UH Hilo Communications Professor Randy Hirokawa was a featured Wailau storyteller in episode, The Importance of Communication in Love.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to prevent so many from gathering with loved ones and friends, the need for connection has perhaps never been stronger. An ongoing virtual storytelling program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is providing a space to build connections across the Hawaiʻi Island campus and the community.

students gathered smiling

UH Hilo program Wailau is seeking applicants from UH Hilo students, faculty, staff, alumni and Hawaiʻi Island community members of all ages to be featured in its storytelling event on Saturday, May 7. This spring will mark the program’s fourth event and is centered around the theme, Tales of Misunderstanding. Organizers are encouraging people to share their experiences with feeling misunderstood in a situation or when miscommunicating something resulted in a funny, sad, ridiculous, or possibly disastrous outcome. Storyteller applications will be accepted through Friday, February 11.

In ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language), Wailau means where water from diverse sources comes together to commingle and become a more powerful, unified whole.

“Wailau is a project of UH Hilo’s Relationships Doing Committee, a group that consults widely and forms partnerships in order to convert ideas to outcomes,” said Kathleen Baumgardner, who helps organize Wailau and is a strategic planning project manager at UH Hilo. “This small group of faculty, staff, students and community members was charged to examine UH Hilo’s relationships with stakeholders and identify potential actions that would improve campus culture while positively impacting student success.”

Accepted applicants will be offered coaching, take part in an on-stage meeting/rehearsal, and then pre-record their stories in advance of the online premiere. If storytellers are unable to attend on-stage taping, self-taped stories will be accepted.

UH Hilo students play a major role in staging Wailau, from operating lights, sound and cameras, to participating as hosts and storytellers. Students from the English Club determine Wailau themes, review applications and select storytellers.

“I’ve seen students’ confidence grow in leaps and bounds,” said Justina Mattos, Wailau director and associate professor of drama. “They start off knowing nothing, very tentative and nervous.This provides a wonderful opportunity for them to practice working as professionals on-set and throughout the production process.”

Visit the Wailau website to view earlier episodes.