Aloha friends of TAG.
It’s getting close; we are almost at opening night. Oh yes! Opening Night! Do you feel it in the air? I do! Which means all the actors, and all directors and all tech staff are tossing and turning in bed with to-do lists, turning over their scripts, and putting the final touches on the costumes. But we still have a few more folks to introduce to you!
Meet Stu Hirayama, who plays Peter in The Zoo Story. We last saw Stu here at TAG in Glengarry Glen Ross, and we are delighted to welcome him back. Stu took some time with me during our rehearsals to talk about theatre.
Aloha Stu, great to see you. I have to tell you that I have enjoyed working with you, Alex and Brian on The Zoo Story! I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity. I LOVE watching the evolution of your character; which is not an easy character to play at all! I think audiences will enjoy what you have created here. But let’s tell the TAG readers a bit more about your view on theatre.
So, how did you get into Theatre and how long you have been actively involved in the theatre world?
I did my first play, John Rustan and Frank Semerano’s The Tangled Snarl, during my senior year of college. Five years later, I did my first show in Hawai‘i, and I’ve been active in the Honolulu theatre scene ever since.
You have been in theatre for a long time, which means you likely have some advice for young actors. What would you advise to a young actor starting out?
No matter how good you are (or think you are), you are replaceable. Theatre is a collaborative process; the most important thing is the show, not you or your individual performance. You may have an idea for a comedic bit that is incredibly funny, but if it doesn’t work in the grand scheme of the show, your director may cut it. It’s not about a great comedic idea that was thrown away, it’s about the show making sense as a whole.
You should respect and appreciate your fellow actors, your director, your stage manager, your designers, your tech crew, and your audience. Be thankful for their efforts, and try to learn something from each of them. In the end, if you treat people poorly, they will not want to work with you in the future.
That is so very true. I think we have all learned this lesson in one way or another. We have our responsibilities as individual actors, but the key responsibility is the collaborative process we are engaged in while bringing this art to live. It is a process that must be respected by all. Mahalo Stu for that reminder.
And talking about processes, one question I have been asking all the actors this year is about learning lines. So, how on earth do you learn all your lines? Tell us about YOUR process.
I’m responding to this question without really answering it.
Everyone memorizes things. For work, chefs memorize recipes, accountants memorize tax codes, and bus drivers memorize bus routes. Even outside your line of work, you have probably memorized multiplication tables, state capitals, or the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. Like memorizing lines, the core elements of memorizing those things are repetition, time, and effort. WANTING to learn your lines and having respect for the play and the playwright yields the best results.
Haha yes! Wanting is a key word here. I get you! I do. Line learning is hard anyway, but we have all been talking about how super hard it is to do with Albee! What are your thoughts on this?
Sometimes lines are easier to learn than others. Some actors are afraid of Shakespeare, but to me, rhyme and meter only make it easier to learn lines. I find it hardest to learn lines when the playwright’s sense of language differs from my own. But in the end, it comes down to making the effort.
Oh, and I’m a big believer in sleep to process anything you’re learning. I’d say it’s better to spend 30 minutes a day for a week to learn lines, rather than one big four-hour chunk in one night. All the nights of sleep in between and the regular everyday drilling are better than one big chunk of time.
Thanks, Stu, for sharing your process with us. Now, would you mind telling us all about the strangest or wackiest experience you have had to deal with while performing?
In the original production of Lee Cataluna’s Da Mayah (Kumu Kahua, 1998), there was a scene with one little accident that dominated into chaos. It all started when Dukie fired his henchman Stanton and slammed his cup of water onto the table in frustration. But upon letting go of the cup, it fell and spilled onto the set. As he bent over to pick up the cup, his sunglasses fell out of his pocket, so he has to pick them up. I was peeking into the scene from backstage, waiting for an entrance. Realizing that Dukie will be dying in the very spot that is now wet, I ran to the back closet to find something to clean up the spill. Jazzmin (my scene partner) didn’t know what happened on stage, and doesn’t know why I’m running away when we’re supposed to go on in about fifteen seconds, so she’s trying to grab me to stay where I am.
I grabbed a mop from the back and made it in time for our entrance. Once I’m on stage, I can see that Dukie and Stanton are barely holding it together, and are cheating their faces upstage a bit to hide the fact that they’re one stitch away from breaking completely. I come in with a DRY mop, so I’m only pushing the water around to make an even bigger puddle for Dukie to die in, which he does with his face upstage to hide the huge smile on his face.
Stanton and I have a bit to drag Dukie out of the scene, which we do, barely able to keep our composure. Once free of the curtain, Dukie runs out into the courtyard to let go of all the laughter he had built up throughout the scene.
Ha Ha, I love it! OMG, that one is classic Stu. So hilarious. Thank you for sharing it.
Okay, as you know I always end the interview with a total nonsecular question. Here it goes: if you lived in an Escher universe, how would you get to work?
I’d work from home.
🙂 Smart man. Thank you, Stu, for taking the time to talk with us. It is truly appreciated.
Folks, you are NOT going to want to miss Stu as Peter in The Zoo Story. Mark your calendars, get your tickets, and let’s get this show on the road!