Theatre students reenact Hawai‘i’s Massie/Kahahawai case

Prosecutor (Spencer McCarrey) and attorney (Michael Wall) with Horace Ida (Micah Souza) are depicted in Windward Comunity College’s Massie/Kahahawai, based on the Thalia Massie case in 1931 – Orrin Nakanelua

On Oct. 20, Massie-Kahahawai, a historical drama, strikes the stage at Palikū Theatre. Directed by WCC lecturer Taurie Kinoshita and performed by first and second-year WCC theatre students, this show is going to be a hit. Pun intended.

Massie-Kahahawai, written by Dennis Carroll with additional narration from Honor Killing by David Stannard, is a play based on a famous 1931 case in Hawai‘i in which a naval officer’s wife, Thalia Massie, accused five local men of rape and assault, eventually leading to the assault and battery of one of the accused and the death of another (Joseph Kahahawai).

The injustice of the events surrounding the Massie/Kahahawai case ultimately created a rise in local activism against racism, discrimination and persecution of the poor, and altered Hawai‘i culture and politics.

“With this specific play, it was important for me to add scenes and dialogue which made it clear that this horrible historic event is what brought people together,” Kinoshita said. “ Instead of remembering only the villains, I have highlighted the heroes in my production.  Theatre should unite, open new perspectives, engender compassion–never polarize.”

Kinoshita dedicated more than 120 hours of research to ensure the play highlights the impact of racial and socioeconomic inequity while hinting at the notion many investigators have made in recent years: that Thalia Massie may have never been raped. What did happen to her? Well, that’s a question one could ask at the post-show talk on Oct. 21.

The director and cast managed to capture the essence of this play in four weeks, an amazing feat for many of its first-year performers. The cast creates a well-rounded performances, with many actors taking on several roles, allowing them to show off their versatility.

Returning actors Likeke Nakachi-Isaacs, Chase Jusseaume, Noah Schuetz and Michael Wall  put on a stunning performances. Nakachi-Isaacs as Joseph Kahahawai, his character’s crippling climactic climb as the falsely accused, up to the moment of his death, was certainly captured in his acting. Michael Wall and Spencer McCarrey made room for humor while taking a deep look in the American mirror as reporters and then as attorneys in the first trial of the five locals. Johnathon Young, Micah Souza, Jessica Jusseaume, and Mikie Davidson also deliver outstanding performances.

The play itself opens with a powerful upbeat energy, followed by a subtle, gut-wrenching suspense that carries throughout the performance. The stage is used effectively, with a witness stand on the actor’s right, detective interviews staged on both sides, and reporters broadcasting actual newspaper headlines on the actor’s left side of the stage.  Cross-fading and nuanced lighting allow for fluidity between scenes and an unrelenting pace, thus avoiding antiquated blackouts or dimming of the lights.

The production is successful in creating an atmosphere that highlights the effects of racism prior to World War II. Moreover, it highlights the devastating effect of the Massie events on “locals,” a term used to describe Native Hawaiians and Asian immigrants at the time.

From the costumes, music and staging to the observational humor and  thought-provoking, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat nature of its discourse, Massie-Kahahawai reminds the audience that the past is doomed to repeat itself if society does not learn from its historical mistakes.

Final words from the director? Never judge a book by its cover.

“Sometimes plays have adult language and situations but they are written to educate, enlighten or make positive change,” Kinoshita said. “Often plays with no adult language or situations are aimed at upholding the oppressive status quo and disenfranchising certain members of society.”

So if you’ve been itching to get into politics or simply want to #GETWOKE, Massie-Kahahawai is a reminder that great theatre exists where there are great artists, great directors and an even greater community. Be sure to make time to check it out!

Show dates and times

– Oct. 20 & 21 (Fri. and Sat.), 7:30 p.m. (Post-show talk with cast on Saturday, Oct. 21)

– Oct. 22 (Sun.), 4:00 p.m.

– Oct. 25 (Wed.), 4:00 p.m.

– Oct. 26 – 28 (Thurs. – Sat.), 7:30 p.m.

Ticket information

– $5 Students (14+ and college students with ID), Seniors (65+), Military (with ID)

– $10 Adults

– Purchase tickets online at or call 808-235-7310 to charge by phone.

Due to adult situations and themes, this play is recommended for ages 14 and older. Running time is 90 minutes.


by Ashely Shankles, Special to Ka ‘Ohana