Freshman Amelia Imada and senior King Duke visited with Maui OnStage and toured the Iao Theater for the first time this month. Their visit was part of this year’s events for the Focus Maui Nui Youth Alliance, a group coordinated by Maui Economic Development Board to explore and gain a greater understanding of key components in the local community. The visit led by Maui OnStage Executive Director Alexis Dascoulias was an effort to spotlight theater history on the island and specifically the Iao Theater’s impact on the island’s economic well-being. “MEDB is about promoting economic diversity and I wanted to take the youth to Maui OnStage for the exposure and for them to see how theater gives the economy a bounce,” Youth Alliance coordinator Willow Krause said. “When people go to the theater, they might go shopping and get something to eat and so that expands the whole environment around them,” she added.
Both Duke, 17, and Imada, 14, said they’ve passed by the Iao Theater on Market Street in Wailuku many times but never actually stepped into the place until the Youth Alliance visit. “After visiting the theater, I realized what importance it really holds, from helping the community to (providing) a great place for a show,” Imada said. She also said she was impressed that the theater is mostly run by volunteers. “I thought opening up the work to the community lets us come together with people we know.” Duke said he was surprised at the numerous public events and performances that are held at a theater with a seating capacity of 375.
Maui OnStage is a nonprofit that works to restore, preserve and maintain the Iao Theater while enhancing the community with diverse, quality productions and making the theater accessible to all. Youth Alliance members were especially attentive when Dascoulias talked about opportunities for groups to use the theater for free performances. Duke said he wants to return, possibly with a school poetry group, and read some of their original pieces for an audience while on stage. “I think just giving people experience on stage, that’s a good thing,” he said. “It would really be fun and might help some get over stage fright.”