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Three people running from a lobster
From left: Karese Kaw-uh, Jill Jackson and Kaʻōnohiokalāeʻālohilohinei Muller

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Theatre and Dance and Kennedy Theatre are preparing to present the world premiere of 20,000 Leagues Deep #hawaii_ascending, a devised and immersive Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) experience. UH Mānoa alumnus Alvin Chan, a former Honolulu Theatre for Youth artistic associate, is the director of the engaging interactive theatre experience specifically designed for keiki in grades 3–6 at Kennedy Theatre.

20,000 Leagues Deep #hawaii_ascending and a periscope with a lei

“Want to be a scientist on board a super-secret submarine and help save the world from the dangers of polluters? Then come on board the Nautilus and spin around the Pacific! But be careful, things might get a bit…slimy,” Chan said.

Audience sizes are limited for the family-friendly expedition through the re-imagined passageways and playing spaces of Kennedy Theatre February 24–March 3. Ticket prices range $8–$20. Special school-time field-trip shows are also available at a discounted rate for school groups by contacting (Content warnings: flashing lights, fog effects and possible jump scares.)

The production is not a “sit-down show;” it adventures through the Kennedy Theatre environment, so patrons should come ready to explore. The play addresses climate change and also highlights themes of teamwork, collaboration, resiliency and determination.

“It’s important to talk with our keiki about real world issues,” Chan said. “Trying to talk things out with the knowledge that our children will be dealing with this conversation; allows us to come at the subject matter with a greater grace and sense of patience and hope.”

Production features UH Mānoa actors, designs

In fall 2022, Chan taught a graduate level theatre course where students were involved in crafting the production and generated the script. More than half of the students are participating in the play as actors, directors, puppet/prop designers and builders.

Chan believes that TYA productions that are inclusive and interactive allow the community and families to come together. It is his belief that TYA productions help nurture communal experiences and strengthen the community.

“What’s most exciting about the intimacy and kinetic atmosphere of this production is that the audience is in the thick of the action, and what they do affects the story and allows the story to unfold. If you think about climate change, the whole concept can be just that—a far off concept that isn’t a reality but when you see it, when you’re stuck in it, it becomes real,” Chan explained.

For more on 20,000 Leagues Deep #hawaii_ascending, see Kennedy Theatre’s website.

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