In a world of constant transition, mythological or otherwise, a safe space with good company laughing deep sounds like a great place to be.
WCC playwright Noa Helela creates this world in her play, Demigodz Anonymous, an absurd comedy currently on stage at Kumu Kahua Theatre. The play has had roaring reviews on HittingTheStage.com, and audiences have shared their applause for the hilarity of the play, exposure to Hawai‘i and other cultural mythologies and the undertones of transsexual identity guised in the demi-god form.
The play follows Noe, her friends and fellow demi-gods (of mostly Hawaiian mythology) as she ventures off to save her lioness-girlfriend from the evil rehabilitation counselor/demi-god smuggler who works with dark Hawaiian magic. On a crazy rollercoaster ride, audiences will roar in laughter and bask in nostalgia as the characters, based on the 1990s era, bring her show to life.
Helela, said she was inspired by Japanese anime, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hawaiian cultural mythology in the writing process.
“One of the things I’ve always loved about anime is that ancient Japanese culture and spirituality is often heavily woven into anime storylines, and I really wanted to do something similar with Hawaiian culture,” she said.
She also believes there is more to be done in creating inclusion of Hawaiian spirituality in modern media because “Moana doesn’t count.”
When asked about her creative writing process, Helela discusses the influence of WCC theatre lecturer Taurie Kinoshita.
“ … she has always been a wonderful, extremely attentive teacher, and after working with her for a bit, I decided to show her the script for the web series I’m working on about people with mental disabilities and superpowers,” she said. “To my very pleasant surprise, she not only loved it but urged me to write plays for Kumu Kahua Theatre, pitching the play to Kumu and showing my script to Harry (Wong).”
However, the production of Demigodz had its challenges. The stories had heavy, underlying social commentary involving race, gender, class, cultural appropriation and mental health in Hawai‘i. This is where comedy comes into play, pun very much intended. Where many would be afraid to tackle those issues head on, Helela veered forward, using comedy “to deal with real life horrors.”
For example, she used “possession” as a metaphor for native assimilation to colonial powers–whilst spouting white supremacist satire.
However, she said that “without the genius of Harry Wong and Reb Allen,” she doesn’t think it would have “come to life” quite the way it had.
“They made every crazy thing crazier, and it really brought it to life!”
Helala also said that the writing process helped her deal a lot with her own issues with identity, dysphoria and transition. Having recently “come out” as a queer Hawaiian trans-woman, she used this play to tackle some issues of privilege and oppression that comes with her identity.
The main character, Noe, is largely based on Helela, and she claims that to watch Noe on stage was a “gender-affirming experience in its own way–that crazy Hawaiian woman who turns into a Mo’o is me!”
Catch the show while you can!
The play runs:
- Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays 8 p.m.: April 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21
- Sundays 2 p.m.: April 8, 15, 22*
*American Sign Language Interpretation upon request
Ticket prices are $5-$25.
by Ashley Shankles, Special to Ka ‘Ohana