Show and Tell Hawai'i

Snacks, support show actors someone cares

May 23rd, 2011

Second of Two Parts

It’s all about caring, says Jo Pruden, about Manoa Valley Theatre’s actor-friendly “Adopt-a-Play” program that runs concurrently with the rehearsal process of each production.
“I think it’s very invaluable to provide a setting for interaction between cast and board members and to give board members a look at the process involved in mounting a show,” says Pruden, an award-winning actor, who is playing Violet Weston, the matriach, in Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County,” now in production at MVT. “From the early days of the program, it was evident to me that MVT cares about its volunteers and makes an effort to support them in a variety of ways.”
She’s not a huge eater, “but the brief ‘social hour’ is always welcome,” she says of the snack-and-drink break involving the “parents.” More than the nourishment, it’s a warm fuzzy feeling, knowing someone cares, that counts most.
Attorney Jeff Portnoy, who is MVT president, is pleased with the way “Adopt-a-Play” has played out, bridging his board with the folks in the limelight of creating a show.
“From my perspective, it has been an invaluable asset to our organization,” says Portnoy, who has, with wife Sandi, served as “parents” many times. “It gives the board member an ‘inside’ look at how a play actually gets mounted and ‘bonds’ the board to our acting and technical volunteers. From the cast viewpoint, besides the food and drink, it lets them know we are all ‘one,’ and that we appreciate all they do for MVT.”
Greg Howell, who’s acted and has done make-up and hair for MVT shows many times over the decades, says “parents” provide a valuable service not commonly practiced on other stages.
“I can’t tell you how many times we are rushing from our jobs to rehearsal and have no time to get dinner,” says Howell who is portraying Bill Fordham in the play. “The nutritional support, combined with the genuine enthusiasm of the ‘parents’ for the work we do, is a phenomenon I have experienced only at MVT ... makes me think of MVT as my ohana.”
The break can be intrusive sometimes (“it is hard to break the spell of the process”), but “it is almost always a pleasure to take a moment and relax. So often, we return to the script with a fresh approach — and more energy,” says Howell.
Bree Bumatai, who has served on several levels at MVT (management team, director, actor), is a big supporter of the “adoption” program. “I know the program is very unique, and having viewed it from all sides, I can say I think it is highly successful,” says Bumatai, who is enacting the part of Barbara Weston.
“The program gives members of the board an opportunity to observe the process, and allows them insight into how a production comes together. It also allows the volunteers an opportunity to see who helps to shape and support the company. Only rarely have I felt it a distraction ... more often than not, it is a valuable interaction, and a nice break!”
Director Glenn Cannon, who has helmed shows at virtually all theater stages in town, also enjoys the nibbles and welcomes the camaraderie. “I and most of the cast enjoy the snacks and also feel a sense of support from the board,” says Cannon, a University of Hawaii drama professor who also periodically takes a community role. “I personally like being able to chat a bit with ‘parents.’
“As long as the break is not too long, in terms of the flow of the rehearsal, it is a positive experience. Sure, other theaters might do this as well, but obviously, that depends on their operating structure.”
At MVT, there are enough “parents” to cover the five or six plays that comprise a season, since there are more 30 board members. Spouses and partners are welcome to join in the fellowship, and depending on the size of the cast, there’s an abundance of chatter and shared aloha during the breaks.

'August: Osage County’

7 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through June 5
Manoa Valley Theatre
Running time: 3 hours 20 minutes, including two intermissions
Tickets: $30 general; $25 seniors and military; $15 youths 25 and under (not recommended for youngsters below 14
Reservations: 988-6131,

One Response to “Snacks, support show actors someone cares”

  1. Yogita Bhagat:

    Variety is the spice of life.

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