Maui Arts & Entertainment

UH Hawaiian Language Play to Make Big Apple Debut

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Photo credit: John Wells.

A Hawaiian language production is gearing up for its debut in the Big Apple.

The well received University of Hawai’i at Mānoa play “‘Au’a ‘Ia: Holding On” has been invited to the inaugural Reflections of Native Voices festival in New York City next month.

This will be the UH Mānoa theatre department’s first production to perform in the city.

According to university officials, ‘Au’a ‘Ia “captures pivotal moments in Hawai‘i’s history from the perspective of four haumāna (sudents). While researching a project for class, they embark on a journey that takes them into the repository of 19th century Hawaiian language archival materials. Hawaiian ʻoli (chant), mele (songs) and hula transport audiences through time.”

“It definitely will put us on a national map as the entity, as the university, to come to, to study indigenous theater,” UH Mānoa Hawaiian Theatre Program professor Hailiʻōpua Baker said in a press release.


Kumu (teacher) Baker is the playwright and director of the hana keaka (Hawaiian theatre) play, which is performed predominantly in the Hawaiian language with bilingual segments.


‘Au’a ‘Ia is slated as the opening act of the six-day indigenous festival. The play will also take the stage at one of New York’s leading Off-Broadway venues.

“The opportunity to legitimize our moʻolelo on that type of platform to say that our stories are ku like a like. Our stories are just as valid,” added UH Mānoa graduate student and actor Kaipu Baker.  

The 32-member cast and crew have just a few weeks to raise $100,000 to cover airfare, cargo and accommodations.


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