The Bright Lights Of PUHI

Kauai Community Players open a new season at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse, with Erin Gaines and Kameron Fort starring in ‘The Last Five Years’

Love can be tricky, and the musical The Last Five Years has a unique way of chronicling the rise and fall of a complicated relationship between a husband and wife. Kauai Community Players opens the two-character play Friday (Jan. 16) at Puhi Theatrical Warehouse.

The male character, Jamie, played by Kameron Fort, tells the ups and downs of their relationship as he sees it, starting from when he first meets her. The female character, Cathy, played by Erin Gaines, relates her side of the story, starting with the bitter end and moving backward in time. The only time they meet during the performance is in the middle of their adventure, at their wedding.

“It’s quite an experience for the audience,” says Dottie Bekeart, Kauai Community Players’ board member.

The final song has Fort’s character singing goodbye forever, while Gaines’ Cathy only is saying goodbye after their first date.

“The relationship overstayed its welcome, and he sees it more logically than she can,” explains Fort, who playfully remains in character, along with Gaines, during part of his interview with Midweek Kauai.

The KCP actors are certain that audience members will be in for a treat when they see the show, directed by Jennifer Downs, especially thanks to the one-of-a-kind storytelling element. What also sets the musical apart is that it will be performed in the round (where audience seating surrounds the stage), something that hasn’t been done at the Puhi theatre.

This fact, among others, had Gaines anxious for the play’s Jan. 9 opening.

She admits she still gets nervous performing in front of people.

“I want to run out the door during auditions,” she says. “There are people who don’t get nervous, but I’m not one of them.”

She relates the experience to sky diving — while not physically the same, the act scares people yet also gives them a thrill.

Fort, who agrees that nerves are a part of the reality of being an actor, takes the energy and transforms it into something positive.

“It’s enough to have the energy to give you the push,” he explains. “If I don’t feel scared that I might not do a good job, then I feel like there’s something wrong — that there’s something missing. It’s reassuring to me that I care about it so much, that I want to do a good job and bring something meaningful to the audience. That gets me through it.”

There must be something to it, because Fort has been performing on stage with various groups around the island since he began acting in his senior year of high school.

“It’s so much fun, and honestly, I can’t really see myself doing anything else,” says the Kauai High School graduate.

He admits trying other extracurricular activities in school, but nothing ever clicked. Fort, who works at Naupaka Terrace at Kauai Beach Resort, enjoys being around people like him who share the same passion.

Gaines, who also grew up on Kauai, pursued acting in high school as well and became a member of Kauai Performing Arts Center.

“Once you’re in theatre, it never leaves you,” notes Gaines, whose husband Jarhett also is an actor.

It’s not always easy balancing family life, work and rehearsals. Gaines is the mother of two children, Fia (5) and Asher (2).

“But it’s so fulfilling. It’s where all my friends have come from, and it’s stepping out of being a mom for awhile — which I don’t think a lot of moms get to do these days — and it’s really fun. And then you have more energy to go back and be a good mom,” she says.

Bekeart appreciates many things about acting as well, such as the value of connecting to a like-minded community.

“I can’t think of anything where people work together with as much focus and goals,” she says.

The Oahu native also regularly performs in shows, and says she couldn’t fathom a more fulfilling hobby.

“I absolutely love being somebody else for awhile and doing a self-hypnosis thing and leaving Dottie behind,” she says. “It’s really a cool thing.”

Bekeart has been involved with KCP since she moved to the island in the 1970s.

The group originally was formed in the 1960s by a handful of dedicated Garden Isle theatre lovers. They initially used venues across the island to perform, but six years ago they landed the black box theatre in Puhi, which serves as their space for rehearsals and performances during their six-month season from December through May.

The Last Five Years is KCP’s opening show of the season. Next up is a play titled Matilda’s Waltz by local playwright David Penhallow Scott. Following that will be the light comedy The Prodigal Father, and the season ends with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The Last Five Years is onstage Friday and Saturday (Jan. 16 and 17) at 7 p.m. and Sunday (Jan. 18) at 4 p.m., and continues Jan. 23-25. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit kauaicommunityplayers.org or call 245-7700.

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