Original Play He Leo Aloha Celebrates ʻIke and ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi


This month, UH Mānoa’s Department of Theatre and Dance and Kennedy Theatre will present He Leo Aloha, a world premiere Hawaiian Theatre (Hana Keaka) production performed exclusively in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. He Leo Aloha was written and directed by MFA candidate Kaipulaumakaniolono and will open the 2021/2022 Mainstage Season.

He Leo Aloha follows the story of a cohort of Kānaka Maoli students at UH as they navigate the complexities of love and attraction, partnerships and conflict.

“Although it’s a regular story about someone getting caught cheating and then all the friends getting involved, what makes it interesting is they don’t turn to gossiping about each other. They turn to traditional mele and use the insights gathered from songs we’ve been singing for generations to figure out what love is and how to love each other better,” explains playwright Kaipulaumakaniolono.

“True aloha is to love somebody and want what is best for them regardless of your personal jealousies or your personal ties to them. True aloha lets them do what they need to do for themselves.”

He Leo Aloha incorporates traditional mele and original oli throughout the performance with a 12-piece live band under the direction of Kumu R. Keawe Lopes Jr. through a special collaboration with Ka Waihona A Ke Aloha and the Tuahine Troupe of Kawaihuelani Centre for Hawaiian Language. Kaipulaumakaniolono wrote the oli that complement the play.

The production also includes the talents of faculty members Michelle Bisbee (scenic design), Maile Speetjens (costume design), student Jonah Bobilin (lighting design) and MFA candidate Claire Treviso (projection design).

For those not fluent in Hawaiian, Kaipulaumakaniolono says, “regardless of your experience with ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, you should be able to appreciate, connect to and understand what’s going on with the story. People who don’t speak [the languages in] opera still go and appreciate it. It’s my personal responsibility to make sure the story can be understood and I’m certain that it will.”

The Hawaiian Theatre program was established in 2014 by Dr. Hailiʻōpua Baker. Lāʻieikawai, its inaugural production – written and directed by Baker – played to sold out audiences at Kennedy Theatre in 2015 before touring to Hilo, Hawaiʻi, Molokaʻi, Kauaʻi, and Aotearoa.

He Leo Aloha will be presented virtually, streaming online October 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and on October 10 at 2:00 p.m. Special streaming ticket prices range from $5-$15.

For more information about the show visit manoa.hawaii.edu/liveonstage/heleoaloha. Tickets to He Leo Aloha are available for purchase online 24/7 at showtix4u.com/events/kennedytheatre. For ticketing or accessibility questions please email the box office at ktbox@hawaii.edu.