Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives recently produced another Cemetery Pupu Theatre event at Oʻahu Cemetery – Muses of Hawai‘i.
It’s a unique dinner theatre experience where history comes alive for the evening, brought to you by Mission Houses and Oʻahu Cemetery.
Mission Houses discovers stories from the lives of prominent Hawaiʻi residents and brings those stories back to life – in the cemetery, at the place where that person is buried.
Muses of Hawai‘i – the current version of ‘dinner theatre in a cemetery’ is focused on a small sample of people – historians and authors, a dramatist and actor, a museum curator, and a musician – who have contributed to the humanities in the history of Hawai‘i.
These characters all speak from their own perspectives about the same place and approximate time. These people all knew one another, or at least knew about one another, and often had something to say about each other.
See if you can catch their references to each other during their performances.
Standing at five different headstones, actors perform a monologue of the lives of the people buried at Oʻahu Cemetery.
Actors are dressed in period costume, telling the life events of select individuals, at their respective grave sites.
There was nothing ghoulish about it; rather, it was very effective storytelling.
Johnny Noble (Portrayed by Zach Thomas Woods)
Johnny Noble (1892-1944,) who took his inspiration from Sonny Cunha, who created hapa haole music in 1900 by mixing traditional Hawaiian music with American ragtime. Noble took Cunha’s idea a step further and mixed Hawaiian music with jazz and blues with for a new style of hapa haole music.
Critics said it degraded and commercialized Hawaiian music, but audiences loved it. “Sing Me a Song of Hawaii,” “My Little Grass Shack,” “Hula Blues,” and “Hawaiian War Chant” are among some of his most recognizable songs. He also recorded hundreds of traditional Hawaiian songs. (Wayne Paakaula is the Ukulele player.)
Ethel Damon (Portrayed by Alicia Rice)
Ethel Moseley Damon (1883 – 1965) authored several plays including Punahou’s 75th Anniversary Pageant and The Romance of Reality: A Historical Play in Two Acts, a centennial missionary memorial play.
She also authored Samuel Chenery Damon (a biography of her grandfather), Early Hawaiian Churches and Their Manner of Building, and her seminal history of Kaua‘i Koamalu: A Story of Pioneers on Kauai.
Thomas Thrum (Portrayed by Eli Foster)
Thomas Thrum (1842 – 1932) operated a book and stationery store. In 1875 he produced the first issue of Hawaiian Almanac and Annual which is commonly referred to as Thrum’s Annual.
He was the first editor of Paradise of the Pacific in 1888 and published several collections of Hawaiian legends and several publications on Hawaiian heiau.
Emma Nakuina (Portrayed by Kahana Ho)
Emma Nakuina (1847 – 1929) was the first woman curator of a museum in Hawai‘i. She became curatrix of the Hawaiian National Museum in the Judicial Building during Kalakaua’s reign and authored Hawaii: Its People and Their Legends and Ancient Hawaiian Water Rights and Some Customs Pertaining to Them, among many others.
Nathaniel Emerson (Portrayed by Christopher Denton)
Nathaniel B. Emerson (1839 – 1915) was a physician, author, and husband of Dr. Sarah Emerson. He was the author of The Unwritten Literature of Hawaii: the Sacred Songs of the Hula; and Pele and Hiʻiaka: A Myth from Hawai‘i.
This Cemetery Pupu Theatre was researched by Mike Smola, script was written by Zach Thomas Woods, wardrobe by Peggy Krock and directed by William Haʻo.
The next Mission Houses program, 5:30 – 8 pm, Saturday, July 16, 2016, will be the ‘Aloha Ho‘oipoipo’ portion of Mission Houses ‘Na Mele Aloha’ series ($30 each in advance, or $35 at door.) (To be held at Mission Houses.)
This performance will explore romantic love through songs, mele ho‘oipoipo, both those which openly reveal the individuals in such a relationship and those songs which use kaona or hidden meanings to obscure the specific relationships.
Check out the Mission Houses website for future programs and events, as well as the many other activities at the historic site on King and Kawaiahaʻo Streets. Click HERE.