Kaua‘i women develop personal theater

Back by popular demand, “Unwrapped” will have an encore presentation of the on-stage drama designed and created from the lives of six young Kaua‘i women. Brenda Currin, founder of What Girls Know, directs workshops with the help of local adult “trainers” to create an original piece of dramaturgy relevant to the community. This program was made possible by grants and collaboration from the Department of Health, Community Development Committee, DOH/CDC, YWCA and Island School.

Leslee Manima Dancosse, one of the adult trainers who worked with the young women in developing the show recently reflected on the process, “From the very beginning I sensed that what the young women needed most was someone to simply listen and care.”

Through improvisation and theatrical games the women workshop their way to a complete script, “Soon after our improv sessions, ideas poured forth and we would write them down. Later we sequenced these scenes into sequences that created desired outcomes,” she said. Using free-form improvisation as a spring board, the work that eventually blossomed was deeply personal for both performers and trainers.

Dancosse was impressed and inspired by the young women, “As I watched the production develop, I could see that these young women were not only willing to remove the ‘masks’ that serve to hide deep emotions, but they were also in touch with resolutions. I was genuinely moved by their openness and courage.”

The level of maturity surprised Dancosse so much that she decided to interview the young women about the process and how they felt about related matters stirred up by the production. “I began exploring more questions, not only ones I or the other ‘trainers’ had, but questions that I imagined people in the audience might have — how is the process affecting them, is it changing them, how are they feeling?”

“I called Rob Zelkovsky of Bamboo Moon Video Production to ask how to set up the video recorder and handed out a list of questions to each girl,” Dancosse said.

The interviews of Marica Centeno, Martine Savage, Lisa Salling, Kayla Blume, Adel Cardoso and Heather Booth will soon appear on Ho‘ike community television at www.hoike.org. “The What Girls Know experience touched each young woman deeply; they’re looking forward to their next performance on April 20 at KCC Performing Arts Center … it’s a real gift to see these young women perform their own her-story.”

Assisting Currin was Leanne Baumung of the YWCA and seven adult “trainers” (Peggy Ellenburg, Laurel Petterson, Tyme Ventura, Erika Denbo, Leslee Manima Dancosse, Kim Elegado and Eric Devlin). “The performance was much more than what I had envisioned … all combined, the quality of entertainment, the depth of the stories, the fact that the young women spoke their own stories was deeply impacting,” Dancosse said.

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