Student playwrights' works brought to life
By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer
"It's very rewarding ... when you see people actually bring it to life," said Fukuda, a senior at 'Aiea High School. "It's a lot better than what you imagined."
Fukuda is one of five teen playwrights whose plays will be featured at Theatrefest, Honolulu Theatre for Youth's annual production of short plays by young artists, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Tenney Theatre at St. Andrew's Cathedral.
The five playwrights Fukuda; Ashley Ano, 16; Lauren Hanley, 15; Kate Lau, 17; and Robert Rath, 17 developed their plays at HTY's Pacific Young Playwrights workshops, which is where young writers spend nearly a year developing their ideas into the plays performed at Theatrefest.
"The Pacific Young Playwrights have definitely been able and willing to take risks," said Kristi Lynn Johnson, Theatrefest project director. "They've been extremely committed to really finding something that's theatrically viable and really honing their skills as writers."
Fukuda's play, "Multiple Choice Relationships," is a story about a teenage girl and her relationships with her mother, her friend and her crush. The play covers topics such as manipulation, respect and the bond between a mother and daughter, Fukuda said.
The 'Aiea teen said her interest in theatre comes from her family, who "always watches plays." "I guess being exposed to that kind of thing sort of got me interested in it."
Another Theatrefest play that focuses on the often-complex relationships of teens is Hanley's "Envy for Three," a story about a love triangle.
"The moral is that you have to be yourself, no matter what," said Hanley, a Punahou School sophomore. Although this is Hanley's first year as a Theatrefest playwright, the Hawai'i Kai resident has acted in other HTY productions and school plays, including "The Crucible."
"When I was writing ("Envy for Three"), I broadened my horizons in theater more," Hanley said. "Watching the play being created is just like, overwhelmingly powerful."
Ano's "Stalled Love" also deals with teen angst and love. But unlike the other plays, she said, hers doesn't have a lesson to be learned. "It's kind of more just for comedy purposes," said the Mid-Pacific Institute junior. "It's not really, like, deep. It's just showing these three girls who are just completely self-absorbed in what they do."
Like Fukuda and Hanley, this is Ano's first year as a Theatrefest playwright, but the Hawai'i Kai teen said she has always loved acting. "I've always been a drama queen, ever since I was, like, 5," she said with a big smile.
Unlike the other plays that give light to teen romances, Rath's "Badgers at 9 O'clock" follows the adventures of two brothers locked together in an "orphanage-like sweatshop," Rath said.
"I hope it's entertaining," the Castle High junior said about his play, which also features dragons, octopi and "crazy badgers." "I just hope (the audiences) take away with them whatever they feel is important in the play, because I can't force a message onto them."
The Kane'ohe resident is somewhat of a Theatrefest veteran; he was an actor in a 1997 production, a stage manager in 1998 and a playwright in 1999 and 2000. His 1999 play, "Spiffy," was among 10 winning plays out of 600 nationwide entries for the 2000 Young Playwrights Festival National Playwriting Competition.
Lau is also something of a theater veteran. The Mililani resident has been stage-managing HTY productions since 1997, and last year the home-schooled teen professionally stage managed Hawai'i Opera Theatre's, "The Marriage of Figaro," which featured international opera stars. This is her first year as a Theatrefest playwright.
"Alone Together," Lau said, deals with issues like death. "It's a play about family and how they treat each other," she said.
Theatrefest is a very student-centered program, Johnson said. Not only are the plays written by teens, but they are also performed by teenage actors and crewed by teen technicians. Audiences will have a lot to look forward to this year, she said.
The plays are "exciting, slightly eccentric, very relevant topics to teenagers and just downright fun," Johnson said.