A 'nite' to remember - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper Page 1 of 8
April 22, 2005
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Subscribe NOW! • Curtain still calls: Breaking out in song or whatevah
• Shakespeare in pidgin renders culture fo' all
keywords • Who's who in 'wateva'
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
Classifieds Terence Knapp, an actor and director, vividly
recalls the day James Grant Benton, then a
Back Issues comedian and actor, banged on his office door
at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, shouting,
Nation/World News "Eh, you Shakespeare's wallah (guardian or
Movie Showtimes protector) of Hawai'i?"
Photo Gallery Chi Ho Law plays Sir Andy Waha Commercial
Special Projects It was 1970. Knapp was then, as he remains (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), half of Construction
a comic Chinese duo, in "twelf
Columnists today, an eminent Shakespeare wizard. Superintendent
nite 'o WATEVA" at the Kennedy
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Help Page "Jim had been in 'Hair' in Las Vegas for 15
Contact Us Photos by Rebecca Breyer • The
months and was very curious about me and Honolulu Advertiser Manager
E-mail News Alerts Shakespeare," said Knapp, reflecting on
Reader Services Benton. "So much so that he begged me, in All Top Jobs
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do an informal Shakespeare seminar."
That, in essence, was the day "twelf nite o'
WATEVA" was born. A cadre of innocent,
inexperienced student actors would gather in
Knapp's office and talk story, do dialects and From left, Jabez Armodia, Alvin
Chan and Chi Ho Law rehearse
explore Elizabethan cadence, not initially while Anji Scalf adjusts a
anticipating a rewrite of the Bard. But from costume. The play, by the late
James Grant Benton, originally
such a simple beginning, Benton put the pidgin featured members of the
A 'nite' to remember - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper Page 2 of 8
spin on "Twelfth Night or What You Will," comedy troupe Booga Booga.
This production, says Terence
lovingly transforming it into local lingo. Knapp, has "lovely new talent."
The rest is local history.
Using the original script he has cherished since,
Knapp, 73, an emeritus professor of drama and
theater at UH, will restage "WATEVA"
starting tonight on the Kennedy Theatre's main
stage, where the odyssey began. The revival is
doubly significant: It will be Knapp's ultimate From left, Armodia and Jamy
Torres bring aloha humor and
homage to Benton and also his swan song — attire to Benson's take on
the nightcap to a bountiful 35-year run at Shakespeare. The production will
be the last directed by Terence
Kennedy Theatre. Knapp at Kennedy Theatre.
"It's my sayonara production, and as I thought
about retirement, I figured it would be lovely to 'TWELF NITE O' WATEVA'
restage 'WATEVA' to remember Jim," said
Knapp. James Grant Benton's adaptation
of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night
or What You Will."
Benton, of course, was one of the pillars of
Booga Booga, the local-comedy trio with Ed Opens at 8 p.m. today; repeats
at 8 p.m. Saturday (interpreted
Ka'ahea and the late Rap Reiplinger. Benton in sign language for the deaf), at
died of an apparent heart attack May 28, 2002, 8 p.m. Thursday and April 29-30,
and at 2 p.m. May 1
at age 53. His ingenious and often irreverent
creation has never dimmed — it was the little Kennedy Theatre
play that could, would, and did change local
theater considerably, a labor of love not lost on $15 general; $12 seniors,
military, UH faculty and staff;
the generation of playwrights that would follow $10 students; $3 UH-Manoa
"I do think James Grant Benton was a kupuna etickethawaii.com
for many of the Hawai'i playwrights who came
after," said Lee Cataluna, who writes plays Also: Pre-show chat with
using local characters and lingo and is also an
Tony Pisculli, R. Kevin Doyle and
Advertiser columnist. "His work, with Booga Harry Wong III at 7 p.m.
Booga and on his own, was really Saturday and with Terence
Knapp at 7 p.m. April 30; "Bard's
groundbreaking stuff. For a lot of future local Birthday Bash," 6 p.m. Sunday,
writers, it was the first time we even Kennedy Theatre main stage;
considered the possibility that local characters,
dialogue and story lines could take to the stage. From Bard to Bruddah
Theater wasn't just about Oklahoma or New
Here's a look at how James Grant
York or Merrie Olde England." Benton translated Shakespeare's
English into pidgin English.
Or, as Harry Wong III, artistic director of
Kumu Kahua, the theater group that regularly
showcases plays with local themes and pidgin, Orsino, Duke of Illyria: "O, she
puts it: "The play definitely made its impact. that hath a heart of that fine
A 'nite' to remember - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper Page 3 of 8
It's true, in Shakespeare's time, that To pay this debt of love but to a
Shakespeare knew his audience, so he set
'Twelfth Night' in Italy, but he made references How will she love when the rich
to places and streets in England, knowing his golden shaft
audience would get it. You start with, 'Oh, let's
Hath kill'd the flock of all
go pick up some girls; where should we go, affections else
Hotel Street?' Professor Knapp and James
Grant Benton were feeding off that, making the That live in her; when liver,
brain and heart,
play more accessible."
These sovereign thrones, are all
Lisa Matsumoto, author of and actress in a supplised and fill'd,
trilogy of "Once Upon One Time" pidgin
Her sweet perfections, with one
English musicals that explore classic fairy self king!
tales, said she remembers seeing "twelf nite"
after working on a few of her early shows. She Away before me to sweet beds
loved the notion of adapting the Bard.
Love-thoughts lie rich when
"It was a wonderful translation and I especially canopied with bow'rs."
love the idea of 'localizing' Shakespeare and
Benton's version (as seen on the
'bringing him home,' " she said. "Shakespeare's TGIF cover page):
work is well-suited for pidgin, especially with
all of his diverse and colorful characters. Amalu: "Ho, shucks, she wit one
fine heart going give all her
aloha to one bruddah dat already
said aloha! If she going keep dis
"Terence Knapp ... used to have me do up, she for sure going lose all da
Shakespeare monologues in pidgin so that I love dat she get in her. Auwe!
What a waste. All dat fo one
could better 'connect' with the character and dead bruddah. Alika, take me
essence of the scene, way back when I was an away and bury me in one bed of
pikake, cause love-thoughts are
acting student. I found it to be an extremely sick when covered wit flowers."
helpful, not to mention fun, exercise. And I'm
sure that also influenced my work with pidgin adaptations."
But the Benton pidgin concoction, with its local ingredients and flavors,
didn't happen overnight, said Knapp.
"We would sit in my office, with readings of the play, doing scenes in
English, regional accents or dialects, like Cockney or Scots or Welsh, and
none were awfully good," he recalled. "Even the Texan. We met regularly.
All most could imitate was Scarlett O'Hara, and when I suggested pidgin,
the students all said, 'Teachers don't like it.' Well, I told them, bugger the
school teacher; I'm in charge here. It was enormous fun."
In 1974, Knapp had scooted off to Japan to do a Japanese production of
"Twelfth Night," called "Junniya," which won a critics' award. It featured a
Beatles-type band on stage, with costumes that had Carnaby Street origins.
That radical version didn't rattle his cage, but when he returned from that
trip, Knapp was confronted with "a heavy parcel of paper from Jim, who
said, 'Oh, dis for you, and we have to do it.' It was his adaptation of 'Twelfth
A 'nite' to remember - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper Page 4 of 8
Night,' and I told him, 'I have three productions already.' "
As it turned out, the show was mounted during the Christmas season as a
Lab Theatre production, with Ka'ahea, then a student of Knapp's, and
Benton, also a student convert, finagling further comedic participation from
their Booga buddy Reiplinger.
"You can imagine what a wonderful experience that was," said Knapp. "I
was so happy, we took it to the Leeward side. Audiences had so much fun I
thought the walls would cave in."
Knapp, the Shakespeare wizard, said Benton had it all down pat.
"He was terribly true to Shakespeare's plot," said Knapp. "He did not amend
any circumstance in the play, and that's why I consented to do it with him.
He respected character; he did have delightfully persuasive Hawaiian
Where his original was blessed by the presence of the Booga Booga
ensemble, Knapp is greeting "lovely new talent. ... I have my fingers crossed
and am hopeful this will all work out," he said. "We have 'ukulele players,
even hula. We wanted to add 'Livin' on Easy,' that hapa-haole song, and
were hard-pressed to find the right version, and thanks to Donald Yap and
Wisa D'Orso, we have it now."
Knapp said the "WATEVA" revival has the blessing of Deborah Benton, the
author's widow, who plans to attend with members of the family.
"She did tell me, when I got the consent to do the show again, that this early
version is the one he really loved best. Along the way, some changes were
made. I know nothing about those. I originally directed with the script I
Curiously, "Twelfth Night" is Knapp's all-time Shakespeare favorite.
"It's the play I love best, because it's the first performance I gave, in 1954 in
Liverpool, where Brian Epstein (who found and managed The Beatles early
on) was just around the corner," he said. "I played one of the clowns, Feste
(a servant), so the play is close to my heart. I've directed it three times (not
including the pidgin version), and it's a delightful comedy, with the touch of
the Marx Brothers, with really silly people doing silly things, conveying to
the audience the lunacy of life. It's all about falling in love, wanting to love,
willing to love."
He was moved to re-stage the play when he attended
Benton's funeral in 2002. And the intent was to bring
the work full cycle, back to the Kennedy stage, where
it all began.
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This production will be a lot more elegant than the
humble original. "Joe Dodd has done a stunning set;
Sandra Finney is designing the costumes. The look
and feel will be like the late '20s, early '30s Matson
liner menu — very nice," said Knapp.
His original text was so beaten up and faded, Knapp
had a secretary "who went blind typing it up."
Playwright James Grant
Benton, in hat, had the He still treasures the original and said "it has
role of Prince Amalu in historical value. It will go into the archives, when I
the original Kennedy
Theatre production of take my papers, my photos, and five scrapbooks
"twelf nite." covering 35 years, with cuttings (newspaper
articles) ... to close the book."
Reach Wayne Harada at firstname.lastname@example.org, 525-8067 or
Curtain still calls: Breaking out in song or whatevah
"WATEVA" wraps up his life as a director — for
now, anyway — but Terence Knapp still has a lot on
his plate as he moves into retirement from his
University of Hawai'i teaching job.
He's winding up his three courses in voice production,
a Shakespeare seminar on studying plays and one on
monologues and auditions, along with his graduate-
level course on classic "great" roles, but he's also
prepping for the "Bard Bash XXXV: Shakespeare's What's ahead for retiring
Birthday," at 6 p.m. Sunday at Kennedy Theatre. Terence Knapp? A lot.
"I don't have energy anymore for a 60-hour work week, nonstop, but there
are certain things I'd still like to do, things I haven't had time for," said
Knapp. "Like Chekov, in recital form, like a reading company with scripts. I
don't want to memorize anything anymore.
"And I'd like to sing, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter and such in an 'Evening
With Terence Knapp' kind of a thing. Maybe with a guest artist, and
certainly with Donald Yap, with whom I did Fagin in 'Oliver!' and he was
m.d. (musical director). Donald is so brilliant."
As an emeritus professor, he will maintain an office at the Kennedy Theatre,
so he won't be totally retired.
And he'll perform in Diamond Head Theatre's 90th anniversary fund-raiser
A 'nite' to remember - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper Page 6 of 8
April 30 at the Wai'alae Country Club, singing "How to Handle a Woman"
from "Camelot" while Beverly Noa dances, and help judge the National
Society of Arts & Letters' "Acting for Comedy" event May 20.
Shakespeare in pidgin renders culture fo' all
They kibitzed and huddled backstage at Kennedy
Theatre Monday night, primping before mirrors,
fidgeting with their costumes, singing hapa-haole
It was loose and casual, with mana'o to spare, as
actors whipped out guitars and 'ukulele and shuffled
into party mode. The 'ohana spirit helped ease
nervousness. It was all part of the drill, as students
Kelcie Awo plays Honey
Boy and Lahela in "twelf prepared for the first dress rehearsal of James Grant
nite o' WATEVA" at Benton's "twelf nite o' WATEVA," premiering tonight
with Terence Knapp at the helm.
"I wasn't going to audition," said Noelle Poole, 27, who plays Princess
Mahealani (the equivalent of Olivia), in the local adaptation of the
Shakespearean comedy. "But it's Terry's last show. I had to do it. I'm
comfortable with the character's love for everyone and how she easily falls
After a pause, she added: "And I'm sure he's up there, watching." The "he" is
Benton, the late comedian-actor-playwright, in whose memory the show is
being staged. He put the pidgin spin on Shakespeare; most of the cast have
heard his name, know of him particularly through the Booga Booga legacy,
but have never seen Benton on stage or in a previous "twelf nite."
Troy Apostol, 32, cast as Malolio (Malvolio), was invited by Knapp to join
the cast after they worked together in the Bard's "Much Ado About
"I was apprehensive at first ... about the pidgin," said Apostol. "The last
pidgin show I did was well over a decade ago. But I can relate to the
character — the uptightness, the theme of unrequited love — and while I
didn't experience Benton, my uncles and aunties still talk about and
remember him. I'm having great fun."
Kelcie Awo, 18, a University of Hawai'i freshman from Wai'anae, is making
her Kennedy debut as Lahela (Viola), the character also disguised as Honey
Boy. "I can relate: When I was little, I was such a tomboy," she said. "I
think I wanted to be a boy and used to play with the boys. So I cut my (long)
hair to look more butch."
A 'nite' to remember - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper Page 7 of 8
Chi Ho Law, 23, originally from Hong Kong, and Alvin Chan, also 23,
adore their comedic banter as stereotypical Sir Andy Waha (Sir Andrew
Aguecheek) and Count Opunui (Toby Belch), respectively. Knapp altered
the Filipino and Hawaiian original roles to create a Chinese duo.
"The fact that Benton made Shakespeare accessible to a local crowd is
great," said Chan about the pidgin transformation and his reshaped nose. "I
was told I had to look a little different, they gave me a fake nose. And this
really is an ensemble effort; there is no leading character. It's fun."
Law said "pidgin was not something I was really into" because of his Hong
Kong heritage, but that living in Hawai'i for the past decade (he graduated
from Saint Louis) exposed him to the lingo.
Knapp lords over the rehearsal like a proud papa.
"I think Troy is just perfect," he said of Apostol's stage presence. "I saw
Olivier (Laurence Olivier) do this role, and Troy's as good, maybe better,"
said Knapp. "I know Jim's peeking over my shoulder — and smiling."
The lines are classic, in the Booga Booga tradition.
Prince Amalu (Orsino) utters lines such as "not too sweet, not too rancid,
but just right" and "My love for her is deeper than Hanauma Bay ... and
more beautiful than the sunset at Makaha."
In the maiden voyage of the play, Benton portrayed Prince Amalu, Ed
Ka'ahea was Opunui and Rap Reiplinger was Lope.
"It was a dream cast," said Knapp.
WHO'S WHO IN ‘WATEVA'
Bard's original Benton's take Played by
Orsino Prince Amalu D.J. Wilkie
Attendant Kawika/Constable Jay Castillo
Attendant Alika/Constable Jordan Cairos
Viola Lahela Kelcie Awo
Olivia Princess Mahealani Noelle Poole
Malvolio Malolio Troy Apostol
Toby Belch Count Opunui Alvin Chan
Sir Andrew Aguecheek Sir Andy Waha Chi Ho Law
Feste Lope Jabez Armodia
Maria Kukana Jamy Torres
Fisherman/priest Fisherman/priest Travis Tamashiro
Fabian Kohala Savada Gilmore
Sebastian Loka Frank Katasse
Antonio Koa Daniel Nishida