The cast of students traveling to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to represent their school, their community and their culture.
Hāʻupu was Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi’s largest, most intensive Hawaiian opera to date. Nearly three hours of music and libretto tells the legend of Kana and Nīheu and their daring rescue of their mother Hina, from a Molokaʻi chief who kidnapped her in attempt to barter a peace and preserve the way of life for his people.
Over the past few months, the kumu and students have been working on streamlining and scaling the production from an all-school epic to a traveling cast of 20 that will head to the world’s largest performing arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
While the space they will perform in and time allotted for the show will be smaller, the moment and importance of this production has never been greater.
“This is the first time a Hawaiian language or cultural presentation is going to this festival, the largest performing arts festival in the world,” said musical director Herb Mahelona.
“It’s a beautiful balance that we can go there and experience the world and all these performances from all over the globe and we have something to offer that no one there has seen. That’s just amazing to me. I was excited when I went there that we’d be able to be there and experience this and then I realized they’re just as excited to have us there.
“Then I realized that, yes, we in Hawaiʻi have something to share and it is valuable.”
The experience of traveling to this festival and taking on this new challenge is indicative of the program’s desire to consistently raise the bar.
In the show’s program, director Eric Stack writes, "After every Hōʻike we say, 'There is no way we can top this!'; yet we do. We must. We must continue that spirit of faith for which those students of 2009 to 2012 sacrificed so much.
“The heart of Hōʻike is founded on that. Even this year, just because our production is premiering in Scotland does not mean we should stop there. Let us avoid the complacency of the status quo, and endeavor to be every changing, ever evolving. Every year, every show is a means not an end. We do this to honor those who came before us and ensure a vibrant future to the keiki to come.
“To borrow from Tennyson, our mission is to strive, to seek and never yield. For if we do yield, when we become satisfied, betraying the past, abandoning the future, sacrificing the essence of who we are, we cease to exist."
The excitement is even greater for the students selected to perform this opera for the world.
“I was so excited that I was able to participate in something this huge and be able to take it somewhere so far away from home and be able to travel the world at the age I am now and also perform the world’s only Hawaiian opera at the world’s biggest theater festival,” shared junior Leiana Clark.
That pride shines through in all of the students selected to participate. They see the value of representing their Native Hawaiian culture and how important that connection to culture is for their future.
“We’re going, but we’re taking everything, our school, our ʻohana, our Hawaiʻi, we’re representing Hawaiʻi,” shared senior Daylan-Blake Kalaʻi.
“Initially it was like wow, but now it’s like let’s go, it’s on.”
Students will embark on their journey on July 29, with performances scheduled in Scotland on August 5, 8, 9 and 10. For more information on their shows, or interest in getting tickets for any of the performances, visit www.edfringe.com.
See related articles below for more information on this journey, the school’s selection and some of the incredible moments along the way.