High school students gather to experience theatre arts

Students from Farrington High School’s T-Shirt Theatre group perform during the calabash showcase of the Hawai‘i Thespians Festival last month – Rene Hutchens

On Saturday, Jan. 12, a group of middle and high school students interested in theatre arts filled Palikū Theatre for the 2019 Hawaiʻi Thespians Festival.

The festival aimed to provide opportunities for aspiring theatre arts students from around the state to come together and learn more about theatre arts programs in Hawaiʻi. Previously, the festival had been held at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, but WCC theatre faculty Taurie Kinoshita and Nicolas Logue coordinated with the Hawaiʻi Thespians Society, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and is a chapter of the International Thespian Society, to bring the event to Windward.

The morning opened with remarks from Logue, Hawai‘i Thespians Society director Julia LoPresti and a few guest instructors. Students then spent the day attending a plethora of workshops in Hale Pālanakila. From lessons on unarmed stage combat to auditioning for TV and film, the festival covered a wide variety of fields of performing arts.

“It was very insightful for there to be … different perspectives, like the dancing perspective, improvisation and how it’s different from script acting,” said Castle High School student Alyssa Cayetano. “It was really fun.”

Cayetano said that while she hadn’t considered attending Windward prior to the festival, she wouldn’t mind coming to WCC now that she’s been introduced to what it has to offer.

Her sentiment was shared by current WCC theatre and communication major Alaka’i Cunningham, who said that he “would have loved to know that we have this wonderful program at WCC before (he) chose a college.”

Cunningham added, “When I was in high school … I remember not really thinking there was a lot beyond just doing high school theatre. I remember not knowing about the opportunities on island. So, I think that … this whole festival is really good for these young aspiring thespians to know that there (are) these opportunities on island.”

Following the workshops, the students gathered back in Palikū Theatre for a “calabash showcase,” in which each school group did one or two performances.

Another goal of the festival was to provide scholarships to aspiring theatre arts students. Scholarships were provided by WCC, UH Mānoa and the Hawai‘i Thespians Society. Students auditioned for the different scholarships during the workshops, and the winners were announced at the end of the event.

The WCC scholarship was available to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors planning to pursue an associate’s degree with a concentration in theatre arts. The winner is awarded 12 credits toward theatre-related classes at Windward. The UH Mānoa scholarship was available only to current high school seniors who committed to attending UH Mānoa and majoring in theatre. The amount has not been confirmed yet but will be made available to the student upon registration.

Usually, the Hawaiʻi Thespians Scholarship is awarded to only one student, but this year, the scholarship was split into first and second place awards of $1,000 and $500 each. The scholarship was available to any high school senior who is a registered thespian under the International Thespian Society and planning to major in performing arts.

LoPresti said that she hopes “the numbers grow bigger and we have more schools involved next year. Maybe we’ll have more scholarship winners, or maybe we can expand it to a full day of the festival instead of just a half-day.”

by Rene Hutchins, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter