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by Jaime Ahmed, staff writer
 

Honolulu’s Army Community Theatre kicks off its 65th season on the stage of Richardson Theatre at Fort Shafter. The ACT began in 1942 under the special service program when U.S.

Army Major Maurice Evans was ordered to start a theater program for the troops stationed on or doing R&R (rest and relaxation) in Hawai‘i during World War II. His first play was Hamlet, and Evans played the title role.

Post-war production was spotty until the Vietnam conflict, when, in 1962, Frank Ceci brought in the production of Trial by Jury.

Ceci worked for the special service program which later turned into the recreation division, which still supervises one of Ceci’s staff, Vanita Rae Smith, who came to the islands in 1969, became the third entertainment director for Army Theatre, and brought in such high profile entertainers as Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr., Joe Namath, Charlie Pride, Mickey Gilley, Box Car Willy, the Doobie Brothers, Kansas, and Wayne Newton.

In 1991 Smith assisted with the special program for nonprofit organizations to help rehabilitate more than 700 prisoners from O‘ahu Community Correctional Center.

They used the program to have these individuals construct, build, paint, and decorate the multiple sets for ACTs musicals.

Smith also developed ACT’s current production schedule, alternating four big name musical productions with four less ambitious reader’s theater productions.

Reader’s Theatre, Smith explained, is not like regular theater where the actors memorize their lines. Here they carry their scripts and read their lines, or sometimes stand or sit in a group on a stage and read through the script together.

The actors use a lot of expression in voice and face to help the audience understand what is taking place, since they don’t actually move around the stage.

This season’s first musical production was Once Upon a Mattress, which closed Sept. 22, It starred Honolulu newscaster Tina Shelton and was adapted from the fairy tale The Princess and The Pea.
Fiddler on the Roof, which opens Nov. 15 and plays through Dec. 1, stars TV personality Shari Lynn. In the story, Tevye, a poor dairyman in the Russian village of Anatevka, tries to instill in his five daughters the traditions of his tight-knit Jewish community in the face of the changing social mores and growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia.

Aida, which opens Feb. 28 and plays through March 15, is an update of the Verdi opera, but this version of the Egyptian love story has modern music by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Bye Bye Birdie, which plays May 8 through May 24, is based on the book by Mike Stewart. Inspired by the life of Elvis Presley, it depicts a rock ‘n’ roll star being inducted into the Army.
ACT will audition for roles in Aida Nov. 26,27, and 28 at 7p.m. Bye Bye Birdie auditions will be in March.

The Richardson Theatre curtain opens at 7:30 p.m. for evening performances, 2 p.m. for matinees.
Musical performances admission is $12 and $15 with season tickets $45 and $50. Reader’s Theatre Sunday shows start at 2 p.m. and admission is free.

Tickets are available at the ACT Box Office, by calling 438-4480, or by visiting the Web site at www.squareone.org/ACT.

 

 

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