2012 Journey to Okinawa

Frank Stewart was invited to Okinawa by Katsunori Yamazato to deliver a paper on Mr. Ōshiro’s play The Cocktail Party. The paper was part of the lecture series “Human Migration and Literature,” organized by Professor Yamazato. The series began in December 2011 and will continue until March of this year; below is a flyer promoting the lectures.A group photo from Frank’s trip shows him with (from left to right) Professor Yamazato, Ben Takara, and Eiki Matayoshi. This portrait was taken at the 2012 Okinawa Times Literary Awards, the ceremony at which the newspaper presented its awards for new Okinawan literature. The judges for this year included Professor Yamazato and Mr. Matayoshi.

Mr. Takara’s poems “Cape Kyan” and “An Ancient Banyan,” along with Mr. Matayoshi’s short story, “The Wild Boar That George Gunned Down,” were published in LIVING SPIRIT, edited by Frank and Professor Yamazato in summer 2011.


Okinawan and American Friendship

Ōshiro Tatsuhiro is shown here with Frank Stewart, head of Mānoa Journal and a professor of English at UH-Mānoa, on the evening of the performance of The Cocktail Party at the Hawai‘i Okinawa Center. Behind the two men is a wall with the names of donors to the Center, which was built to honor the memory of Okinawan immigrants and to provide a gathering place for Okinawans today. Stewart worked with coeditor Katsunori Yamazato on translating The Cocktail Party from Japanese to English for publication in Living Spirit and then adapted the translation for the stage.

The play was a presentation of Mānoa Readers / Theatre Ensemble, which stages events for university, community, and statewide audiences. MR / TE is a collaborative, cross-disciplinary initiative of the UHM Outreach College, Community Services Division, and the UHM College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature. Stewart codirects MR / TE with Tim Slaughter, director of the Community Services Division for Outreach College. Slaughter has studied and worked in the performing arts for over twenty years and was director of this world premiere of The Cocktail Party.

The program guide created for the performances contains a statement by Mr. Ōshiro on why he wrote the play.

Ukwanshin Kabudan

Eric Wada (left) and Norman Kaneshiro, of Ukwanshin Kabudan, provided the music for a reception held before the October 27 performance of The Cocktail Party. Playing traditional Okinawan music, Ukwanshin Kabudan attempts to foster goodwill and peace through sharing the music and dances of Ryukyu/Okinawa.

The group is under the leadership of Norman (musical director) and Eric (artistic director). Both studied in Okinawa and received their teaching certifications there. Norman currently teaches the Okinawa sanshin class at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and Eric heads the Hawai‘i chapter of Tamagusuku Ryu Shosetsu Kai.

World premiere of The Cocktail Party very successful

This wonderful photo of The Cocktail Party playwright and cast appears at the Center for Okinawan Studies website, along with a nice write-up and a link to the program guide. The guide includes a summary of the play, biographical information on Ōshiro Tatsuhiro, a statement by Mr. Ōshiro about why he wrote the play, short essays by Katsunori Yamazato and David Fahy, and a brief list of materials on Okinawan history and the Smithsonian exhibit controversy.

The two performances were a great success: the total number of people who saw the play was about 400, and many of them stayed for the question-and-answer sessions.

The play was covered by Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times. Ryukyu Shimpo sent reporter Kazuki Furugen to Hawai‘i to cover the event.

Join us next week…

There are many people to thank for their help in making the world premiere of The Cocktail Party possible. Below are the partners for the Wed., Oct. 26, production at the Hawaii Okinawa Center.

Please join us for the event. In addition to Mr. Ōshiro, the people present will include Katsunori Yamazato and Frank Stewart, coeditors of Living Spirit, the volume of MANOA containing the script. You will be able not only to purchase copies but also to get the signatures of the three men–a guarantee that you’ll own a priceless memento of this visit by Okinawa’s most prominent and respected writer.

Cast of the MRTE production of The Cocktail Party

Poster for the UH-Mānoa production.

Fay Ann Chun (Yōko) has a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Scripps College. She has studied and performed with Dances We Dance, Bluewater Dance Company, and Tangentz Performance Group.

Dann Seki (Mr. Uehara) and Fay Ann Chun (Yōko).

Dann Seki (Mr. Uehara)  (Mr. Uehara) is a stage and screen actor and storyteller. A member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, he has appeared in numerous plays on the stages of most of the theatres in Honolulu. His TV and film credits include many productions filmed in Hawai‘i, including Hawaii Five-O, Lychee Thieves, The Informant, Max’s Special Delivery, Lost, Hawaii, North Shore, Baywatch Hawaii, Magnum, P.I., Crowfoot, And the Sea Will Tell, and Savage Beach. Developing as a storyteller since 1994, he has performed at various venues on Oahu and the Neighbor Islands.

Ben Moffat  (Mr. Miller/Ben Miller) is a freelance performer, storyteller, and writer based in Hawai‘i and Wisconsin. A founding member of the dance-theater troupe Monkey Waterfall, he taught theater at Windward Community College for over twenty years.

Nyla Fujii-Babb  (Helen Miller/Police Officer) has been a storyteller, actress, voice-over talent, and producer for over forty years in Hawai‘i. As an actress, she has appeared on stage for the Kumu Kahua Theatre Company, the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, the Japan-America Theatre, and the Emerson Majestic Theatre. Her television credits include voice-over narration for the KHET/Tom Coffman production of Nation Within: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the Biography Hawaii series Koji Ariyoshi, and Tom Coffman’s The First Battle: The Battle for Equality in War Time Hawaii. Most recently, she was in the Mānoa Readers/Theatre Ensemble’s productions of Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug and Musings of Mystery and Alphabets of Agony: The Work of Edward Gorey.

Nyla Fujii-Babb (Helen Miller/police officer) and James Phelps (Mr. Morgan/Ben Harris).

James Phelps  (Mr. Morgan/Robert Harris) is following in the footsteps of his musician and educator father and has been a percussionist and educator for over fifteen years. His music has allowed him to travel extensively throughout North America and Canada. Currently a music specialist at Waiau Elementary in Pearl City, he enjoys sharing his musical talents with kids.

Doug Kaya  (Mr. Yang) teaches communication courses at Leeward Community College and is a senior mediator with the Mediation Center of the Pacific.

Dennis Nishihara  (Mr. Ogawa) retired from the Department of Education after serving as a counselor on Maui, Moloka’i, the Big Island, and O‘ahu for over thirty years. He was named Counselor of the Year by the Hawai’i School Counselor Association in 1979, and in 2005 was given HMSA’s Ola Pono Award for services to the community and the Hawai’i Counselor Association’s Counselor of the Year Award.