Shakespeare in Pidgin is coming to One Night Only (ONO) at Iao Theater. Eh, wat you sed? Dakine late James Benton did one local play called Twelf Night ‘O Whateva, dat was supah popular. Bra, wen’ go mainland. Dis time, directah Gordon Samuelson stay teaming up with Da Hohana Playas – Rochelle Ashana, Kelly Ad, Luz Ramil, Barry Winston, Virginia Sandell, Joel Agnew, Nakota Kai Crumbo – and dey going ack dis one out on top Maui fo’ da firs’ time. Dis play stay free so you betta go. Only good kine fun dis, plus one nite only. We wen’ ask Samuelson: Bra, what kind play dis? And all kine questions. Bumbye you gotta read dis now. Sorry ah!
MauiTime: Wat kine play is Twelf?
Gordon Samuelson: Da original original stay 400 years old already. “Twelfth Night, or What You Will” may be Shakespeare’s funniest play, even tho’ some people tink of it as romantic folly. One wahine and her bradda get shipwrecked, but dey no can find each odda. So, she pretends to be a man, fo’ get one job wid one prince, and den everyting get all hammajang and huhu, cuz which is which and who is who? Dis plot is same like dakine TV situation comedies – or odda way around? – where mistaken identities leads to hilarious calamities.
MT: How you going make dakine Shakespea’ play in pidgin?
GS: Our play’s late author, James Grant Benton, was a comic and a character actor in everyting from “Hawaii 5-0” to “Magnum P.I.” In his version, or vision, Illyria becomes O‘ahu, mead becomes ‘okolehao, shillings become puka shells, madrigals become hapa-haole tunes. Even so, da swordfights is still swordfights, and da poetry is still poetry, no matta wat language. Eh, but no worry, da pidgin is mo easy fo’ undastand den dat old Shakespearean English! Automatic!
MT: Pidgin stay da un-offisho’ kine language of Hawai‘i…
GS: Actually, da Census Bureau says “Hawaiian Creole” is a “co-official language,” cuz it know is jus’ broke English, it is da most spoken – if not da bestest – dialect in dese islands. It’s in da air here. The UH [University of Hawai‘i] Linguistic Department offers Pidgin 1 and Pidgin 2, wid its own grammars and textbook, you know, so it no should be denigrated. Benton wanted fo’ help preserve, or revive, dat tradition, and I stay hoping, too, dat choke keikis from Baldwin, or Iao School and even Luna will come – especially since it’s free! Guarans ballbarens dey going hea’ some new ‘ono vocabularies.
MT: Get plenny kine young folks here who neva heard of Rap Reiplinger. Try fo’ tell us about dat guy. An’ den wat was BoogaBooga?
GS: Rajah dat! BoogaBooga was Benton, Rap, and Ed Kaahea, who wen’ come over from Kaua‘i to da MACC fo’ be in dat “Kings of Hawaiian Comedy,” jus’ couple years ago. Rap had one beeg hit on local radio — sista, you no rememba “Faith Yanagi I love you…”? I used to laugh up at his TV specials in da ‘80s… you can still check ‘um on YouTube. When Rap died, they hired one kid named Andy Bumatai fo’ replacement – he says it was da hardest job he eva’ had, but, ‘as how we learn, ah?
MT: How come dis kine neva come Maui before?
GS: “Twelf Nite” was performed first time at UH in 1974, wid BoogaBooga guys in one beeg cast, wid even one pit orchestra. I know a few peopo’ here who seen ‘em dere, and I even had one fren’ who was in dat band! Ova da years, playhouse audiences on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, and Big Island, even LA, wen’ spock da show, too. I dunno why I da first one fo’ do ‘em here, but somebody gotta do ‘em. If can, can! I stay lucky to find eight dakine actors who like get silly and make good fun wid all dese stuffs too. Plus, we all lucky to get one nostalgic theater like Iao fo’ do ’em in.
MT: Why make ‘em at Iao?
GS: Some long time ago I wen’ help renovate em, afta dat old barn theater in Pu‘unene wen’ burn down. I wen’ appear at Iao about one-tousand times playing sax, in concerts onstage or in da pit – but neva as one director. Dis is kind of like putting together one band, only different. Las’ year, half da cast wen’ hohana in “Canefire” by Wayne Moniz, in da Fringe Festival. But in “Twelf Nite” we get ‘60s pidgin, Filipina pidgin, Southern-fried pidgin, Elizabethan pidgin… anykine. Try come, no shame!