A call is out in Hawaii for a cast of actors – some fluent in Hawaiian, others not so much – to mount a family musical about a fictional mouse named Wordsworth, a poetic extension of author Frances Kakugawa.
Now a Sacramento resident, Kakugawa – formerly of Kapoho and Honolulu – has had this theatrical project delayed because of the pandemic, but a creative team from Hilo finally is readying its next step … to begin the audition process for roles in the musical, which will be performed on stage in the original English and on a planned recorded version totally in the Hawaiian language.
The transition from page to stage is not wasted on Kakugawa, an award-winning author whose poetry has been the foundation of her earlier career as a school teacher. Besides her Wordsworth editions, her books on caregiving have inspired seniors to tap poetry as a means of personal expression, and she has been an advocate of Alzheimer’s and has parlayed her experience into motivational caregiving workshops, often embracing poetry.
“I heard the music of Wordsworth singing his poems on stage only in the English version and it gave me chicken skin and brought me to tears,” said Kakugawa, whose anticipation is high and hearty,
Wordsworth has been her pet project, with four books popular among school students. The character is a model of a mouse who sees the world through his creative mind and the lens of poetry; his ‘ohana, friends and neighbors learn to accept and appreciate his special gift of imagination and wonderment.
Wendell Ing, a Hilo entertainer and attorney by trade, has composed a score for the show and the script by Jackie Pualani Johnson has been translated into ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi by Pōhai Montague-Mullins.
The creative team, led by director Justina Taft Mattos, also includes choreographer Kea Kapahua and Lizby Logsdon, a Hilo Community Theater designer of costumes for Shakespearean plays, who is designing mousewear for this show.
“When I wrote the series, it was a dream to have it on stage someday,” said Kakugawa. “Okay, Broadway was too far-fetched but at least on a stage, that dream is coming true.”
The drama group at the University of Hawaii at Hilo secured the rights to stage the show, and the in-Hawaiian version, elevates the project to new heights, since the production will heavily weigh on actors who can speak and deliver the Hawaiian poetry in a lofty cultural boost.
Though Wordsworth has been familiar via his presence in Kakugawa’s books, he’s remained the same age over the decades “although the themes became more complicated. Some middle school readers have asked that he get married to one of the characters,” she added.
Character roles are listed at the show’s website.
Four volumes of Wordsworth’s words and poems have been published; the musical fleshes out characters and situations from the printed page, offering life lessons and imagination to share.
Kakugawa said the cloud of COVID-19 earlier and Omicron later has been a bit worrisome. “I sure wish I’m still alive to see it on stage,” she said. “I’m so excited that I’m spooked.”
Those eager to begin the audition process should check the show’s website:
A Feb. 6 deadline is in place.
Applicants should peruse the site for options on where to send audition video, the roles available, the demands for some key roles requiring savvy and competence in the Hawaiian language.
To contact director Mattos directly, email her at <email@example.com>
Ideally, prospects seeking roles should live on the Big Island, since the rehearsal process will require troupers to be available for extended periods of time.
Said director Mattos: “There very well might be two separate casts, due to the fact that we are doing the Hawaiian version this spring, and the English language version
next fall. Not all actors can commit to a project that spans nearly a year
. . . so we are assuming that we may need to re-cast some, or all, of the
roles next fall.”
Performance dates will be announced later. …
And that’s Show Biz. …