By Harold Calipjo – Contrary to popular belief, the performing arts are accessible to everyone. We spend so much time idolizing celebrities and we think to ourselves, “that could never be me.” I’ve always wondered what it would be like to experience what it’s like to be onstage. One problem: I didn’t know where to begin. Who do I talk to? Where do I go? How do I prepare? It was not until my ninth grade year, when I took my first acting class at Farrington High School and met my first drama teacher, Mr. Larry Wayman, that a door opened.
One day, I approached him after school and asked him about any audition opportunities and that’s when he told me about a relatively new summer program called Ohana Arts. I was hesitant at first to try because I had never heard of such a program before. So I did my research and one of the things that definitely stood out to me was that they offered ballet and jazz classes. Also, I saw that the teachers were professionals coming from New York, the Metropolitan Opera, and were graduates of Yale University. I thought to myself, “what do I have to lose?” I decided to take a leap of faith and go to the auditions.
Going in to the audition, I remember my body being riddled with the symptoms of nervousness. I couldn’t stop fidgeting. I was sweating bullets! But there was no turning back at that point. I walked in to the audition room to see a panel of people ready to see what I could do or what I couldn’t do. I was so nervous that my feet were profusely sweating and I had to ask them if I could take my slippers off. I later found out that slippers are not even appropriate footwear for dance. I felt like I bombed my monologue, putting forth a perfect example of what not to do.
Instead of choosing a focal point, I stared into the directors’ eyes. Instead of projecting, I was screaming my lines. For the singing audition, I sang the only Broadway song I knew, “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” a song Mr. Wayman made us learn for warm-ups in his class. Instead of remaining poised, I was dancing all over the place thinking they would pay attention to my choreography instead of my horrible singing. The dance audition was just the cherry on top of my audition calamity. This was especially frustrating because I had a particular affinity for dance and wanted to show the panel some ability. After the audition, I thought to myself, “they are never going to accept me now!”
The interview after the audition was the only thing I did right that day. I remember just telling them, “I want to dance!” That statement sparked my initial discovery of my own unique talent that would make me shine onstage. Later, when I found out I had made it into the program, I couldn’t believe my ears! Despite what I did that day, they still accepted me. I don’t know what it was that they saw in me, but I was just so thankful that someone had finally decided to give me an opportunity.
Ohana Arts was everything I hoped it would be. It felt as if everything that I had ever wanted to learn was being handed to me on a silver platter. One day, I was just a normal boy in Kalihi; the next I was studying ballet with a New York choreographer, learning music from Yale graduates, and learning acting techniques from New York casting director. To add to that, I was able to network with industry professionals through Ohana Arts’ weekly webinars.
The pearl of wisdom that has stuck with me the most from my teachers is to never be afraid and to just give myself the license to go for it. All the techniques and skills are then able to fall into place. My fellow students were also great. I remember during the first week, nobody knew anybody and by the second week, everybody had become close friends. It really amazed me how all of us were able to come together despite our differences. Some of us were older; some of us were younger. Some of us were rich; some of us were not so rich. Some of us could sing. Some of us could dance. Some of us could act. It really didn’t matter. We loved each others’ company and we all loved the arts.
And now here I am, a year later, at the end of my second summer at Ohana Arts, about to perform in two productions. Never in my wildest dreams would I have known that I would be singing “Edelweiss” in front of an audience and being chosen to do several dance solos and features in our musical showcase. It’s amazing to think that talking to Mr. Larry Wayman that day and going for the audition led me to an experience that helped shape me into the person and performer I am today.
I am very happy to share with you all of our experiences and unique journeys through Ohana Arts productions. True Colors is a musical showcase with numbers from musical theatre shows like Rent, Spring Awakening, and Fame, as well as a variety of pop hits and original songs composed by our music and songwriting students. The show also infuses our own personal stories which makes it very relatable and emotional. Footloose needs no introduction. There are two very talented casts, the red cast comprising older leads and the blue cast comprising younger leads. Whichever performance you attend, I’m sure “you’re gonna cut foot loose”!
Harold Calipjo is junior at Farrington High School and a second year student at Ohana Arts. Tickets for True Colors can be purchased at https://truecolors.brownpapertickets.com/. Footloose tickets can be purchased at https://footloose.brownpapertickets.com/. (Edited by Laurie Rubin & Jill Bolstridge)