction of temples. As a result, this sculpture is one of only three large carved images of Kuka'ilimoku that have survived."

Image: Kuka’ilimoku (temple image), early 19th century. Artist not identified. Hawai‘i. Breadfruit wood (Artocarpus incisus).

Image and text courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum’s online database, available at:

Consider the above text in contrast to Ka‘ahumanu’s speech in Act 1 Scene 2:

“Here is why I, Ka‘ahumanu, Kuhin Nui (co-ruler) and widow of Kamehameha, have done these things. For many years now we have seen these haole, these foreign men among us. We know that they break the kapu (taboo) laws. Do the gods come to punish them? No! Some of the women have gone to the ships and have eaten with these haole men. Do the gods come to punish them? No! So why should it be that they will come to punish us at all? I think these beliefs are nothing, false. And here is another thing. We know where the punishment comes from. It does not come from gods. It comes from men. It comes from the priests who grow greedy for power. And who is it who hates most this kapu law of eating? We, women of the ali‘i (chiefly class). We do not want a lowly place any more, and the men of the priesthood will see this! You should have seen the fear in their faces when we sat to eat. Hewahewa made a great prayer to the gods. Liholiho, the king, approached the women’s table. Many of the faces in the crowd became as white as the full moon. Liholiho sat with us to eat. He ate and the people waited in silence, waited for the terrible wrath of the gods … which never came! Then a great cry rose from the women. “Ai noa (free eating), ‘ai noa! The kapu laws are ended! The gods are false.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Hālau is a Hawaiian word meaning a school, academy, or group. More specifically, hālau are schools where students of any background are instructed in Hawaiian culture. While some hālau focus on the hula (Hawaiian dance accompanied by chant or song), others provide a broad range of instruction in subjects such as languages, arts, music, history and customs.

Two local Hālau are Hālau O ‘Aulani and Hālau Ho'omau I ka Wai Ola O Hawai'i.

Hālau O ‘Aulani was founded in 1996 by Ku'ulei Stockman and Margo Schlotterbeck for the sole purpose of creating a learning environment for students interested in the preservation of the multi-faceted cultures of Hawai'i with primary emphasis on the Hawaiian culture. Three of our actresses, Debbie Andres, Wilma Consul, and Melonie Stewart, are students of Hālau O ‘Aulani.

Hālau Ho'omau I ka Wai Ola O Hawai'i, meaning “through hula and hālau, we remain young at heart and full of life,” is a traditional Hawaiian cultural school established in January 2000 by Suz and Manu Ikaika.

More information about these hālau can be found at:

Meet Our Wonderful Cast

Here are the actresses whose talent and hard work are making The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu possible.

Debby Andres (Pali) is originally from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. A recent graduate of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, she is currently pursuing her MA in Public Anthropology at American University. This is her third time on stage, having performed in Sol y Sol and Drama Baylan's Rolling the R's last fall, and debuting in the first ever Filipina multilingual adaptation of The Vagina Monologues in Honolulu, produced by the Hawaii Filipina Rural Project and the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse & Legal Hotline in 2006. Debby is a member of the Hawaii State Society and Halau O 'Aulani.

Wilma B. Consul (Hannah) trained at TnT/Teatro ng Tanan (Theater for Everyone) in San Francisco, where she worked with Brava! For Women in the Arts, Asian American Theatre Company, Culture Clash, Latina Theater Lab, Campo Santo and Theater of Yugen/Noh Space. She wrote and performed her one-woman play in the Bay Area, DC, Hawaii and the Philippines. For DC’s Sol y Soul, she directed 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan Lori Parks and Rolling the R’s by R. Zamora Linmark. She’s part of the Filipina presentation of The Vagina Monologues at the Kennedy Center. A dancer at heart, Wilma performs and teaches at the Hawaiian school Halau O ‘Aulani under Kumu Keith Awai. A journalist by profession, Wilma has produced and reported for National Public Radio and its member stations.

Rebecca Ellis (Lucy Goodale Thurston) is originally from Chicago and received her BFA in acting from Northern Illinois University. She has worked in several area theatres, recently appearing in Rep Stage's A Shayna Maidel which received Outstanding Production of a Play from Rebecca is a company member of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. With CSC she has appeared in The Country Wife, The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors, The Front Page, The Imaginary Invalid, Coriolanus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Dog in the Manger, Much Ado About Nothing, Love's Labor's Lost, Measure for Measure, and her portrayal of Celia in As You Like It received an Honorable Mention as Outstanding Supporting Actress from

Charity Pomeroy (Sybil Mosely Bingham) recently relocated to DC from Skagway, Alaska, where she was seen dancing the Can-Can as Belle Davenport in The Days of 98 Show (now in its 84th year of production), driving visitors around the tiny city as a costumed conductor on the Skagway Street Car, and walking people through Skagway’s back alleys as Madam Tara McClothesoff from the Red Onion Saloon & Brothel Museum. She holds a BS in Musical Theatre from Weber State University where she performed in Drood, Anyone Can Whistle, The Country Wife, 1940s Radio Hour and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. Look for Charity at the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival in Bare Breasted Women Swordfighting.

Melonie Leihua (Villanueva) Stewart
(Ka‘ahumanu) has been happily married for over 15 years and has three beautiful children. Leihua was born and raised in Ku'au, Maui. She is of Hawaiian, Filipino, Chinese, and Puerto Rican decent. Leihua graduated from the Kamehameha Schools, Kapalama Campus in 1991, and while there she studied hula with Holoua Stender. Melonie has also studied theater at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She and her family are students of Halau O 'Aulani in Arlington, VA. Leihua works for Merkle, Inc. in Columbia, MD, and attends Penn State University (online) to pursue a master's degree in Human Resources and Employment Relations.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Native Theater at NMAI

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) works in collaboration with the indigenous peoples of the Americas to protect and foster indigenous cultures, reaffirm traditions and beliefs, encourage contemporary artistic expression, and provide a forum for indigenous voices. In the spirit of this mission, the NMAI aims to become the nation’s premiere institution for showcasing Native American performing arts. Although The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu is the first self-produced Native play at the NMAI in Washington, the museum has had successful seasons of bringing Native theater companies to our audiences. The first performance at the Mall museum was in December 2005. On tour from Bogotá, Colombia, Vientro Teatro presented Pamuri Mahse, a spectacularly masked and costumed mythical mask ceremonial dance drama. The company retold creation stories and myths of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon region of Colombia and featured a talkback after the play with guest collaborators from the Uitoto tribe.

The NMAI’s theater programming aims to educate through entertainment. Many visitors do not realize the diversity of Native peoples in North, Central, and South America. Our challenge as presenters is to be fair and inclusive, so we select programs that reflect indigenous communities from across the entire Western hemisphere. The NMAI’s Rasmuson theater has hosted performances from across the hemisphere in a broad range of genres and styles: Ballet Folklorico Nicaraguense performed El Gueguence, one of the oldest indigenous theatrical/dance works of the Western hemisphere; Wampanoag culture bearer Tobias Vanderhoop introduced audiences to the Wampanoag understanding of giving thanks through story, song, drumming, and dance in A Wampanoag Thanksgiving; Canadian choreographer Santee Smith (Mohawk) presented a contemporary dance piece, Here on Earth, that explored the spiritual connection to the land, earth as living organism, earth as Mother, and earth as sacred (Image courtesy of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre).

Theater programs at the NMAI tell stories that often stand in contrast to mainstream versions of history. Diane E. Benson’s one-woman play, When My Spirit Raised Its Hands: The Story of Elizabeth Peratrovich and Alaskan Civil Rights, presented the story – little-known outside of Alaska – of the Alaskan civil rights movement. William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. (Assiniboine) participated in the presentation of his play, Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers, which explores the struggles of a mixed American Indian and African American family who experience racism on a Montana reservation. Audiences remarked that they were intrigued by both stories, which they had never heard before.

In the realm of theatre, the NMAI’s paramount concern is seeking plays that speak with a Native voice. Most plays presented here not only speak with a Native voice but are written by Native voices. An exception to this way of proceeding was the presentation of Perseverance Theatre’s Macbeth. While living in southeastern Alaska, the play’s director, Anita Maynard-Losch, noted striking similarities between Scottish and Tlingit cultures and created a production that used Tlingit-inspired sets and costumes and incorporates language, music, and dance from this rich and well-preserved culture (Image courtesy of Perseverance Theatre).

This spring, in addition to The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu, the NMAI is pleased to present two cabarets by Canadian playwright, novelist, and children’s author, Tomson Highway (Cree). The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito is a one woman show, featuring Canadian singer and actor Patricia Cano, which tells the life story of a young mosquito from northern Manitoba named Mary Jane, who also happens to be the only mosquito in the history of the world without wings! Rose, the third installment in Highway’s “rez” cycle, is a large cast musical set on the fictional Wasaychigan Hill Reserve in 1992. Violence against women is a powerful issue in the play as the battle for the future of the community builds to its shattering climax. Both cabarets are presented with piano, sax, and singer.

Mary Jane Mosquito will be performed Friday, May 1st at 10:30 am Saturday May 2nd at 12:00 pm. Rose will be performed on Friday May 1st at 7:30 pm and will be followed by a presentation of Mary Jane Mosquito.

We look forward to seeing you at these exciting events and future theatrical programming at the NMAI!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Battle of Kuamo'o

Explore the complexity of the historical Ka'ahumanu:

"I knew our lives would change forever. I knew that when I did this thing. There was blood spilled. Turmoil rose among the people. Kekuaokalani moved his forces out of Ka'awaloa. We met them at Kuamo'o. We had guns, that is why we won. From Kamehameha, I learned to strike swiftly and with strength. But my heart weeps for the death of Kekuaokalani and his faithful woman Manono, who fought by his side. Now the old gods have lost their power, and will go. (Pause) Have I done right? Or have I done great evil? I took down what I knew to be false, but will I, Ka'ahumanu, be able to guide these islands, be able to guide the people? The people now have no gods, only the al'i. How wil I steer the canoe?"

Contrast with this youtube video production entitled, "Battle of Kuamo'o." used with permission by hokulani78:

Queen Ka'ahumanu

Source: Engraving by G. Langlume after color litho by Louis Choris (1822) in "Voyage Pittoresque Autour du Monde" by Dumont d'Urville and Jules-Sébastien-César (1834-35).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Portrait of Ka'ahumanu

Source: Scanned from page 46 of the following book:
Grant, Glenn (2004). Hawai`i Looking Back: An illustrated History of the Islands, 454pp, Mutual Publishing.
This is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art.
The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
This applies to the United States, Canada, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

Casting and First Rehearsal

Auditions were held on Thursday, March 19, 2006. Overall, they went well. Fourteen women auditioned for five roles. Ten additional women who signed up to audition, mostly represented by the same modeling agency, never even showed for their audition time slots.
The five cast are:
Debby Andres as Pali
Wilma Consul as Hannah
Rebecca Ellis as Lucy
Charity Pomery as Sybil
Melonie Leihua Stewart as Ka'ahumanu
The cast was approved by the museum management and the playwright. A special "Mahalo" (Thank you) goes out to Shirley Queja of Halau O'Aulani, who was a great help in promoting the auditions!

Rehearsals began March 28 with a read-through of the play. The reading went very well.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Casting 5 Women for Hawaiian Play
(Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian)

The National Museum of the American Indian will produce Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl's
in mid May and seeks a female cast:
Sybil Mosely Bingham, Caucasian, 30s
Lucy Goodale Thurston, Caucasian, 30s
Ka'ahumanu, Hawaiian, 40s
Hannah Grimes, Hawaiian/Caucasian, 20s
Pali, Hawaiian, 20s

Set in Hawaii during the early 19th Century, this poignant piece explores the complex relationships between Christian missionaries and indigenous women forty years after the islands' first contact with the West.
You will be asked to do a cold reading from the script, usually paired with another actor. If auditioning for Ka'ahumanu, please come prepared to perform a chant that is culturally appropriate to share at an audition.
Auditions will be held in the museum's Rasmuson Theater on Thursday, March 19, beginning at 5:00 p.m. Please email to schedule an audition time.
Play will be performed on Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16, 2009 in the National Museum of the American Indian's Rasmuson Theater.

Play is directed by NMAI theater manager, Vincent Scott