The Hawaiʻi Conservatory of Performing Arts is preparing to raise the curtain at Windward Community College, starring the first cohort of more than a dozen students who will train to be working actors, directors and producers for stage and screen.
The Conservatory is the vision of Artistic Director Taurie Kinoshita and Associate Professor Nicolas Logue, a married couple and UH alumni who have taught acting, directing and other stage craft at Windward CC for 12 years. The Hawaiʻi Conservatory is part of the University of Hawaiʻi’s Academy for Creative Media System.
What’s truly unique about the Conservatory’s one-year program is its connection to the East 15 Acting School of London, part of Essex University. Kinoshita and Logue worked there after finishing master’s degrees in directing and acting at UH Mānoa. When they returned to Hawaiʻi, they began teaching in Windward CC’s theatre program and began laying the groundwork for the Conservatory. Their new program, the CA Foundation in Acting, is currently being accredited by East 15 as a Dual Award with the London drama school’s own Foundation in Theatre certificate – meaning that the first graduates from the Hawaiʻi Conservatory will earn both credentials simultaneously.
The Conservatory’s core mission is to train students for careers in the performing arts, which could mean stage, film or television, says Logue.
Hawaiʻi has a thriving film and television industry, with feature film productions and series including “Magnum, PI,” “NCIS: Hawaiʻi” and “Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.” Yet a recent state report found that only 28% of the actors in principal roles in Hawaiʻi productions were Hawaiʻi residents.
The goal is for the work at the Conservatory to translate to a higher percentage of local actors working in productions shot in the isles.
This past May, Kinoshita organized the first Professional Actor’s Showcase for the casting directors and agents who populate Hawaiʻi productions with talent. This showcase is now slated to become an annual event to show off recent graduates’ skills and help them find their next exciting gig on screen.
Kaipo Dudoit, a Conservatory student and the first recipient of the new Dr. Dennis Carroll scholarship, booked the role of “David” in the new live-action “Lilo and Stitch” film Disney is shooting in Hawaiʻi.
“It’s all about promoting local arts,” says Logue, who is also a nationally recognized theatre fight director. It’s also about promoting equity in arts, he says, noting tuition at WCC is relatively affordable for most students, and full scholarships are provided for any student who auditions into the Foundation in Acting program.
The program also aims to open Hawaiʻi students’ eyes to the broader world of the arts, especially through the connection with the East 15 program in London.
One of the program’s centerpieces is the Footholds UK Shakespeare Study Abroad, a two-week intensive study abroad program in England. Each summer, about a dozen students travel to England to study Shakespeare’s works. While there, they get to meet alumni from the East 15 program in London, who have been very generous with their time.
“It’s a cool experience, it blows their worlds wide open,” says Logue.
Recognized Island Artist
A key feature about the Hawaiʻi Conservatory is its Recognized Island Artist program, connecting students with local professionals. Playwright and columnist Lee Cataluna is taking the inaugural role this fall, mentoring students and helping them to stage productions.
Cataluna wrote in a column about the program for Honolulu Civil Beat that the connection to London was a “really big thing.”
“It will be possible, then, that a Hawaiʻi kid could go from high school to WCC for a year, and then audition for the prestigious four-year conservatory program in London. This new program sets up that pipeline,” she wrote.
In fact, Thomalin Sirivattha, a recent Windward alumna, is beginning her three-year BA in Acting at East 15 this coming fall, with scholarship support. She auditioned for that program on Windward’s boutique scratch-built Study Abroad program to London and Stratford, run every summer by Kinoshita and Logue.
A gift to the Hawaiʻi Conservatory of Performing Arts supports the Footholds program, as well as the production of three to five plays and movies each year. Gifts help students with travel expenses to attend arts festivals on the mainland and the costs of studying abroad in the Footholds program, and also support WCC’s Recognized Island Artist program.
Kennedy Center’s Gold Medallion
The Windward Community College theatre program was honored with The Kennedy Center’s highest honor for theatre education when Taurie Kinoshita and Nicolas Logue accepted a Gold Medallion from Region 8 of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in February at a ceremony in Las Vegas
The Gold Medallion honors individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre and have significantly dedicated their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the values of the Kennedy Center.
UH Academy for Creative Media System founder and director Chris Lee said the award offered national validation of WCC’s efforts at developing Hawaiʻi’s emerging talent.
Windward CC was also recognized on a national level at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for having three productions (A Walking Shadow, 2019; Oriental Faddah and Son, 2020; and Demigods Anonymous, 2023) invited to the regional festival over the past four years, making it the most-invited college nationwide.
Kinoshita, who directed all three productions, was also honored in 2018 with the Kennedy Center Excellence in Theatre Education Award.