Story by Brian Ross
photo by Brad Goda
It is a dark and stormy night. Actor Stephanie Kong stands at the mic reading “A Day in Da Life of a Java Junkie,” by local writer Lisa Linn Kanae. Pretty soon the audience is shaking with laughter at her pitch-perfect pidgin. It’s what happens when a talented actor clicks with a well-crafted story, or in show biz vernacular, “nails it!”
It’s a sellout night (a misnomer since admission is free and no one gets paid) in Hawaii Public Radio’s Atherton Performing Arts Studio, where an enthusiastic audience has gathered for a live taping of Aloha Shorts, a half-hour radio program showcasing local literature read by local actors. The house band, Hamajang, warms up the audience with woozy renditions of local favorites like “Princess Pupule got Plenty Papayas” and “One Meatball” (tonight’s theme: food). Then the actors take the stage. The stories range from quiet tragedy (“Winter Pear” by Susan Nunes) to gastronomical comedy (“Eating Kim Chee” by Nora Okja Keller).
Produced by UH theater grad student Sammie Choy, actor/director Phyllis Look and writer Craig Howes, Aloha Shorts has attracted a small but devoted audience in the five years it’s been on the air. Howes, himself an actor, is a UH English professor with an encyclopedic knowledge of local literature, especially of the stories from Bamboo Ridge Press, which publishes many the of show’s featured authors. “Aloha Shorts performs the works of our most celebrated writers,” says Howes, “as well as those you might otherwise never hear of. The talent here is truly amazing.”
One of the few outlets for local authors, Aloha Shorts’ high quality writing and performances have led to a rash of “driveway moments,” says Look. “You’re listening to something in the car that’s so compelling, you’re stuck sitting there with the ice cream melting in your bag until the reading’s over.”
“I once asked a loyal listener why they tune into the show each week,” says Choy. “And you know what she said? ‘No one’s read to me since I was a little girl, and I really, really, missed it.’”
Aloha Shorts airs on KIPO FM 89.3 every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The show tapes live every first Sunday of the month. For reservations call 808-955-8821.