The Man in the Sculpture Garden April 25, 2013Posted by Kelly in : Entertainment, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
The Man in the Sculpture Garden
In 1969, Henry Bianchini and his family were sailing their trimaran from San Diego to a new life Hawaii. From far out at sea, they saw Kilauea erupt at Mauna Ulu. It wasn’t obvious, at that moment, but the Bianchinis would stay and make their home here, and Henry – Hank to his friends – would become one of the Big Island’s most respected and successful artists.
He works in many media. As a painter, he does oil portraits and abstracts on canvas. As a sculptor, he works in ceramics, wood, stone and cast concrete, not only carving individual pieces but joining them in assemblages and collages. And as a metal-worker in bronze and steel, he employs heavy machinery and wields a welding torch to make both sculptures for display and artistic but utilitarian pieces such as driveway gates. His studio is almost as big as his house, and behind them both is a half-acre backyard sculpture garden that is also his largest gallery.
Some of his works are whimsical and abstract, like “Enlightening the Spirit,” installed at Ha’aheo Elementary School, near Hilo; or “Rain Woman,” which is in a private collection. Others, like his statue of Hawaii’s King Kalakaua, installed in downtown Hilo’s eponymous Kalakaua Park, are life-size and naturalistic.
“Rain Woman” stands in a private collection, overlooking Hilo.
Still others mix the figurative with the imaginative, as he showed last month when he unveiled his latest grand-scale work. It was commissioned by a longtime patron in Los Angeles who wanted a sculpture, in his late wife’s memory, to be installed at his synagogue. Called “A Plea for Peace,” it incorporates symbolic Hebrew letters into the figures whose arms are raised to plea.
“A Plea for Peace” has been installed in a Los Angeles synogogue.
Making it, took Bianchini back to 1941, when he was six, on St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. His father was an Italian-American from New Jersey, serving in the U.S. Navy, and married to a Moroccan Jew from what was then called Palestine. When Nazi submarines started prowling the Caribbean, his and other service families were evacuated; so he has long had empathy for families who were lost elsewhere, in the war, and how important it is, still, to remember.
Sculptor Henry Bianchini with his new work, “A Plea for Peace.”
It wasn’t his family’s first or last move: before Hawaii, he’d lived in New Jersey, San Diego, even the Canadian province of Newfoundland. “Maybe it’s because we moved around a lot when I was a kid,” he said, “but in my art, I tend to skip the details and go straight to the essence. I look at everything, at the big picture, which is why my sculptures are typically simple. I have to describe myself as an ‘artist,’ but that word is inadequate. I’m multi-layered and adaptable.”
If you ask him about the key influences on his art, he’ll respond: “Picasso and Matisse – but that doesn’t say it all. I could get into specifics about the periods in those artists’ creative lives that inspired me – the years when they were the bridges between Post-Impressionism and Modernism. But that doesn’t say enough, either. Maybe it’s better to say my art is a kind of jazz.” (In his youth he did, in fact, try playing jazz saxophone, but quickly realized that his real talents were in the visual arts.) “I say jazz, meaning improvising on a theme,” he explained. “Where it starts – the inspiration – and where it ends – the finished work – is what I see in its entirety.”
There’s more about Henry Bianchini, and photos of his works, at www.henrybianchiniart.com.
What’s So Funny About Nuns? February 7, 2013Posted by Kelly in : Entertainment, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND, Upcoming Events , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
What’s So Funny About Nuns?
Everybody knows that “Broadway” means big theatrical extravaganzas, but in New York, “off-Broadway” shows are smaller productions in smaller theaters or even cabarets. Now, one of the most famous and popular of off-Broadway shows is coming to the Big Island. It’s the outrageous, hilarious (and slightly irreverent) musical “Nunsense.” Performances start February 8th at the Kilauea Theater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through February 23rd.
As you might expect, “Nunsense” is about Catholic nuns, five of them, and they are in a pickle. Nearly all of the sisters in their convent have perished accidentally, and the survivors decide to stage a variety show to raise money so they can bury them. To put the best face on their predicament, they tap into their inner divas, singing, dancing, and – not always intentionally – clowning around.
Producer-Director Suzi Bond is a bundle of energy who regularly presents two musicals a year at the Kilauea Theater. One is typically for and with children, such as “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast” (which is coming up this summer); the other offers more grownup fare, such as “The Fantasticks” and the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Three of the five “nuns” are well-loved veterans of Suzi’s shows: in last year’s “Cinderella,” Stephanie Becher, Erin Gallagher and Christina Hussey were (respectively) the stepmother and the two ugly stepsisters. Kathy Frankovic has sung in two musicals at Hilo’s Palace Theater, including “The Music Man” in which Corey Yester was Marian the Librarian.
To say “Nunsense” is a theater classic is an understatement. The original New York production ran for nine years – it’s the third-longest-running off-Broadway show ever. It spawned a couple of spinoffs, and is widely performed all over the world in twenty different languages. The reasons for its success go beyond its hilarity: there’s sympathy for the sisters’ lifestyle as well as their predicament, and there is quite a lot of interaction with the audience, in both expected and unexpected ways.
Kathy plays the Mother Superior and says – with a hint of what her character will do in the name of show-business – “It’s falling-down funny!”
Tickets are $15; students and seniors pay $12; children $10. Advance sales are available at the Kilauea General Store in Volcano, Kea’au Natural Foods in the Kea’au Shopping Center, and at Paradise Plants and The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo. For reservations and more information, phone 982-7344.
See Us at the Movies September 5, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Entertainment, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , 2comments
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
See Us at the Movies
Most people know that South Pacific and From Here to Eternity were filmed on Kauai and Oahu, respectively. But while the Big Island isn’t widely famous as a backdrop for movies, quite a few have been shot – or have had scenes shot – here.
The first were silent pictures, like The Hidden Pearls (1918) and The White Flower (1923), with backdrops of Kilauea Volcano. When talkies came in, Four Frightened People (1934) was shot in Hilo; Hawaiian Buckaroo (1938) on the Parker Ranch in Waimea; and Song of the Islands (1942) in Puna – though, sadly, its Kapoho and Kalapana locations have since been covered by lava.
Those films are obscure today, and hard to find, even on Turner Classic Movies. Later films with Big Island scenes are better-known. Kona Coast (1968) a melodrama starring Richard Boone, was shot almost entirely (you guessed it) in and around Kailua-Kona. Black Widow (1985), a mystery-thriller, followed stars Debra Winger and Theresa Russell to Kona, to Volcano, and to the office blocks of downtown Hilo.
More often, though, the Big Island stands in for imaginary or faraway places. Waterworld (1994), a science-fiction epic set in a future where the oceans had risen and swamped the continents, was shot looking seaward from the harbor at Kawaihae. The longest car-chase in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), ostensibly taking place in South America, was actually filmed in Puna, along a private road near Kea’au. And a gender-bent version of The Tempest (2010), starring Helen Mirren, used bleak West Hawaii lava fields and lush East Hawaii parks for the surreal landscapes of Shakespeare’s magical isle.
Only a small part of The Descendants (2011) was shot on the Big Island: a drive along the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, and a visit to the Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea. (The rest was filmed on Oahu and Kauai.) But the movie is widely acknowledged, here in the Islands, to be the most realistic depiction of everyday life in Hawaii — at least, among prosperous kama’aina haoles — that Hollywood has ever produced.
Japanese tourism is big business here, so it should not be surprising that Japanese studios make movies here, too. The historical drama Picture Bride (1993) was set in 1918, and filmed on the Hamakua Coast; and Honoka’a Boy (2008), filmed in and around (yes) Honoka’a, went on to win four Japanese cinema awards.
Some television programs have been made here too, including a segment of the 2001 season of The Amazing Race that brought globetrotting contestants to Kona, and a week’s worth of the game show Wheel of Fortune in 2008, taped at a South Kohala resort. The only TV series ever entirely shot and set here on the Big Island was Roseanne’s Nuts (2011), a “reality” show about comedienne Roseanne Barr on her macadamia farm near Honoka’a.
Are you interested in making cinema or video here? Contact John L. Mason, commissioner of the Big Island Film Office, headquartered in Kailua-Kona. Besides keeping a list of locally-shot films, his office has a photo archive of prospective locations, maintains a database of local resources for equipment, crew and support services, and helps producers expedite the permit process.
The Palace Gets a New Crown August 14, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Big Island Hawaii, Entertainment, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
The Palace Gets a New Crown
A new roof is going on the Palace Theater, but most folks won’t notice because the shape will stay the same. Hilo’s last surviving “picture palace” retains much of its original 1925 appearance, from the neon sign over Haili St. to the Art Deco tiles and paint jobs in the lobby and the auditorium.
The Palace is one of three movie theaters in Hilo. There’s an eight-screen multiplex in the mall at Prince Kuhio Plaza, for 3D and mega-hits, though also for live HD broadcasts of Broadway shows and opera from the Met in New York. And there’s the Kress multiplex, downtown on Kalakaua St. where half a dozen films go after they’ve run at the mall, for only $1.50! (The next-closest theater showing movies on a regular basis is the People’s Theater, a 40-mile drive up the Hamakua Coast, in Honokaa.)
The Palace is something of an “art house” most of what’s screened are independent productions and foreign-language films, and prices fall between the mall’s and Kress’s. Surfing movies draw big crowds to The Palace, and so do outdoor and conservation pics. A special treat at The Palace, once or twice a year, is the opportunity to see a silent movie from the ‘20s, accompanied – as it was then – by an enormous pipe organ, for The Palace is home to the only surviving theater organ in Hawaii.
But films aren’t all you can see at The Palace. A 45-minute stage show called “Hawaiiana Live” is performed every Wednesday at 11 a.m., free of charge; it’s popular with visitors, and many local folks take visiting family, to get a taste of Hawaiian mele (song) and hula (dance).
Annual festivals and unique performances are also in The Palace’s calendar. In any given month there might be a classical music series showcasing young performers, a celebration of Taiko drums, a recital by the Puna Men’s Chorus . . . even an organ concert.
And every October, the Palace hosts the Fall Musical, a production of the local theatrical community. Past shows include “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and – coming up this Fall – “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”
As I was saying, The Palace still has much of its original charm . . . but it also some of its aging infrastructure. Earthquake-bracing, modern sprinklers, and other code- and safety work has been done, so now it’s the roof’s turn. The materials will be new, but the new roof will keep the same familiar shape. It’s all thanks to historic-preservation grants, and to donations made to the “Crown” Project by local theater-goers, through the not-for-profit Friends of the Palace Theater [www.hilopalace.com].
Hooray for them!
Not Your Father’s “Five-O” July 17, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Entertainment , add a comment
[Image Caption: On location with Hawaii Five-0! Photo Credit: E-PR for CBS]
The setup is unchanged: “Five-O” is a plainclothes state police unit, with gubernatorial immunity for whatever they have to do to apprehend criminal masterminds and forestall catastrophes. The execution too is the same: locations and car chases are all about Oahu’s tropical scenery, not its GPS coordinates – wherever they say they’re going, they’re not driving toward it. (And there’s no state police, either: each of the counties operates its own police force).
What’s changed since the ‘70s are the dynamics of the main characters. Gone is Jack Lord’s deadpan, by-the-book team leader. Alex O’Loughlin’s version of “Steve McGarrett” is an ex-Navy Seal, haunted by a family tragedy, and quick to disregard limits and warnings. He does, of course, still tell his sidekick to “Book ‘em, Danno!” But “Lt. Danny Williams” (Scott Caan) is no quiet yes-man: he’s a bantam-rooster from Jersey, in a non-stop gab-fest with McGarrett. So intense is their repartee that, in one episode, they confused and thereby overpowered a gunman who had the drop on them. “Chin Ho Kelly” (Daniel Dae Kim) and “Kono” (Grace Park) are now cousins – the former a tech-savvy stud, and the latter a slender surfer-girl; both, however, are erstwhile Honolulu cops who have occasionally run afoul of the law. And since CSI-type shows are all the rage, a nerdy medical examiner (Masi Oka) is a series regular, too.
[Photo Caption: Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho) and company receive a blessing prior to beginning production on Season 3! Photo Credit CBS]
The new show has yet to do any major filming on the Big Island, though in 1974 its predecessor did set an episode here, featuring a mad scientist who threatened to detonate explosives that would cause the volcano to erupt and bury Hilo in lava. (Mauna Loa has, historically, sent lava down to Hilo, but no man-made explosion could force it to do so.)
In addition to sheer size, the Big Island has two unique attractions that that might inspire Five-O’s writers to weave a plot. One of our three active volcanoes (Kilauea) is erupting; and astronomical observatories cluster at the summit of Mauna Kea. In Hawaii we say “Hana hou” for “encore;” and the third season of the new Five-O has already begun shooting. Perhaps, come September, we’ll see some Big Island sights ….