King Kekaulike high school opened in 1995. Part of the original construction plans included an auditorium theater. However, due to high construction costs, the theater was scratched. In 2005, former principal and staunch supporter of the arts, Susan Scofield, and former Drama teacher, Carolyn Johnson, began a campaign for a Performing Arts Center. “Arts for all!” was the motto. There were speeches before visiting legislators and the Board of Education, strategizing among the Fine Arts department and parent groups, trips to Oahu to visit other high school theaters. Susan and Carolyn enlisted US House Representative Kyle Yamashita (District 12), who became extremely active in the campaign. Other heavy players in the early part of the campaign were Toby Neal, Maddy Powell, Dana Hartley, Ashley Ventimiglia, Rob Harper-O’Connor, Melanie Seaton Goodin, the PACT team, Drama Mamas, and KKHS teachers and staff. When legislators visited the King Kekaulike High School campus, Susan wanted to showcase the drama program in their limited performance space. Legislators were led outdoors to see a performance, and then into the acoustically challenged cafetorium to hear Drama club president Corinne Powell’s impassioned plea, which was featured in The Maui News in Fall 2005. It all resulted in a petition drive that gathered close to 5,000 signatures. Representative Yamashita now had a focused response he could take to the legislature, and in 2008, funding was approved for the surveying! And the push continued. In 2008, Carolyn Johnson retired, and Chris Kepler took the reigns of the Kekaulike Drama program. Over the last 10 years, the King Kekaulike Dramaaticans have produced 25 plays and 10 full-length musicals, with the last five featuring a full student orchestra under the direction of Casey Nagata (KKHS Music/Band teacher). Currently, there are 129 students enrolled in Acting and Play Production classes and 106 in the extracurricular Drama club. And the band plays at well over 100 events a year!
The KKHS Performing Arts Center will serve generations of Maui students. Current principal, Mark Elliot, is intent on his vision of a technical theatre academy, in which students are immersed and educated in modern theater technology. The center will also host assemblies, band and music concerts, ceremonies, and, in time, with its cohort of student crew and a facilities manager, be available for private entities to hire.
We thank everyone who has pushed for this exquisite space. And we celebrate a triumph for the arts. Arts For All!!!!
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“It was “among the happiest I’ve seen a group of young people in my life,” Elliott said.
Some students cried; others jumped for joy.
“It was one of the happiest days I had as an educator, seeing the look on those kids’ faces,” Elliott said. “They have been excited for years.”
“It was (like) Christmas at 5 years old and Santa just showed up.”
“It was like our first maiden voyage in there,” Kepler joked, alluding to the pirate-themed musical set to christen the new theater. “They were filled with glee, gratitude and honor for sure.”
“Lot of chicken-skin moments,” Kepler said.