Your pal Louis here coming at you with more tales from Folger Theatre‘s own Gravedigger’s Tale, currently touring the nation alongside Folger Shakespeare Library’s excellent exhibition, First Folio: The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare.
It’s been a wild ride so far, and recently got even more wild. I have just returned from Hawai’i, where I performed in conjunction with the Hawai’i Book & Music Festival and Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
My host in Hawai’i, Mark Lawhorn, who is a Professor in the English Department, a sometime actor and true Shakespeare aficionado, created a beautiful exhibition to accompany the Folio, called Shakespeare Comes To Hawaii. I posted some pictures of the treasures he gathered over at the Folger Spotlight blog – click here to have a look at those.
Bust of Shakespeare wearing the traditional ku kui nut lei.
Everybody I met in Hawaii, in conjunction with Gravedigger’s Tale and the Folio exhibition, was sweet and kind, welcoming, and incredibly enthusiastic about the work of Shakespeare. There were plenty of Q&A sessions, recitations and long conversations over cocktails. The whole thing was an absolute delight.
For now, though, I’d like to share some images from the trip, just to put things into context and, let’s be honest, to show off a little bit. My life doesn’t permit many vacations, so thankfully, work took me to this magical place…and left me with a few spare days to myself.
I should mention at this point that performing in Hawai’i was something of a milestone for me: it represents the completion of my 20 year quest to perform in all 50 U.S. states. Now I just need to get to Puerto Rico and Guam!
And so…here are some pics!
Here’s a greeting at the Honolulu International Airport. “Aloha” is a word one hears frequently and it means something like “hello,” “goodbye,” and “peace, compassion and mercy” all at once.
My hosts, Mark and Lynne Lawhorn, put me up on the 27th floor of this beautiful building on Waikiki Beach. Not much one for heights, I finally adjusted to the stomach-churning vertigo…assisted by some pretty spectacular views of the city.
It didn’t hurt that this stretch of Waikiki Beach was a five minute walk from the apartment building. In the background, one can see the volcanic ash cone known as Diamond Head, one of O’ahu’s most recognizable landmarks. In Hawai’ian, Diamond Head is known as “Le’ahi,” deriving from “lae” for “cliff” or “promontory,” and “ahi” for “tuna,” because to some, the ridge resembles a tuna’s dorsal fin. Trivia!
Another option for aquatic travel. I believe this is some manner of over-sized floating tricycle vehicle for four passengers. I did not attempt this.
One thing I found is that Hawai’ians are fiercely proud of any native son or daughter who finds success on the mainland and abroad. One such native son was popular singer and musician Don Ho, who has this street in Waikiki named for him. Most active in the mid to late 1960’s, Ho is perhaps best known for his song “Tiny Bubbles,” with its relaxed, Hawai’ian vibe and reference to champagne. Why not cheer yourself up a bit by watching him perform it here.
Here’s the shop window of a proper ukulele vendor. I’m not much of a uke player (you can hear me give it my best effort here) but I am required to play and sing in Gravedigger’s Tale. Needless to say, considering the prominent role the ukulele plays in Hawai’ian culture, I was self conscious about playing it here. Suffice it to say, the folks I met lied and said I play well. They also corrected my pronunciation from my crass “yook-uh-lay-lee” to the more accurate “oo-koo-leh-leh.” Duly noted.
Due to its location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawai’i has a deep Asian influence on its culture, particularly when it comes to food. Above is a food truck serving a Japanese delicacy from Hiroshima, an omelette-type dish called “okonomiyaki.” Also a little family-run hole in the wall serving authentic Korean Barbecue. Delicious.
I’m not one for selfies, but in this instance it seemed the right thing to do. I rented a moped for a day and it was far and away one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.
For some context: my father is a long-time motorcycle rider – on his retirement, he took a solo ride on his Harley Davidson from Long Island to Texas. I’ve long envied him his skill, bravery and expertise on a bike and decided that, fear for my own safety be damned, I was going to give it a shot. They gave me the sparkly gold helmet and wimpy turquoise moped you see pictured above. While it didn’t make me feel as macho as I imagine my dad feels on his Harley, it was absolutely exhilarating.
There are mopeds and motorcycles everywhere on O’ahu, but they all seem to be operated by intensely cool-looking, non-helmet-wearing natives. And here I come with my giant helmet and a little flag on my rental. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, every time I stopped at a red light, one of these daredevils would pull up next to me and offer fist bumps and the “hang loose” hand symbol.
Just because I think it’s amusing, I’ll share that the name of this particular model of moped is the “Buddy 2.0.” My Little Buddy.
I drove My Little Buddy out here to Hanauma Bay, a spectacularly gorgeous grotto featuring a lively coral reef. Mild political request: can we please stop killing coral reefs?? They are beautiful.
One more of My Little Buddy. I took him to the top of Diamond Head to enjoy the view. He seemed to enjoy it, despite his fraying flag. Poor little guy.
What is it with Hawai’ians and SPAM?? Apparently, during World War II, SPAM (which stands variously for “spiced ham” and “Special Army Meat”) was in great abundance among the GIs stationed on Hawai’i. The canned meat-treat was ubiquitous, apparently, and enjoyment therein was passed along to the islanders who made it their own. On my visit, I had it fried with eggs and gravy for breakfast, and wrapped in rice and seaweed as a snack called “SPAM Musubi,” a kind of SPAM sushi.
Speaking of local delicacies, I was taken by some friends to try the famous Waiola Shave Ice. To call it a sno-cone would be to denigrate it. The “ice” in question is shaved off of a wheel-shaped block to the consistency of new-fallen snow, and flavored with syrups. I got mine with lychee and condensed milk. Please note the anthropomorphized Shave Ice fellow behind me, a straw and a spoon unfortunately protruding from his icy skull. He doesn’t seem bothered.
I took a little side trip to the island of Maui. There’s plenty to say about that, but I won’t bore you with more pictures of clear, body-warm water, flowers and gorgeous volcanic rock.
Instead, I’ll let you in on a secret. Sammy Hagar of VanHalen fame is the owner of a little cafe in the Maui Airport. He wasn’t there in person, but I could feel his spirit hovering nearby as I ate my SPAM and eggs.
Well, ok. Just one picture of the hotel balcony on Maui.
That’s about it for this edition of Gravedigger’s Tale, or “These Shoes Were Made For Walking.” Check back here for more Tales of the Road. Coming soon, I head to Amherst College, Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and more.
And, again, for the more academic version of the Hawai’i trip, head over to the Folger Spotlight.
Thanks for reading, if you are. Aloha and Mahalo!
Until next time.