We’ll tell you about Three Year Swim Club, the new play opening at East West Players February 15, in a minute.  First, a little info on how Pacific Islanders do very well in Hollywood, though the fact’s not publicized much.

Two of Hollywood’s biggest action movie stars, Keanu Reeves and Dwayne Johnson, are native Hawai’ian and Samoan, respectively.

Johnson is in the new film Journey 2: Mysterious Island co-starring with another Pacific Islander, Vanessa Hudgens.  With its two stars and Luis Guzman to boot, it might be the most diverse movie this year thus far.

So yes, Native Hawai’ians (kanaka maolis) and kama’ainas (local islanders) have done exceedingly well in Hollywood.  Kama’ainas Tia Carrere, Jason Scott Lee, Kelly Hu, Keiko Agena, Mark Dacascos, Maggie Q, Jason Momoa, Nicole Scherzinger, and Carrie Ann Inaba are but a few.  Did you know Bette Midler was born in Hawai’i before it became a state?  I didn’t know Kelly Preston, Timothy Olyphant, and Erin Gray were born on the islands as well.  Academy Award-nominee David Strathairn is native Hawai’ian.

(And of course, though this is more Washingtonian than Hollywoodian, there’s crossover between the two, so we’ll add that President Obama was born on O’ahu as well.)

Maori Cliff Curtis, who will star in Missing along with Ashley Judd, starred alongside Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whalerider.  Castle-Hughes was nominated for an Academy Award for her role.



As promised, more on Three Year Swim Club

Upcoming at East West Players is Three Year Swim Club, a play about Soichi Sakamoto, who coached plantation kids with nowhere to swim but in irrigation ditches.  Starting in 1937, he began couching his students to swim for the 1940 Olympics.  Because of WWII, the Olympics were cancelled that year, but Sakamoto’s students did go on to win medals in subsequent Olympics.

The play is written by Lee Tonouchi and directed by Keo Wolford, who’s from the islands himself.  Incorporating hula as well as pidgin English, Wolford cast actors from Hawai’i.   And for just cause. The pidgin accent is easy to mimic but difficult to get right.  And pidgin English, which Tonouchi advocates making an official language, can be hard to understand.  For instance, “da kine” has a seemingly infinite number of meanings.

Three Year Swim Club has its mainland premiere February 15 at East West Players.  It runs through March 11.


–Ken Choy

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