When I told my co-workers I was heading over to my alma mater to interview St. Anthony high school’s drama department about the first annual Blue and Gold Variety Show taking place May 23 at the Iao Theater, the response I got was not reassuring. “Won’t that be weird?” one asked.
Actually, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been years since I stepped foot on the campus, but living on such a small island, it’s not unusual for me to run into former classmates.
As a teenager, I was notoriously late for school and my mother drove this old Beamer that screeched. It felt good when I pulled into the parking lot this past Thursday in my quiet SUV. The first thing that I noticed was how young all the kids looked; the second was that I was, once again, late.
Because I didn’t know where the drama department was, I headed to the main office and was surprised (and slightly mortified) when I came face to face with Susan –the same Susan who filled out my late slips so many years ago. Remembering me—she did write my name about 400 times—she pointed me in the right direction and didn’t even bust me for being late.
I’m pretty sure that the room in which the drama students are constructing their theater (they will be using money from the Fukunaga Award they received this year) was my old geometry class, and also the room where I had my second or third first kiss. What was once filled with rows of desks is now empty and “under construction.”
There drama teacher Virginia Sandell, a petite blonde in her early 50’s, was directing a group of students and faculty rehearsing for the school’s first annual variety show. In December, she produced Hawaiian Kine Christmas, which brought a large crowd to the Iao Theater.
When I walked in, they were working on “Greased Lightning,” one of my absolute favorites from Grease. The girls were lined up in two rows and danced in synch as Dario Rinaldi performed the part of Travolta as lead singer.
I was immediately taken by Rinaldi’s comfort in his part, talent and complete lack of inhibition. Throughout the rehearsal he engaged me, the audience, by eye contact. I don’t remember the boys in my grade being nearly as expressive or willing to dance and sing in front of strangers.
Sandell and I left the group to continue their rehearsal and headed to her office. She told me that Rinaldi loves theater and that he is deeply taken by Pope John Paul II, who had a history in theater as a young man. “He wants to be a priest,” she said.
Working in theater and film since she was a young child, Sandell went to college on a theater scholarship. She comes from a family of artists –her husband is artist David Sandell and her brother-in-law was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004. This has been her first year teaching at St. Anthony.
“Our variety show is just really a celebration of happiness and hopes and dreams,” she said. “We’re doing a few numbers from Grease, I’ve got some hula, guitar and mandolin. We’re even doing an America’s Top Model spoof.” MTW