Take 10: With Jim Aina
A new feature from Hitting the Stage by HTS Staff Reviewer Wil Kahele, where he asks people in our theatre community ten questions to better know them and their work!
I asked actor and director Jim Aina a few questions. Jim is a well known actor in Honolulu who just made his directorial debut with BOY by Anna Ziegler at TAG.
1.) When did you get involved in theatre? What was your first community theatre production and what year?
Jim Aina: I did plays while in high school at Kamehameha. My first community theatre involvement was with Kumu Kahua Theatre while they were performing at St. Andrew's Priory. The show was "Lucky Come Hawai'i", directed by the late Jim Nakamoto. I believe it was 1986.
2.) When did you know that you wanted to direct? What made you select BOY as your directorial debut?
JA: I saw BOY off-broadway in NYC in late March, 2016. In the first 20 minutes of the show, I knew that it was a story that I wanted to bring home to Hawaii. It was the first time I seriously entertained the thought of directing. The story had everything I believed in; acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, the struggle to find one's true identity, authenticity, & love.
3.) What inspired your soundtrack from BOY and will you release the playlist on Spotify? (The second part of the question is for me because I really, really liked the playlist!)
JA: I heard the piano playing in my head each time I read the script, so theres a lot of piano music in the pre-show segments. The play spans from '68-'90, so I wanted to pay attention to that time period as well, so many of the songs are dated. Then I took a look at specific scenes and wanted specific songs to reflect the previous scene or the one coming up. I also heard the nursery rhyme, "hush little baby", the cooing/crying of a new born baby, and broken/shattered notes of different instruments in my head. I combined all three to reflect the "brokenness" of Adam's childhood.
4.) When did you start preparing for BOY? How long did it take you to get to opening night?
JA: It took 1 year & 5 months from script in hand to opening night.
5.) I understand that the playwright, Anna Ziegler, had contact with you. What did she say or what was communicated?
JA: I initially contacted Anna in July of last year. She has been extremely excited & supportive of our production, and has kept in touch with (assistant director) Karen Hironaga. We will be sending her a taped copy of the show. I will be seeing her latest play, "Actually" in New York in November.
6.) How much input did you have in the design aspects of BOY?
JA: I had an extremely clear vision of how I wanted the story told, and therefore worked very closely with each designer. I knew what I wanted to hear, I saw what each character would look like, how we could use space and lighting to move the story forward and bring a new and interesting texture to the staging of the play.
7.) All this talent on one stage, I’m surprised the roof hasn’t exploded, how did you gather so much talent?
JA: Each actor came to auditions. There was a callback. These five individuals gave me what I was looking for in terms of what I needed in the actor I would be working with, not necessarily thinking about the characters so much. The traits I was looking for in the actors were: Fearlessness, sensitivity, open-minded, curious, a sense of vulnerability, and tenacity (I ask for a lot). It has been a privilege to work along side these five highly talented artists.
8.) Do you think this experience has spoiled you from watching Theatre through an objective point of view?
JA: I LOVE Theatre! I have so much to learn! I like going to see a play and simply taking it all in....as a "whole". I can think about what I liked or didn't like after the show, but try not to analyze or critique while I'm watching. That would defeat the purpose of seeing the play in the first place. If anything, this experience will enhance future productions that I see!
9.) What will you take away from this experience and how will it affect any future theatrical endeavors?
JA: I'll really appreciate what it takes to stage the story and the many hands it takes to do it! Yeah, I've gained so much from this opportunity! I can't imagine anything less than a years "prep" time to produce a story that'll be ready for the stage. Choose carefully. Know as much as you can about designers, actors, people you choose to be on your creative team. Choose a story that you are completely and insanely passionate about. It'll allow you to really celebrate the good times, but more importantly, get you through the rough & bumpy times. Reflect on the "Why" you must tell this story. It'll keep you focused! It'll probably be awhile before I direct again, but I'll never say Never!
10.) What’s next for Jim Aina? Acting? Directing? Vacation?
JA: I took a month off from work for this show, so I'll need to get back to flying. Yes, it'll be nice to go back to acting. I feel I've become a more effective artist/actor because of this experience. Who knows what's around the corner? But after all, isn't that what makes life exciting?!!?
Did you enjoy our feature? Who should Wil interview next? Any ideas for the next feature? Let us know in the comments below!