Lee Cataluna: A Small College Sets The Stage For Big Dreams - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna is a columnist for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at lcataluna@civilbeat.org

On the uncrowded campus nestled near the lush Koolau mountains, a big idea is taking shape.

Hawaii’s first Conservatory of Performing Arts will begin next fall with a class of 16 to 20 students.

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Acting conservatories have names like Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, and California Institute of the Arts. This one will be at Windward Community College.

Here’s the really big news:

The first cohort of students will have their full tuition covered by grants and donations.

Here’s the other really big thing:

The program will be externally accredited by East 15 Acting School of London, which is part of Essex University. When a student completes the year of training at Windward, that work will fulfill the first year of East 15th’s Foundation in Theatre requirement.

It will be possible, then, that a Hawaii kid could go from high school to WCC for a year, and then audition for the prestigious four-year conservatory program in London. This new program sets up that pipeline.

It all started with the dreams of a married couple, Nicolas Logue and Taurie Kinoshita, who love theater and loved their time in London.

“When we were at East 15 in London, we were sad that there was nothing like that school that existed in the islands,” said Logue, who ran the World Performance BA program at East 15.

Logue went to graduate school at UH Manoa. Kinoshita did as well, and she was born and raised in Hawaii. “When we were looking for jobs that would bring us closer to our families, I promised Taurie, I said, ‘Give me a decade. We’ll build something together.’”

Hawaii’s first Conservatory of Performing Arts will begin next fall with a class of 16 to 20 students. Taurie Kinoshita, one of the founders, works with student actors at Paliku theater. Windward Community College

Logue and Kinoshita have worked at WCC since 2012, steadily putting their dream into action. As founders of the Conservatory, she serves as resident director and he is associate professor, education coordinator and de facto grant writer. The WCC campus has the beautiful 300-seat Paliku theater that was initially used mostly as a rental to other theatrical groups. College administrators were eager to grow the theater program on campus to make the best use of their own stage.

A conservatory differs from a traditional college in that the focus is on training professionals to work in the arts as opposed to a “rounded out” liberal arts education meant to prepare a student for research or to teach in an artistic field. Conservatory students are trained to be working artists.

“Most of the best conservatories work to amplify the artists around them and to provide opportunities for their graduates,” Logue said. Logue and Kinoshita envision experienced Hawaii actors teaching their craft, and want to produce theatrical pieces that speak to the Hawaii experience and uplift an authentic aesthetic. “This is a big city. It’s nuts to think we don’t have more professional theatrical opportunities,” Logue said.

Admission to the program is by audition, and appointments for high school seniors to audition are starting to fill up. You can learn how to sign up for the audition here.

“There is an amazing, robust community theater scene in Hawaii. Tons of it.” — Nicolas Logue

Earlier this spring, Kinoshita and Logue produced a play on campus that served as almost a “proof of concept.” All 10 actors in the cast were paid $1,000 for the run of the show, which may not sound like much, but is more than any honorarium paid to actors in community theaters in Hawaii.

“There is an amazing, robust community theater scene in Hawaii. Tons of it. Some of the best. But other than Honolulu Theater for Youth, there’s no professional theater,” Logue said. “So that leaves people who love theater with two choices: either stay in Hawaii and make no money, or move to a big city with no professional experience or credits, and good luck with that.”

Logue, who grew up in New York the son of a doctor and a newspaper editor, contrasts his experience with that of his wife, who grew up on Oahu. “Taurie had to fight hard to have her career. I’m from Buffalo. I had my Equity card at 15. She doesn’t want up-and-coming generations in Hawaii to not have opportunities. This is about equity in arts education.”

Kinoshita talks about theater as an essential to a healthy community: “If you’re young and you love theater and are good at it, if you did theater in high school and it saved your life, if you want to continue with it, what are your choices? Theater can’t be seen as just a hobby. It’s life-changing. It reflects society.”

Graduates of the conservatory generally will pursue one of three pathways: work in theater or film, continue training in a BFA or MFA program, or create their own content, writing and producing their own shows. This is a big idea, too: to have Hawaii people writing and producing Hawaii stories.

“Lots of conservatories claim to do ‘diversity,’ but for us, it’s not an added-feature tacked on. It’s the core of our mission,” Logue said.

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About the Author

Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna is a columnist for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at lcataluna@civilbeat.org

Latest Comments (0)

WCC is a very innovative college! So diverse and moving forward at the right pace!

Richard · 5 months ago

Bravo!! Actors help keep a community together. You have connections with well-off folks even when you're not well off yourself when you join the acting community. It's a win-win for everyone!

Scotty_Poppins · 5 months ago

Such an awesome story during this time when it's so easy to write about doom and gloom.

surferx808 · 5 months ago

Join the conversation


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