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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 24, 2002

Environmental lessons emerge 'From Sea to the Sky'

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

 •  'From the Sea to the Sky'

A play by Lisa Matsumoto and Roslyn, produced by 'Ohi'a Productions

Featuring two works: "In the Clear Blue Sea," about marine life, and "Wings of the Islands," about creatures in the island habitat

7:30 p.m. today, 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Ke'elikolani Theater, Kamehameha Schools

$12 general, $10 people 65 and older, military and students, $7 keiki 12 and younger 484-8800 or www.ohia.com

There's a lot of humor but a bottom-line serious message in Lisa Matsumoto's latest stage creation, "From the Sea to the Sky," playing to the public this weekend at Kamehameha Schools.

"It's our way of making learning fun," said Matsumoto, who is shelving her trademark pidgin but has employed some laughs to convey the message of awareness of endangered species and the need to protect the habitat for creatures.

With songs by collaborator Roslyn, Matsumoto has mounted a show that schoolchildren here have been attending during the academic year. Now parents and others can plug into the ecological and environmental urgency — and have fun in the process.

In two separate works, Matsumoto and Roslyn do what they do best: create likeable characters who sing and convey an ordinary message. But the "lesson" is fun, with a reality and scientific foundation, and dressed up in bright costumes and enacted by a cast of four — nope, she's not in it — who play multiple roles.

"In the Clear Blue Sea" deals with life in the coral reef and explores the need to maintain balance in the underwater food chain. "The native sea turtle is featured and we also show how reefs are built," said Matsumoto, who originally mounted the production in 1996, coinciding with a celebration of the International Year of the Ocean and the International Year of the Coral Reef.

The recent revival coincides with a book Matsumoto and artistic partner Michael Furuya recently published, "The Adventures of Gary and Harry," about two turtles. "When we toured the schools, we did creative drama that tied in to literacy and the book and the show."

"Wings of the Islands," tapping a pair of stories, focuses on birds from the wetlands, the forests and the seas, and points out their uniqueness. The message is obvious: Unless these endangered sites are protected, their inhabitants would perish.

"I met with scientists, who provided me with their research, and our task was to take their important findings and use theatrical means to communicate," she said. "In Hawai'i, so much is being lost, so it's a fun way to bring awareness to the children. Like, when students go fishing now, they tell their friends they throw back the little fishes, so there can be more — showing responsibility."

Though absent from the performing ranks for a while, Matsumoto is revving up to return as the Wicked Queen in her pidgin trilogy, "Once Upon One Kapakahi Time," starting July 26 at the Hawai'i Theatre. "We're starting rehearsals, with casting complete, and a lot of people are coming back to reprise their roles," Matsumoto said of her "Once Upon One Time" and spin-offs that take familiar fairy tales and place them in an island environment, with plenty of pidgin talk and tunes.

She's also working on "Peril in Paradise," another glimpse at endangered species, for an O'ahu tour of schools next season, with "Sea and Sky" embarking on a Neighbor Island jaunt next year. Also, her ambitious "On Dragonfly Wings," launched last year, will be tweaked and revived next summer.