© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Whole Lotta Shakespeare Goin’ On

noe tanigawa
noe tanigawa

  Summer theater in Honolulu means the Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival, at least it has for the past fifteen years.  This year the festival is presenting daring twists on the original material and a related play from the 1600’s.  Performances are free in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s passing.  HPR’sNoeTanigawa prepares us as the series launches.

noe tanigawa
Credit noe tanigawa
(l-r) Brooke Jones as Orsino, Sean-Joseph Choo as Feste in the 2016 Hawai'i Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night.

  The Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival opens tonight with Twelfth Night, which runs through July 17th at Marks’ Garage in Chinatown.  

Twelfth Night, one of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays begins:

“If music be the food of love, play on.  And you think, what the heck does that mean?”

Peter Webb specializes in English literature, he teaches Shakespeare at ‘Iolani School and says, just look at it.

“Does music feed love?  Well, think about it, if you’re trying to stage a romantic evening, you’re going to put some music on, right?  So okay, if music be the food of love, play on.  Okay, he wants more of that, so now, okay, the guy’s in love.  But we also know something about him as a person, this is a very flowery speaker.  Most of us would not talk that way.”

And, Webb says, they didn’t talk that way in Shakespeare’s time either, so it’s perfectly natural to wonder, what’s up with this guy? 

“The next thing he says is, Give me excess of it.  What?  He wants to have more music so he’ll get sick of music so that he won’t be in love anymore.”

I know some think, why go through this?  But consider!  The resonance of this language and mindset could be super rich for our data-stuffed minds.

Brad Goda Photography
Credit Brad Goda Photography
(l-r) Carson Morneau as Olivia, Gabriel "Adam" Brading as Viola in HSF's 2016 production of Twelfth Night.


“As we find out later in the scene, he is the Duke of this country, and so that raises another problem.  Can someone who thinks like this be an effective leader?  As we find out over the course of the play, the answer is no, he’s a lousy leader because he’s spending all his time lying around in flower beds making up love poetry.  So one of the things that’s fun about this play is that you get to see how the way in which a person speaks reflects his or her interior.”

Jason Kanda is directing Twelfth Night this summer for the Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival.  He found a theme of the play has particular relevance this year.

“Shakespeare when he set out to write this, I think he had some ideas in his head about wanting to make some statements about gender identity.  Every morning after rehearsal in the evening, I would come back and there would be stories in the paper all about gender identity.  So I really felt like 2016 is a year that we want to do a play that asks those questions, what is it other than our anatomy that defines us as men and women?”

In this production, gender is treated loosely.  Elizabethan theater did not allow female actors, so gender switching/blending is radical in the old sense, back to the root.

“Because we’re in 2016, everybody’s gonna have a smart phone, a selfie stick, there’s going to be some anime.  It should be a wild, enjoyable time.”

Denise Webb
Credit Peter Webb
Peter Webb teaches English literature, includinga class on Shakespeare. His background knowledge and enthusiasm for the material help bring what can seem like musty language to life!

  Peter Webb says Shakespeare is not about plot, they were all lifted anyway, except for The Tempest

“When a character says something in a particular way, we can feel how that language creates in us a real sense of dimensionality.”  That’s worth something in what has become a CGI-centric, nearly texture-free world of images.

Webb admits people have been traumatized about the Bard, but the muscular re-workings that make up Hawai‘i’s Shakespeare Festival may strike a chord with new audiences.  This summer’s fifteenth Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival opens July 8th and runs through August 23rd at Marks Garage.  In celebration of the 400th commemoration of Shakespeare’s passing, admission is FREE this year, though seats can be reserved for a nominal charge.

Twelfth Night

Friday, July 8, 7:30pm

Saturday, July 9, 7:30pm

Sunday, July 10, 3:30pm

Wednesday, July 13, 7:30pm

Thursday, July 14, 7:30pm

Friday, July 15, 7:30pm

Saturday, July 16, 7:30pm

Sunday, July 17, 3:30pm

The Witch of Edmonton

Friday, July 22, 7:30pm

Saturday, July 23, 7:30pm

Sunday, July 24, 3:30pm

Wednesday, July 27, 7:30pm

Thursday, July 28, 7:30pm

Friday, July 29, 7:30pm

Saturday, July 30, 7:30pm

Sunday, July 31, 3:30pm

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Friday, August 12, 7:30pm

Saturday, August 13, 7:30pm

Sunday, August 14, 3:30pm

Wednesday, August 17, 7:30pm

Thursday, August 18, 7:30pm

Friday, August 19, 7:30pm

Saturday, August 20, 7:30pm

Sunday, August 21, 3:30pm

Admission is FREE at the door (first come, first served).

All performances are at the ARTS at Marks Garage 1159 Nu'uanu Ave.

Advance reservations available through Brown Paper Tickets.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
Related Stories