Theatre student makes loud impression at East 15

Brandon DiPaola performs with fellow WCC student Kainoa Makua – Courtesy of Brandon DiPaola

For those interested in watching the rise of a celebrity, WCC student and performing arts teaching assistant Brandon DiPaola, 28, is someone to keep an eye on.

During a study abroad trip to the United Kingdom (U.K.) this summer with WCC’s theatre program, DiPaola auditioned for and was accepted into the stage combat program at The East 15 Acting School at Southend, one of the top conservatories in the U.K.

“My audition was very informal and unbeknownst to me. I had a full day with the head of the stage combat program, and he treated the whole day as my audition,” DiPaola says.

“After the audition, (WCC theatre assistant professor) Nicolas Logue asked me, ‘If you were accepted into the program, would you take it?’ I told him ‘Yes,’ and he told me then I had been accepted.”

The East 15 stage combat program accepts just 16 applicants a year, turning away thousands of students.

WCC theatre lecturer Taurie Kinoshita was not surprised DiPaola made the cut. She said his dedication is “categorical” and that his discipline and commitment to excellence would impress anyone that works with him.

“Brandon’s attitude toward hard work is extremely admirable and sets him apart from so many others who are looking to ‘get rich quick’ and thus fail,” she says. “Immeasurable dedication, professionalism and being easy to work with are the most desirable qualities for actors and the true key to success. Because Brandon cares only about the work and not about the shallow trappings of fame, he will always succeed in the end.”

His dedication to his craft will be exactly what he needs as the three-year conservatory program maintains a rigorous course load, consisting of 9-12 hour days, five days a week. DiPaola will train in aikido, archery, horseback riding, fencing and sword fighting, dance, ballet and more. Many of the program’s graduates enter the film, television and radio industry with success.

“Getting in was huge,” DiPaola says. “Not only will I get to finish my BA, but I get all the stage and weapons training I have desperately wanted since finding out what a conservatory program is.”

DiPaola, however, did not always plan on being an actor. He originally took theatre at WCC to gain insights into the technical side of theatre, journalism and digital media. Logue, his instructor at the time, suggested he audition for the upcoming play being directed by Kinoshita. DiPaola landed his first role in Polaroid Stories in 2012 and has since performed in more than 30 shows with several companies throughout the island.

“I love this program and I will never be able to put into words how much I owe Taurie Kinoshita and Nicolas Logue,” DiPaola says. “They were some of the first people outside of my family that truly believed I could do something that was bigger than myself.”

“We truly have the best theatre program here in the state, especially now with Alex Durrant, an accomplished movement director. It continues to expand and basically … become more awesome!”

DiPaola speaks passionately about how theatre changed his life, helping him to find his “self-worth” and combat his issues with depression and anxiety. He also says it has made him a better friend, son and all-around person and that he learned to be the best version of himself through acting–learning to be confident, empathetic and self-reflective.

“You have to really love theatre to do it. You need to love it so much you can’t live without it. Otherwise, it’s just too difficult with thousands of other people auditioning for the same role,” Kinoshita says. “Brandon will be happy pursuing his true love–acting. And that’s all we ever hope for for our students–happiness.”

For students interested in acting or studying abroad, DiPaola advises them to just “do it.” Take the program. If not to be an actor, he says, then to build on skills such as public speaking, confidence, eye contact, empathy and ways to improve one’s community.

As for life goals, DiPaola says he simply wants to make a comfortable living acting. Alternatively, he wouldn’t mind using the skills he gained from WCC and East 15 as a stuntman or choreographer, as long as he is part of the industry.

DiPaola leaves next fall to begin his new chapter in the U.K. Until then, he is working at WCC as a performing arts assistant, helping with stage combat and assisting in lectures.


by Ashley Shankles, Special to Ka ‘Ohana