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Diamond Head Theatre to open new venue with 'Cinderella' musical

diamond head theatre.jpg
Catherine Cruz
HPR tours the new venue for the Diamond Head Theatre on Dec. 15, 2022.

The grand opening of the Diamond Head Theatre's new venue kicked off with a special fundraising event, but the general public will get a chance to see the facility when "Cinderella" hits the stage on Jan. 20.

The 17,000-square-foot, nearly 500-seat theater is right next to the now-demolished Fort Ruger theater. The Diamond Head Theatre group had called the building home since 1952. Built in the 1930s, Ruger theater screened countless movies and presented hundreds of live performances.

"The old theater was a movie house. And for us to have motorized rigging and catwalks, I mean, people would be up on ladders in the old theater. So it's just a dream come true for the creative staff to be able to work with such a high level of technology and theatrical special effects," said Executive Director Deena Dray. She's led the theater for over 25 years.

There were many painstaking details from the orchestra pit to the seat color, but there was one clear mandate — more toilets in the women’s restroom.

"It seems silly, but restrooms are important to people, just like parking is important to people. And both of those figure in greatly to any theater in my mind," Dray said. "When I would stand in the back of the theater and look at people lined up at intermission, and they would look at me with their arms crossed and giving me stink eye like you need to do something about this, I would feel bad."

"So when we started designing the new theater, I made that a priority. And I think we succeeded because we have almost doubled the number of women's toilets," she told The Conversation.

Dray said the new building would not have been possible without community donations.

"This took the city, the state, everyone had to play a part because this is an extraordinary amount of money for us. We don't raise this kind of money on a regular basis," she said. "Without the community support and some real miracles happening, we wouldn't be opening our theater."

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Courtesy Diamond Head Theatre
(Left to right) Diamond Head Theatre Board Chair Colin Miwa, officiant Kahu Kordell Kekoa, DHT Executive Director Deena Dray, and DHT Immediate Past Chair Rick Chong at a blessing for the new theater on Dec. 5, 2022.

According to its website, the project has raised $22.37 million. Construction by Allied Builders began just two years ago in October 2020.

"It's going to take us a while to get our feet on the ground here and get the staff trained and the technologies under our belt, but eventually I think the magic will be happening," Dray said.

"Cinderella" will run from Jan. 20 through Feb. 12. Click here to buy tickets. "La Cage aux Folles" will premiere in March, followed by "The Bodyguard" in May and "Beauty and the Beast" in July.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Jan. 6, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at
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