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A Special Interview with ‘Plantation Plays’ Playwrights!

A Special Interview with ‘Plantation Plays’ Playwrights!

What: A Special Interview with Plantation Plays Playwrights!

Where: Hawaii’s Plantation Village (http://www.hawaiiplantationvillage.org/).

94-695 Waipahu Street; Waipahu, HI  96797

When: Final Performance is this weekend - February  25 & 262017 – with performance happening at 10am and at 2pm each day.

Tickets: $5 general admission. No discounts offered. Tickets are available from Hawaii’s Plantation Village at: (808) 677-0110 or email hpv.waipahu@hawaiiantel.net

Admission price does not include the Hawaii’s Plantation Village guided tour. Tours must be booked separately. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds after the production on their own.

The Leeward Theatre is not handling ticket sales for this production. All ticket sales are being handled by Hawaii’s Plantation Village.

General Contact: For information regarding tickets please contact Hawaii’s Plantation Village at (808) 677-0110, or email hpv.waipahu@hawaiiantel.net

If you have a general question for the theatre please contact The Leeward Theatre, (808) 455-0380, or email LTheatre@hawaii.edu

Check Out this Special Interview with Plantation Plays Playwrights!

In honor of the plantations plays we wanted to ask our incredible playwrights Kirsten Trombetta, Courtney Takabayashi and Kiki to give us a little bit more information about their journey’s as playwrights and how they were inspired by the rich culture of the Hawaiian Plantation Village.

There is one more weekend of The Plantation Plays on Saturday February 25 and Sunday February 26 with productions at 10am and 2pm both days.

What inspires you about the plantation and the community it represents?

Kirstyn: Hawaii's sugar plantation days is so important and in fact, I would not have been here if it wasn't for my Japanese great-grandparents immigrating here for that reason. This part of Hawaii's history is something many of us know about but often forget. The communities that were formed within each camp were strong and like family though living was tough. That's inspiring in itself. I thought it was so nice The Leeward Theatre and Hawaii's Plantation Village teamed up and decided to spread a little bit of history while putting on a fun show.

Kiki: Our rich history is what inspires me about the plantation and community.  I love that were are made up of an amalgamation of oppressed people who came to work very hard to secure a future.  I am very proud of my family who made that move.  My grandmother’s stories of the plantation inspire me the most.  She went from Waipahu, Ewa, Waianae.  Her story is full of good, bad, and ugly.  She and others like her icons for perseverance.

Courtney: I believe that the preservation of history is very important for the future. Visiting the Plantation Village is like traveling back in time. Comparing how people used to live to present day life blows my mind. If I had been around back then, I don't know if I would have been a writer because there's no way I could have hand written everything by candlelight or something. So the Plantation Village definitely makes me appreciate how much people accomplished back then and how far we've come.

What local playwrights/directors do you look up to?

Kirstyn: I really admire the directors I've worked with in the past couple of years including Betty Burdick and Ashley DeMoville of The Leeward Theatre, and Harry Wong III at Kumu Kahua Theatre. They all love learning and directing, and I really enjoy working with them whether it be on stage or off.

Kiki: I look up to all local playwrights.  It’s because of them I have a chance to play on stage.

Courtney: My favorite local playwright is Kemuel DeMoville, who is now the manager of the Leeward Theater. We met 10 years ago in a playwriting class at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It was a graduate class but most of the people had never written a play before. Kemuel was the only person in the class who was an exceptional writer and a fun person. I'm happy to say that I had the opportunity to write Jan Shoda because of him. Through Kemuel, I was able to meet his wife, Ashley. She has since become one of my favorite directors. She has the unique ability to elevate material and bring out stunning performances from her actors. When Kemuel and Ashley team up, be prepared to be blown away. 

What inspires you to start a new play? Is it an image, a theme, a character?

Kirstyn:  I have this really bad habit of ignoring a sudden burst of an idea for a new play, but usually I'm inspired by anything and everything. You could write about so much. Sometimes I see an interesting way a person moves or speaks and I'm inspired. Sometimes it's a situation someone is in. Sometimes it's what's current in the news. Writing is exciting because you don't always know exactly what you're writing until you actually start doing it.

Kiki: Characters, people and their stories; people with stories to tell, but no one to listen to them.

Courtney: Inspiration comes from daily life: the people I meet, talk to or even overhear having a conversation. Inspiration can also come from situations that happened to me or my friends, or something I read online. Also, I love the idea of synchronicity and I enjoy exploring the theme of timing and being in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

Kirstyn: A few things: 1) Like acting, I believe a play should be written in truth, 2) Revise, revise, REVISE, 3) Don't be discouraged if someone thinks your piece is what I like to call "eh."

Kiki: Find a REALLY good, successful mentor who will support you and help develop your voice.

Courtney: My advice is to keep writing no matter how tired or busy you are. Even if no one reads what you write, you're refining your craft by simply writing. Also, try to have a writing buddy or group who will keep you accountable for pages. Though writing is a solitary process, it's good to create a support network of people you can rely on.

Have you written any other shows prior to working on Plantation Plays? Can you tell us a little about them?

Kirstyn: At the start of Fall 2013, my 10-minute comedy about a zit who just wants to be liked, No Ex-zit! was performed as part of the annual burlesque show. The following year, my one-act Treacherous Beloved was read at Playbuilder's 3rd annual play festival. That same year, I was commissioned by Playbuilder's in partnership with The Leeward Theatre to write a community-collaborated piece about Waipahu Town. This production was The Waipahu Project and was also directed by Ashley DeMoville and was put in the main stage at LCC.

Kiki: I wrote a play with my mentor entitled Puzzy.  It is the polar opposite of children’s theatre and it challenges the audience’s perception of sexuality and family/religious expectations.  It debuted in Auckland, New Zealand this time last year and will making it’s American debut late March at Kumu Kahua Theatre.

Courtney: I started playwriting in high school through Honolulu Theater for Youth's Theaterfest program. I learned basically everything I know about writing from the playwriting teacher, Daniel Kelin III. My first play, Once Upon a Fairy Tale, was performed in 1995. That gave me the bug to continue writing plays because dialogue is so much fun to write. Then, I won the 2007 Kumu Kahua Theatre and University of Hawaii playwriting contest in the Hawaii category. My play, The Perfect Heater, was about a young woman named Heather who finds that her birth certificate is spelled incorrectly and that leads her on a journey of self-discovery. I've also written a novel, Domo Arigatou, Chutney Yamato, and several short films.

How does it feel to watch something you've written brought to life through performance?

Kirstyn: It feels a little strange, but I think that's just my self-doubt taking over... I don't know, it also feels pretty amazing and informational, too. You envision it in your head and then you see it on a stage, portrayed in a certain way that you never even thought of and that's cool.

Kiki: It feels very satisfying, like watching a child grow.

Courtney: Very exciting!! An awesome aspect about playwriting (as opposed to writing a short story or novel) is that it's a group effort. A good director and talented actors can transform a mediocre play into a fantastic show. So the pressure is alleviated a little for the writer.

How did you go about researching your piece?

Kirstyn: I heavily HEAVILY researched plantation days which was difficult because there's hardly anything on the internet. What really helped was visiting Hawaii’s Plantation Village and going on a tour around the village.

Kiki: I was traveling when the group visited Hawaii’s Plantation Village, so I went on my own.  A knowledgeable and funny woman named “Espy” gave my tour and fed everyone after.  I also sat around asking Espy and her friends about games they played.  I did some research online, watched some Youtube videos, thought back about my grandmothers experiences.

Courtney: So a day after Kemuel asked me to participate the the Plantation Play project, I went to the 'Aiea Library to return a book. That day the library was having a Friends of the Library book sale and I found Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story Book by Patsy Y. Iwasaki for $1. It's a cool, manga-style book about a Japanese man who travels to work on a Hawai'i plantation for a better life. What a coincidence that I would find a book about Hawaii plantations after being commissioned to write a play about the same subject. Talk about synchronicity! In addition to the book, I looked up everything I could find about plantations in Hawaii online. I also watched a ton of kid's shows, especially interactive programs such as Blue's Clues, Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao Kai Lan, to understand what kids enjoy watching.

How do you relate to the story you are telling in the Plantation Plays?

Kirstyn: Saudade is all about the often-forgotten and difficult decision that many of our ancestors had to make when they immigrated here. I understood I had to write a children's piece, but with such an important topic, I wanted even the adults watching to look a bit deeper and understand that nostalgia, as well.

Kiki: I grew up on farm land with cousins and neighbors, chickens, goats, geese, and nature surrounding us.  I also have great grand nephews whom I help raise.  Comparing my life to my boy’s, we see a huge difference in the times  and todays world children experience a vast disconnect to reality and the world around them.  Lost Boy attempts to reflect on these differences and calls for a reconnect to each other, the world around us, and essentially the human spirit.

Courtney: To make the play personal, I named the main character, Jan Shoda, after my mother, who passed away almost 20 years ago. She didn't grow up on a plantation, but she would always tell me stories about being raised on a farm in Molokai. She had many pet chickens that eventually ended up as dinner. It seemed so morbid and funny at the same time. Also, my mom often talked about how her younger brother was a pain, so Kenji is based on my Uncle Ken, whom I always thought was nice and kind of rascal.

What kind of obstacles did you run into while working on your piece for Plantation Plays?

Kirstyn: I wanted to write something that was relatable and touching, fun and real. This was the first time I wrote a play for children's theatre so I was nervous.

Kiki: Creating a sense of “magic” was an obstacle.  My attempt led to sci-fi.

Courtney: The only real obstacle I encountered was figuring out how people spoke back in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Usually I incorporate a lot of slang and pop culture into my writing, so it was a little challenging for me to be less like Aladdin with all the fun references the Genie made, and more like a traditional movie such as The Little Mermaid. I did my best and hopefully everyone sounds authentic.

Do you have an idea for your next project? How can we find out about your future works? (i.e. social media or contact info)?

Kirstyn:  Nothing is definite, but I've been reading a short novel called Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan (strongly suggested by Harry Wong III) and who knows, it could turn into a play. As far as finding me and future works, there's always Facebook and my Instagram under "mytoerosy." You can also contact me via e-mail at KIRSTYN@HAWAII.EDU.

Kiki: I do! I’m currently working on a play for my thesis, which looks at a Pacific Islander family’s dynamic and dysfunction, cultural differences and the consequences of family secrets.  You can find me on social media (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/r.kiana; Instagram: xcelsior_56) or email r.kiana@gmail.com

Courtney: Last year I participated in Creative Lab Hawaii's Writer's Immersive, where creative entrepreneurs are mentored and learn about the television and film industry. The project I brought to the Creative Lab was a show called The Melting Pot, about a group of down-on-their-luck locals who hang around a run down karaoke bar in Honolulu. It's so much fun and I hope to be able to produce it in the near future. I have a website, www.courtneytakabayashi.com, that I plan to update this summer.

Don’t forget! There is just one more weekend of The Plantation Plays on Saturday February 25 and Sunday February 26 with productions at 10am and 2pm both days.

Kirstyn Trombetta is currently a student at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, acquiring her B.Ed in Secondary Education, specifying in English. Her community-collaborated piece THE WAIPAHU PROJECT was produced on The Leeward Theatre's main stage in 2015. Her one-act TREACHEROUS BELOVED was a featured reading in Playbuilder's 3rd Annual Play Festival. She has also played onstage at various community theatres including The Leeward Theatre, Kumu Kahua Theatre, Manoa Valley Theatre, & Hawaii Opera Theatre. She was recently seen in the (almost) one-woman comedy #iambadatthis at Kumu Kahua Theatre in 2016.

Born and raised in Hawai'i, Courtney Takabayashi is a writer and teacher who consumes tasty food and pop culture in mass quantities. Her secret skill is remembering and reciting random trivia about her friends. Courtney had a blast writing Jan Shoda and the Case of the Missing Chicken and plans to continue writing about Jan and Kenji's adventures.

KIKI is a Samoan-Filipina actress/artist and writer of Puzzy (featuring Black Faggot’s Victor Rodger) from Waianae, Hawaii.  Her most recent acting credits were in Victor Rodger’s My Name is Gary Cooper and Makerita Urale’s Frangipani Perfume.  KIKI has her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Theatre & Dance from the University of Hawaiʻi and is currently working on her MFA in Playwrighting.  She spent 8 years working in social services studying the behaviors of various marginalized communities in order to increase her understanding of the people behind the stories she tells.  

About the Three Newly Commissioned Plays:

All three of these plays have been commissioned by the Leeward Theatre to premiere at Hawaii’s Plantation Village. Each play is site specific – meaning that the playwright wrote the play to be performed at a particular area or space at Hawaii’s Plantation Village.

Lost Boy by Kiki. When Boy wanders off alone while playing the newest mobile game called Flora & Flumes, he finds himself transported to a different world- an early 1900's Hawaii Plantation.  Boy ends up on a wild adventure with 8 year old Ito, who teaches Boy that the best games are played with real friends.

Jan Shoda and the Case of the Missing Chicken by Courtney Takabayashi. Jan Shoda is a precocious 10-year old Japanese girl living on the plantation with her family. One day, her beloved pet chicken, Koke-san goes missing. Jan spends the day looking for clues, interrogating her neighbors, and learning about different cultures in order to solve the Case of the Missing Chicken.

Saudade by Kirstyn Trombetta. In the Portuguese camp, Lizzie and her little brother Reese find a seemingly worthless, dusty old box. News of the discovery travels throughout the camp, leading people to believe it contains some extra fortune and they become very interested in the object. The siblings realize they have a responsibility to return the box to its rightful owner and learn that some things are irreplaceable.

The plays are site specific for weekend productions at Hawaii’s Plantation Village. The actors will also be touring during the week to area elementary schools to present the plays there. Leeward faculty member and award winning local director Ashley DeMoville will be directing the production.

This is a series of partnerships three years in the making! With the Leeward Theatre’s main stage facility closed over the next year for repairs, the Theatre has had to look beyond the four walls of the building to make productions happen. “Ever since Hawaii’s Plantation Village board president Deanna Espinas participated in our 2014 production The Waipahu Project we have been trying to get one of our performances to their location.” says Leeward Theatre Manager Kemuel DeMoville. “They have such a beautiful and evocative space that it just cries out for live performance. It’s taken a lot of hard work and trust on everyone’s part, but it’s extremely satisfying to see this partnership production finally coming together.”

About The Leeward Theatre:

Our ultimate goal here at The Leeward Theatre is to build community through live performance. The more of our community that is allowed to access our events the more likely it is for young people and other individuals to take action to improve their community. Creativity is life affirming – no matter the quality or value of what was created. It is a step toward life; toward adding something to the world that did not exist before. The Leeward Theatre exists as a place where creativity is practiced on a daily basis – where students, community members, and trained artists can engage with and empower one another. This is not just a building on a college campus - it is living breathing extension of the community. It is a place that has the power to inspire, the power to enlighten, and the power to educate.

The Leeward Theatre is about to undergo a major renovation thanks to the generous support of the Legislature, the Governor, and the University of Hawaii. Although we have a reduced season, we're not completely dark. Come check out the fantastic offerings we have for our 42ND Season!

About Hawaii’s Plantation Village

Step back in time to when ‘sugar was King’ and experience the real Hawaii. Hawaii’s Plantation Village is the perfect location for keiki, family, and all ages to explore a living history museum and botanical garden. A visit to us opens a door to a time of true hospitality and cultural sharing that sprung from Hawaii’s plantation life.

Hawaii's Plantation Village is an outdoor museum telling the story of life on Hawaii's sugar plantations (circa 1850-1950). The Village includes restored buildings and replicas of plantation structures, including houses of various ethnic groups and community buildings such as the plantation store, infirmary, bathhouse and manager's office. We share the story of Hawaii's many cultures: including Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Okinawan, Portuguese and Puerto Rican.


The Leeward Theatre
at Leeward Community College
96-045 Ala ‘Ike; Room TH-207
Pearl City, HI 96782
FAX: (808) 455-0384
PHONE: (808) 455-0380
Email: LTheatre@hawaii.edu
Web: http://LCCTheatre.hawaii.edu


Hawaii’s Plantation Village
94-695 Waipahu Street
Waipahu, HI  96797
FAX: (808) 676-6727
PHONE: (808) 677-0110
Email: hpv.waipahu@hawaiiantel.net
Web: http://www.hawaiiplantationvillage.org/


Photos by Kemuel DeMoville & Hawaii’s Plantation Village.

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