Hawai‘i Children’s Theatre MessEdge airs this weekend

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” Director Nicole Cowan, second from left, presents the MessEdge Theatre cast, including (not in order) Connor Raybuck, Carmen Swanson, Anastasia Gatlin, Margaret McLeod, Leilani Goldberg, Cora Dooley, Sofie Sentes-Heredia and Miley Cox, at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse Wednesday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Miley Cox, recently named the middle-school winner at the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, expands on “Uh-oh” at the Puhi Theatrical Warhouse during the final meeting before virtual curtains rise on “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” this weekend.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The MessEdge Theatre cast of “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” includes (not in order) Connor Raybuck, Carmen Swanson, Anastasia Gatlin, Margaret McLeod, Leilani Goldberg, Cora Dooley, Sofie Sentes-Heredia and Miley Cox, seen here Wednesday at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse.

LIHU‘E — “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” by the MessEdge Theatre will take to the airways Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., through a link from the Hawai‘i Children’s Theatre website (hawaiichildrenstheatre.org).

The show is hosted on BroadwayOnDemand.com, and users are required to set up a free account to view the show.

The MessEdge Theatre, previously known as Pono Players, is a peer-to-peer education troupe of young actors between ages 14 and 18 who translate current issues for teenagers into engaging performances, with the goal of educating and enriching Kaua‘i’s schools and communities with the proper tools to navigate complicated issues in a positive way.

“The experience itself has been a lesson in resilience,” said HCT Administrator Erin Gaines, who worked with the troupe in an environment adapted for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having performed with Pono Players myself in the past, I can share that this has been an entirely new experience for both the actors and the instructors,” she said.

“It is great to see that even in these times — meeting first virtually, then working in small-group work inside the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse — the creativity of these students shines through.”

With help from a federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act grant, HCT partnered with the Kaua‘i Resilience Project, Kaua‘i Planning &Action Alliance and Kupa‘a Kaua‘i to bring current issues surrounding suicide-prevention and resilience to the forefront. This ties in with the HCT goal of using available resources to enhance and augment the experience for all participants on and off the stage.

On its journey, the MessEdge Theatre creates an atmosphere that encourages commitment, connection and taking creative risks in a safe environment.

HCT instructor Chris Alderete, working with teens virtually when the pandemic started and directing students and young adults in the HCT After Dark performance, saw the connection with resilience.

“Here, we teach the kids to keep pushing forward and to find ways to solve problems together as a team,” Alderete said.

“In improv, you are presented with unknown factors, and you must work with your fellow actors to overcome them. Improv also teaches how to push through failure. You fall down a million times in improv, but this class is meant to give them the tools to get back up every time they fall down, and keep going.

“We have explored creating our own characters and breathing life into them, and how to create a show from nothing with only a one-word suggestion. The skills of thinking and resilience are something to take and use in their everyday lives.”

During the past several months, the troupe of eight students has learned about safe-messaging strategies for discussing difficult issues, and received intensive acting training in improvisation to create characters from real-life situations. The group also learned new video techniques to bring a compelling performance to share with the community.

“‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ is not only unique material, it’s a unique process,” said Nicole Cowan, who directs the piece, working with students to find a piece for performance that could be rehearsed socially-distanced, highlight the students’ talents and addresses the issue.

“The teens worked together to self-direct the performance, and together reflected on how to interpret and showcase the material in a way that could reach their peers who may be facing some of the same hardships depicted in the script. The teens learned not only acting, but also video-production skills with Max Richardson to perform the piece online.”

The entire community — especially parents and teens — is invited to view the performance.

“Our Pono Players had been known for their compelling performances, visiting schools and community groups,” said HCT President Dolly Kanekuni.

“We thought this is an important year to bring teen issues to light. The holidays can be a tough time for many, and we hope that this will inform teens and parents, shedding light on challenges many of us share. We are grateful for the opportunity to share this important message of resilience with many more youth and families online this year,” she said.

Info: hawaiichildenstheatre.org, info@hawaiichildrenstheatre.org, 246-8985.

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