Hawaii actors, directors bring Shakespeare to life

The Hawaii Shakespeare Festival returns to Honolulu to enjoy its 17th season with three productions beginning July 13. Since it began, the festival has produced every one of Shakespeare’s plays. Many visitors plan their Oahu vacations around the festival schedule.

The productions are sometimes faithfully true to the Bard’s original works, and sometimes adapted to specific cultural and/or historical contexts. Many productions have featured all-female casts. Two years ago, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was produced using languages invented by Director Tony Pisculli. Hawaiian pidgin English has been employed often through the years.

Directors R Kevin Garcia Doyle, Harry Wong III, and Tony Pisculli are giants in Hawaii’s theater community. Accomplished here and abroad, their talents and insight into acting and directing have helped launch the careers of many successful Hawaii actors, and have delighted Honolulu audiences for nearly a generation. This year’s festival holds a special significance for all involved, as it will be the first time since 2011 that all three founders of the festival will be directing productions in the same year.

All's Well That Ends Well. Courtesy.

All three directors studied under Terrence Knapp at the University of Hawaii. Knapp was Hawaii Shakespeare Festival’s original patron, and the festival is dedicated to his cherished memory. It was Knapp who secured the patronage of Academy Award winner and legendary Shakespearean actress Dame Judy Dench for the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival.

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This year’s festival will feature All’s Well That Ends Well, King Lear, and Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabbler (the festival occasionally features works by other playwrights that complement the season’s theme). All’s Well That Ends Well begins the festival, featuring an all-female cast in Shakespeare’s whimsical comedy. It is directed by Tony Pisculli, the only of the festival’s three founders to direct a production in each of its 17 seasons.

Next up this summer at the festival is King Lear, often regarded as the most difficult of all of Shakespeare’s plays to stage, direct, and perform. It is directed by R Kevin Garcia Doyle. In addition to his lengthy directorial credentials, Doyle is a veteran dramatic and comedic performer in Hawaii. He’s also a Japanese kabuki scholar and a professor at Mid Pacific Institute. He has set Lear in the Iron Age, providing a unique context for one of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies.

Harry Wong III will direct Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabbler, a classic, dark drama. Wong serves as Artistic Director of Kumu Kahua Theatre, which feature’s plays about Hawaii by Hawaii playwrights. Beloved by the actors he directs, Wong’s easygoing manner belies the intensity and passion he brings to directing.

King Lear

All of the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival performances will take place at Art’s at Mark’s Garage. It’s an intimate work/gallery/performance space across the street from the historic Hawaii Theatre Center. The audience mingles during intermissions, sipping refreshments and buzzing about the performances.

Shakespeare is probably not the first thing you think of when considering a Hawaii vacation. But the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival is a fine way to dive into Hawaii’s arts and culture scene. It features serious and committed (if amateur) actors. Each donates their time to the festival while juggling family, friends, and careers.

As the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival is a nonprofit entity, visiting attendees can be sure that their hard-earned vacation dollars are going to important programs that foster Hawaii’s artistic community.

For more information and the 2018 Hawaii Shakespeare Festival schedule, click here