Who Was Walt Dulaney?
The Governor – 2011-12, September Issue
Written by Robert Ramos, Class of 2014, The Governor Co-Editor
October 20, 2011
“His life was all one fabric and all the things he got involved in had youth at the center. He believed that if we invest in youth, we invest in the future,” George Kon, T-Shirt Theater [TST] director, said about his long time partner Walt Dulaney, the acting group’s writer-producer, who passed away on July 24, 2011.
For 46 years, Dulaney and Kon collaborated on many projects. They co-taught in the Experimental Theater Wing in New York University after meeting through a column Dulaney wrote called “Dateline.”
“He brought his writing skills and imagination to experimental theater work where I was his mentor,” Kon said. “He did everything he could to encourage me as a writer.”
Dulaney graduated from the University of Southern California. According to Kon, he once said, “I’m going to head west and when I find some place I feel comfortable in, I’m going to stay.” He found his comfort in Hawaii, his first and last port of call.
Around 1979, Kon and Dulaney earned a touring grant from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts [SFCA] called Suitcase Theater. They took buses to every high school drama program in the state and did free workshops with drama classes. Waipahu HS teacher Amy Abe, who had a full line of drama, encouraged them to visit elementary schools, “recruit kids, and create a buzz for acting.”
Back then, Farrington High School [FHS] students couldn’t have assemblies because of poor audience manners. Kon and Dulaney started at FHS by teaching every incoming students audience manners and to love drama using Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, having them each solo the spotlight on the stage and experience being performers for themselves.
In 3 years, the Farrington auditorium could once again host performances. Kon and Dulaney asked the SFCA to fund an acting group. Originally asked to “tame the audience”, they gathered many talented students to become part of an acting group now known as T-Shirt Theatre.
“We saw the doors open and we shot through them. If we didn’t take the opportunity, we wouldn’t be here,” Kon said.
Dulaney also worked for YMCA and created the first teenage friendship club at Central Intermediate School.
“He believed that if you get together and formed a strong bond, you stay together,” Kon said.
The youth in TST loved working with Dulaney. Amanda Barton, a TST member for two years, said, “It was cool [working with Dulaney]. He had this charisma about him. He could make you feel comfortable about acting.”
They also learned many things from him. Dickson Huynh, also a member of TST, said, “He didn’t really teach lessons but you learn it indirectly. He would tell you something and when you thought about it, it would tell you something even more.”
Dulaney worked with TST for 26 years. Members will miss a lot of things about him.
“I will miss his riddles, the things he loved to say, his metaphors, and his personality. There will be a missing part in TST, and that’s Walt,” said Randall Tuzon, a 4-year TST veteran.
For Barton, “I’d miss his optimism because even though he was older, he was happy and he wasn’t an angry old man; he was Walt.”
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