Enter the dragonfly: Stage pro Gutzi flutters in
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
The first is "On Dragonfly Wings," the reworked Lisa Matsumoto-Roslyn musical fantasy opening today at the Hawai'i Theatre. The writers restructured the fable, based on the book "Wailana the Waterbug" (and inspired by the late Alana Dung), to accommodate Gutzi, who expressed interest in the work after viewing a video of the original show two years ago.
She will play a supporting role, Dora the Dragonfly.
The other show is the Tony-Award-winning musical "Ragtime," which opens Sept. 26 at Diamond Head Theatre. Gutzi will appear as Emma Goldman, a role she has previously inhabited on the road, and she's also directing.
But first things first: For "Dragonfly," Roslyn composed a new tune,
"A New Dawn," for Gutzi's Dora character. Dora opens and closes the show; "she sets the tone for the whole journey; she looks after Wendy, the water bug; she is the conscience of the piece, the voice of hope," said Gutzi.
"I was struck by the integrity of the piece," she said. "It's important for children to get a perspective on the whole life process ... that (after death) you move into another phase. It's a normal part of life, so children should not be afraid."
Dung died of leukemia at 3 and her brief life inspired and touched many in Hawai'i. The play celebrates life and perceives death as a beginning of a new life's journey.
"I called Lisa to tell her I wanted to do anything I could, to facilitate this positive energy," said Gutzi. "I think the show should be seen on the Mainland. So she asked me, 'Could you be in it? We're making some revisions and cuts.' "
Gutzi's seasoned track record "Cats" and "Ragtime" in national touring companies, among other roles has been an inspiration to the Hawai'i cast members. "What I'm sensing is the confidence of the kids; they're excited. So I'm excited, too. Lisa and Roslyn want to make this part to fit me; it reminds me why I do this work in the first place, why I chose this profession. It's meaningful for me to express who I am. It's a new dawn."
Gutzi, a union-card-carrying actress, is appearing as a guest artist. Her participation allows her to again become part of the theatrical community here and it's a mutually beneficial relationship she's learning as her cast mates are learning from her.
"I'm making new friends, who've welcomed me into the 'ohana, and I've been saying for years (since starring in 'Cats') how much this place means to me," she said.
The opportunity to do "Ragtime," a show she adores, enables her to remain in Hawai'i.
She received an eleventh-hour invitation from DHT to direct; "goodness, I think I know every beat," she said. "And of course, I love Emma Goldman; I feel connected because, by gosh, I've always been an activist, outspoken and a staunch supporter of the working class. I had a feeling that if we knew each other, we'd support each other; I admire her integrity and bravery."
Goldman's crusading efforts in women's rights have influenced numerous organizations over the years, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and her efforts on the labor front paved the way for child labor laws, the eight-hour work day, and more.
Though she is bringing over two actors from the Mainland for the Harlem ensemble, she will hold auditions shortly at DHT for other roles.
"I had agreed to do 'Dragonfly,' and when this ('Ragtime') opportunity came up, I couldn't refuse," said Gutzi.
She does private coaching one of her students is Kaitlin Kiyan, who is in "Dragonfly" and is a former Hawai'i contestant on "Star Search" and if work continues to come her way, she's happy to stay here.