Posted by on March 3, 2015

By Gary C.W. Chun

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 01, 2013

BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

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Gervacio Peralta, 17, Leialoha Tumbaga, 14, Jayden Dela Cruz, 15, and Kimberly Sipili, 15, do a scene called “Adventure Bus” in the Farrington T-Shirt Theatre production “I Believe …”

In the tradition of the old theater adage “The show must go on,” the T-Shirt Theatre of Kalihi has found a new if temporary performance space for its spring production, titled “I Believe …”

The troupe’s original home at Farrington High School was reduced to rubble after high winds caused the roof of the campus auditorium to collapse the day after Thanksgiving.

The T-Shirt Theatre is a flagship after-school program of the nonprofit Alliance for Drama Education that includes students from Kalakaua and Dole middle schools as well as Farrington. The schools serve a district that is home to a large population of immigrant and low-income families. The program encourages self-expression, communication, teamwork and other skills that will help the youths long after graduation.

‘I BELIEVE …’Farrington’s T-Shirt Theatre of Kalihi» Where: Kaimuki High School Auditorium, 2705 Kaimuki Ave.

» When: 7 p.m. Thursday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday

» Cost: Free (calabash donations accepted)

» Info: 220-5003 or rehearseforlife.com

Thanks to a shared affiliation with the nonprofit Hawaii Arts Alliance’s Performing Arts Learning Centers, MJ Matsu­shita offered up the Kaimuki High School auditorium to a grateful T-Shirt Theatre artistic director George Kon and his group.

Even though they lost their home stage of many years, the Farrington teens said they liked working in the new space during a dress rehearsal on a day when a small group of theater education teachers and students from the University of Wyoming supplied an appreciative audience.

“I  Believe …” comprises entertaining vignettes that mine the challenges of school, family, friendships, budding relationships and physical changes facing teens at a time when they are also trying to form some sense of who they really are.

“The kids were just starting to generate material for this show when the roof collapsed at Farrington,” Kon said. “Out of the 140 or so stories they came up with — including one that refers to the roof cave-in — they then held small group conversations and worked out improv scenes to shape where ‘I Believe … ‘ is now.”

The vignettes are set at home and at school, touching on such situations as wanting to pursue a vocation despite a parent’s reservations, getting into college, bullying, puberty and pregnancy.

“We always look for a strong message first and foremost in our student-written shows, as well as for scenes that are charming,” said company producer June Sandrich. “Humor also goes a long way and can provide a balance to the more dramatic scenes.”

Throughout the rehearsal, the teens projected a real sense of camaraderie, mutual respect and teamwork.

Farrington junior Maricara Dela Cruz, 17, has been with the T-Shirt Theatre since middle school.

“At first it was hard to hang with the high-schoolers in the group, but then we all became friends,” she said. “People come and go over the years, but we all adapt to each other and we always get close.

“I know I’ve improved as a person. I used to be shy, and now I’m not afraid to speak out. I’m more outgoing.”

That’s music to Kon’s ears.

“There’s a reason that I call our website ‘Rehearsal for Life,'” he said. “The students’ participation in this theater group will help them with performance skills that they can utilize later in their adult lives.”

The teens received a positive response from the out-of-state visitors, who said they appreciated the use of real issues confronting the teens, as well as the performers’ confidence and shared focus.

“What the T-Shirt Theatre does is very powerful,” said Cecilia Aragon, University of Wyoming director of theater education.

“The students have been given tools that can help visualize what they want for their futures. George has given them the opportunity to experience and learn within the group. Not only are they building an audience of their peers, but with their parents and the community at large.

“There’s a need for a theater to be accessible to those usually thought of as disadvantaged, and the culture and language of this group should be embraced and celebrated,” she said.

Posted in: TST

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