Mulan Comes to Molokai
By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter
This Friday and Saturday, Molokai residents will be treated to the first ever performance by Hokulani Children’s Theatre. The show will be a production of The Legend of Mulan — and a manifestation of the children, parents and volunteers who have worked to make it happen.
Hokulani Children’s Theatre of Molokai was established to meet the needs of the community, truly spanning Molokai’s schools and communities in its approach. Without grant funding, it is built upon the investment and work of community members.
This communal effort has been “the magic of what we’re doing,” explained Vicki Boswell, founder of Hokulani Children’s Theatre.
It is no small feat to train 22 keiki ranging from 7 to 14 years old, but that is exactly what has been accomplished. Participants in The Legend of Mulan cited newfound attitudes and skills garnered through the program.
“When you put your mind to something and never give up, then you can do it,” said Kaceelynn Yasso, age 9, who is the sound director for the play.
“I learned to speak up,” said 8-year-old Kai’ani Reyes, one of three actors playing Mulan.
Heaven Kailiponi, age 9, explained that “I have found my artistic self. I have learned to be more vocal.”
While theater skills and artistic expression are foundational to Hokulani Children’s Theatre’s purpose, Boswell explained that community building is really what she seeks to achieve.
“I’m trying to build people through this avenue,” explained Boswell. To this end, Boswell has an ABC for program goals. A is for artistic expression, B is for building a better self, so you can build a better world, and C is for learning to control your body and mind. These goals work in-conjunction with the process and commitment of theater.
For Boswell, theater allows for a fostering of genuine connection and commitment among participants.
“It’s been a very nurturing process to see these kids become connected and care about each other,” said Boswell, adding that “I’m very impressed.”
For the kids who have dedicated themselves to making this play happen, they likewise have felt the personal benefits of engaging in theater.
“I made a lot of new friends and I have fun,” said Liloa Spencer-Vika, age 6, playing the role of Mulan’s younger brother.
Sara Laea, age 8 and playing the role of Mulan as well, likewise cited new connections as paramount in her theater experience, explaining that “the best part is that I got to meet new people.”
And it’s not just keiki who have committed themselves. Parents and volunteers have been essential in getting Hokulani Children’s Theatre off the ground.
With help from volunteers like Assistant Director Didi McCarver and intern Wailana Purdy Avelino, Boswell has been able to propel this performance forwards while keeping it free of cost.
In terms of future programs, Boswell explained that it will depend on what community members want, but she is planning on hosting summer programs if interest is demonstrated.
This week, the young performers focus on putting the final touches on their roles in Mulan, a story about a young girl who took her father’s place in the war to spare his life which was forbidden in China, and not only brought honor to her family but became one of China’s greatest heroes.
As they practice, Boswell reminds them of the real importance of what they’re doing.
“That performance does not measure your growth,” she said. “Do not think that you’re doing this for the performance. You’re doing this to learn from doing something very hard and developing life skills because of it.”
Molokai community members can catch The Legend of Mulan by the Hokulani Children’s Theatre, Friday, April 14 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 15, at 4 and 6 p.m., at the Home Pumehana Recreational Hall. All performances are free of charge, and attendees are asked to be seated 20 minutes prior to show times.