Hungry for More Hana Keaka
A hush falls over the assembly as a voice rings out in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi. The space is teeming with electricity and anticipation as the invocation fills the large 600 seat room. And as the voice fades into silence, it’s as if the space itself has changed and become charged with an unseen energy. Thus began the ʻAha Hana Keaka: Hawaiian Theatre Symposium 2016.
Bringing together artists from all over the Pacific, this celebration and symposium took place last Thursday at the University of Hawai ʻi at Mānoa’s Kennedy Theatre. Consisting of lectures and panels, the daylong event touched on subjects about the value of Hana Keaka, or Hawaiian-medium theatre, and its possible role in the future. Panels discussed everything from Hana Keaka’s intrinsic value to the art of its creation to its use in the classroom, all while looking at past examples of the form.
Most of you will remember Lā‘ieikawai, UH’s inaugural hana keaka production that ran two years ago at UH Mānoa. That piece was written and directed by Professor Tammy Haili‘ōpua Baker, the Director of Hawaiian Theatre and Language, Pacific and Indigenous Theatre, Playwriting programs at UHM’s department of Theatre and Dance. In addition to being one of the artists on the leading edge of hana keaka, she was also one of the main organizers for the event.
Twenty years ago, Baker founded a Hawaiian-medium theatre troupe, Ka Hālau Hanakeaka, with her husband, Kaliko, and the troupe has been performing original plays for the Hawaiian-speaking community since, even touring internationally. Baker also has written and produced plays in English and Pidgin for local theaters. The final event of the day was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Ka Hālau Hanakeaka.
The symposium was conducted primarily in Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, but had translators available by request. It is this writer’s hope that there are more events promoting hana keaka and Hawaiian theatre. It was only three years ago that a Hawaiian Theatre program was created at UH, but already we are seeing that the community is hungry for such art. And if you are one of the people who is hungry for more of this work, keep your eyes out for Nā Kau a Hi‘iaka by Kaua‘i Kaina, a new play to be performed this spring!