If you’ve spent time in Chicago you know that it’s the hotbed of improvisational entertainment. The city has dozens of venues for the form. Shannon Winpenny, a Hawaii native, spent ten years in Chicago learning the finer points of Improv at the Second City Conservatory, then performing with acknowledged success. Another Hawaii native and a friend of Shannon’s, Kim Potter, was at the same time attending DePaul University learning Communications and Marketing, then working at the Lincoln Park Zoo where she honed her business skills.
There are two kinds of improv: Short Form and Long Form. Short Form takes a suggestion, then does a quick skit the players make up as they go along, usually working toward a way to pay off the suggested word or phrase as a joke. Long Form starts the same way but takes time to develop characters, situations and emotions – actually one-act plays performed with humor. No two shows are ever alike.
Having performed in Hawaii, Shannon knew that no Long Form was being performed here. She and Kim returned to Hawaii and, as Artistic Director, Shannon started giving classes in Improv. Kim runs the business side. They were surprised when the classes filled up quickly. Along with students and young people, lawyers, politicians, teachers, business people … anyone interested in improving his or her confidence, presence and creativity signed on. Many of the graduates of the class formed groups and looked for venues where they could perform. Shannon and Kim opened a small theater – Laughtrack Theater –in the center of the Arts District in Downtown Honolulu for Improv performances only. With two shows a night on Friday and Saturday evenings, the theater stays busy and is building a following. Shannon trained most of the performers and performs along with one of the groups both nights.
If you’re familiar with Improv, you’ll be more than satisfied with the performances. If you’ve never seen it, you’ll be happily surprised. Pick an agent from the Hawaii-Aloha Web site,(hawaii-aloha.com) or call 1-800-843-8772. We’ll fill you in on all the entertainment that will be available while you’re here and make arrangements for you if you like. Marketing
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April 20th, 2009
It isn’t exactly the nation’s capital or Philadelphia that you’ll be touring here. In the first place, most of Hawaii’s history is oral – passed along from generation to generation and only recently committed to book and electronic recording.
Hawaii has been a state for just 50 years. Almost half the country was alive when Hawaii became a state.
Our monuments are natural ones. In contrast to the Washington Monument, the Seattle Space Needle, the St. Louis Arch and Independence Hall, we offer Diamond Head, Haleakala, the Na Pali Coast and Kilauea Volcano.
But there is a Historic Honolulu to see. It’s more than worthwhile, and it doesn’t take very long to cover – half a day should do it.
The area is on the Waikiki side of Downtown Honolulu. A good place to start is at the statue of Kamehameha, on King Street across from Iolani Palace. It’s a favorite photographic attraction, commemorating King Kamehameha I, who was the warrior who united (some would say conquered) all the islands. The statue is draped with dozens of 30-foot lei in June to celebrate his birthday, which is a state holiday.
Across the street, Iolani Palace is the only royal residence in the United States. It was built in 1822 by King David Kalakaua and was last occupied in 1893 by Queen Lilioukalani, who was deposed. The grounds are pleasant and welcoming, and inside tours can be arranged during which you can witness the furnishings and amenities that prevailed at the time.
In the same area, the Hawaii State Capitol is worth a look, if only for its non-traditional architectural approach. The Hawaii State Art Museum is a beautiful and rewarding stop, and, on the other side of the palace, Honolulu Hale (City Hall) and Kawaiahao Church are eye-catching landmarks.
The Mission Houses, next to the church, were the original headquarters of the Sandwich Islands Mission, are the oldest structures in Honolulu and provide a link to an era of significant cultural change in the islands. Built between 1821 and 1841, the three mission houses that make up the MissionHawaii Vacation Blog – Hawaii Travel Guide, Hawaii News › Edit — WordPress Houses Museum served as homes and workplaces for the first Christian missionaries to travel to the Hawaiian Islands. The Frame House was shipped around Cape Horn from Boston in 1820 and is the oldest wood house in Hawaii. The Chamberlain House, built of coral blocks, was both a family home and storehouse for mission supplies. The third building today functions as the Printing Office. A working replica of the first printing press to be brought to Hawaii is demonstrated there on a regular basis.
You might consider beginning or finishing your tour of the area at Aloha Tower Marketplace. Aloha Tower once was the tallest structure in the islands and served as a welcoming beacon to the visitors who first reached island shores on luxurious passenger liners. The marketplace features lots of unique shops with international labels, Hawaii-made fashions and crafts, some great restaurants and free attractions – right on the water.
It’s not the most exciting history you’ll ever re-live, but it is unique and enjoyable. If you’d like us to help you work a tour into your vacation plans, pick an agent at Hawaii-Aloha.Com, or call 1-800-843-8771.
Posted by Jim Winpenny
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March 24th, 2009
When you vacation on Oahu, the center of attraction is Waikiki. Even if you stay in a remote resort area such as Turtle Bay or Ko Olina, you expect to see some action in Waikiki before you go home. That’s where the glitter and the glamour are.
Downtown gets bypassed way too much, except to perhaps check out the “historic” section on the way to or from Pearl Harbor. Too often you hear remarks such as, “There’s nothing downtown,” and “Don’t go downtown at night.”
It’s a bad rap that originated (with justification) after WWII, when martial law was lifted and military personnel with passes were free to prowl Honolulu streets and businesses sprang up everywhere to satiate their appetites. In the mid-sixties, even though prostitution was illegal by then, lots of shady goings on were tolerated to accommodate the military, the growing merchant marine force and the workers from the plantations. It was a good place for vacationers to avoid.
That’s all changed.
Today, in a tight 12-block area surrounding the Honolulu business district, you can find more than two dozen arts-related businesses and galleries, three live-performance theatres, two performance art venues, an alternative movie theater, and some of Honolulu’s trendiest nightclubs and restaurants. More than 75 ethnic restaurants — the variety is indescribable — dot the surrounding neighborhood. Most of the buildings were built at the end of the19th century.
The linchpin of this renaissance probably has been the Hawaii Theatre Center. The theater itself was built in 1922 as a venue for theater, popular entertainment, and film. In the mid-1930s, it became predominately a popular grand movie palace, and remained such until television arrived in the 1950s. From then it degenerated into what was essentially a foreign porn theater until its closing was announced in 1984. A group of local citizens, with additional funding provided by the Honolulu City & County, raised the funds for the theater’s purchase along with several adjoining properties. In 1986, the center was closed for massive renovation until it was rededicated and re-opened in1996. Now the Hawaii has once again become a popular venue for national touring shows, theater, concerts, film, television; and it’s attracted hundreds of thousands of patrons back through its doors to witness its resurgence as Honolulu’s preeminent venue. Restaurateurs, storeowners, artists, patrons of the arts and Oahu’s residents have caught on and the resurgence is amazing.
Downtown Honolulu has become an experience to plan for.
Posted by Jim Winpenny
Your Blogger’s Side Bar
When we first moved to Honolulu in 1972, my wife Mary and I had business at the downtown courthouse. We knew nothing about Hawaii. I had visited my father here for a few weekends in the 60’s, but had spent most of my time visiting with him at his home, not taking in the sights.
It was mid-afternoon and we wandered through town, poking our heads into shops and sleazy bars, not seeing anything worth lingering to explore. We came across a large corner bar called Bill Lederer’s. Hey, we’d heard of William Lederer! He and Eugene Burdick had written that controversial bestseller, "The Ugly American," about our country’s shoddy diplomacy in Southeast Asia. This place should be pretty classy.
It wasn’t. It was filthy. It smelled of stale beer and urine. For some reason we went to the bar and ordered a couple of beers anyhow. Mary asked for a wet napkin and wiped the sticky space right in front of us. Apparently curious about the suddenly clean surface, a cockroach the size of a half-smoked cigar with six hairy legs skittered to the center of it and seemed to size Mary up. Before I could slap down a five-dollar bill, Mary had made it to the bus stop. Once back at our new apartment, she implored me to move us back to Philadelphia. I promised I would if I ever raised the airfare.
Although most of the offices where I worked were in downtown office buildings, Mary and I avoided entertaining ourselves downtown until well into the 1980s.
December 3rd, 2008
In Downtown Honolulu, a small cluster of houses holds some of Hawaii’s most significant history. Unfortunately, it often is overlooked by visitors whose attention in the area tends to focus on Iolani Palace, Kawaiahao Church, the Kamehameha statue, the state capitol and Chinatown.
The Mission Houses, which were the original headquarters of the Sandwich Islands Mission, are the oldest structures in Honolulu and provide a link to an era of enormous cultural change in the islands. Missionaries from New England began to arrive in Hawaii in 1820 determined to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity.
King Kamehameha II viewed the missionaries with mistrust. He imposed a one-year limit to their stay and confined them this then- barren place between Waikiki and Downtown in which to live. They managed to construct only a few grass huts there, which afforded them little shelter and the dry earth made farming on a large scale impossible.
The Frame House on the grounds was shipped around Cape Horn from Boston in 1820 and is the oldest wood house in Hawaii. The Chamberlain House, built of coral blocks in 1831, was both a family home and storehouse for mission supplies. The third building, also of coral blocks, was completed in 1841. Today, it functions as the Printing Office. A working replica of the first printing press to be brought to Hawaii is demonstrated there on a regular basis.
The missionaries are remembered in two lights. They are respected for having created an alphabet that preserved the Hawaiian language, which had hitherto been spoken and sung only. But it also can be said that their spreading of Christianity contributed to the deterioration of the Hawaiian culture.
Few of the original furnishings have survived, although two large desks from the 1830s (sent to Honolulu from Boston) and a rocking chair still exist. Two hurricane lamps from New England, almost 250 years old, can also be seen.
Tours are available at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Groups of more than six should call (808) 531-0481 for reservations.
If you like, we’ll arrange to include a tour in your Hawaii vacation plans. Pick an agent from our Web site home page (Hawaii-aloha.com), or call 1-800-843-8771.
November 6th, 2008
If you’re going to be on Oahu on any Thursday evening and want something fun to do, you might consider taking part in the Great Honolulu Treasure Hunt. It’s a bedazzling experience that features codex wheels, UV lights and gadgets along with elaborate codes, ciphers, and symbols that will help you discover clues, solve riddles and eventually unlock the secret of the race to reach the end location.
It happens at Aloha Tower — on the harbor in Downtown Honolulu — every Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. The Aloha Tower Marketplace is worth visiting in itself. It’s the only place in the nation to combine a visitor attraction, a myriad of shops, excellent restaurants, and a working commercial harbor facility – all in one place.
Reservations for the Treasure Hunt are required one day in advance. The fifty-dollar price includes some drinks and pupu. You can make reservations at (808) 203-8963, or call Aloha Tower while you’re here.
October 20th, 2008