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Man drinking sake and woman with a fan
Denise Aiko Chinen and Gage Thomas in a scene from Obake

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Theatre and Dance and Kennedy Theatre will host in-person performances showcasing selected scenes from award-winning playwright Edward “Ed” Sakamoto. The UH Mānoa alumnus’ entire catalog of plays, which includes highly acclaimed works in pidgin and nostalgic comedies and dramas largely focused on local Japanese in Hawaiʻi, was gifted to the department last spring—an extremely rare endowment.

Hawaiʻi Nō Ka ʻOi: A Sakamoto Celebration, will shine the spotlight on scenes produced by student directors at UH Mānoa in Kennedy Theatre’s Earle Ernst Lab Theatre February 24–27, as a testament to Sakamoto’s contribution to the local and world-wide theatre community. Tickets to the anticipated production sold out quickly.

“We are honored to work together with local community theatre artists and scholars to preserve Ed Sakamoto’s plays and legacy,” said Markus Wessendorf, UH Mānoa Theatre and Dance chair. “Our priority will be to extend the rich cultural reach of these plays; the funds raised from licensing his plays will be used to support that endeavor and to celebrate and nurture local playwriting in Hawaiʻi.”

Scenes chosen for the production depict first generation Japanese sons struggling with their duty to family against the Western ideals of individualism and the “American Dream” (Taste of Kona Coffee and Mānoa Valley), three friends and the consequences of their choices to stay or leave Hawaiʻi (Stew Rice), breaking the cycle of domestic violence against women (Obake), a dark comedy about the consumerism and tourist industry of Hawaiʻi (Lava), and a fairytale set in early 1700s Japan combining traditional Japanese performance theatre elements of kabuki and bunraku with modern American dialogue and humor (Chikamatsu’s Forest).

The live production will showcase seven UH Mānoa graduate student directors; Robert Torigoe (Taste of Kona Coffee), Kaipulaumakaniolono (Stew Rice), Maggie Ivanova (Obake), Ākea Kahikina (Lava), Iasona Kaper (Mānoa Valley and The Life of the Land), Marguerite Saxton (Lava) and Ron Heller (Chikamatsu’s Forest) under the guidance of program director Tammy Hailiʻōpua Baker. Scenes will feature local community actors such as UH alumni Denise-Aiko Chinen, Brandon Hagio and Sean-Joseph Choo, Stu Hirayama, Allan Y. Okubo, Dann Seki and Renée Whitehouse, alongside UH Mānoa student actors.

In conjunction with the production, Baker has organized a virtual symposium on February 27 that will feature Asian American theatre artists from across the country. One of the panels will gather UH graduate student directors to share their perspectives on producing Sakamoto’s work.

Learn more about the virtual symposium.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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