By Ilene Hubbs
I hope most readers are aware of an innovative socially conscious theater that is getting rave reviews for their performances. Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company has been around since 2004 playing at various venues, including the first theater to be chosen as the inaugural resident theater company at La Jolla Playhouse. Now Mo`olelo has found a home at the 10th St. Theater in East Village, and the latest play, “26 Miles” is about to open.
The theater‘s mission is to “Create” by researching and uncovering stories from within different communities and bringing them to life on the stage, to “Produce” original stories by contemporary playwrights and lesser known stories by master playwrights and to “Educate” youth in technical theater and design, exposing them to potential careers and grooming a new generation of theater artists so they can tell stories on stage with integrity. Mo`olelo is the Hawaiian word for story and each of the plays performed has an interesting and thoughtful story to tell. Through this mission Mo`olelo provides a voice for diverse and underrepresented populations and issues, and by collaborating with many different groups a dialogue is generated.
“26 Miles” is the story of a half- Cuban, half-Jewish 15 year-old girl, living with her father and step-mother, who is kidnapped by her estranged mother, and begins a cross country journey to search for antiques, buffalo and each other. If it sounds intriguing it’s certainly that. It’s yet another story that fits with all of the critically acclaimed plays that Mo`olelo has produced through the years. Audiences can be heard leaving the shows chatting with each other about the thought provoking subject matter and the talent of the actors hired to perform. The actors like working with Mo`olelo because, unlike some theaters in San Diego, actors are paid equity wages whether they belong to the union or not. This reflects a strong commitment to the belief that professional resident artists will help make our city a nationally competitive arts scene and improve the quality of life for all people of our vibrant community.
Mo`olelo’s founder and artistic director Seema Sueko is an award winner herself. She has garnished awards as an actress, writer and director, including her award winning role as Jennifer in The Old Globe’s production of “The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow.” Under her direction Mo`olelo has received many honors including San Diego Magazine’s Best New Theater in 2006. In keeping with the socially conscious role this theater has assumed, a Green Theater Choices Toolkit was developed by Mo`olelo. From the woods, paints, dyes and energy used to the seasonal nature of theater, the industry is consistently creating toxic waste at a high rate with each production. In recognition of this problem, and as a natural extension of socially-conscious principles, Mo`olelo developed a greening initiative and toolkit in January 2007. Theaters all over the country soon became aware contacting Mo`olelo for advice and guidance.
Good theater is an experience that makes us feel. Emotions can run the gamut from joy to sorrow, from hope to hopeless, from fear to anger. The important thing is to experience these human feelings as we walk out of the darkened theater into the light of our own individual emotions. Mo`olelo’s plays have always done that for me. I fully expect “26 Miles” to be another hit. To find out more or order tickets visit www.moolelo.net. This production runs from September 29 – October 23 and is usually a sell-out.
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