Page 7 - Hawaii Island MidWeek - January 18, 2023
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 Showstopping New Theater Awaits Audiences At DHT
“I’ m fairly tall, but now I can cross my legs!” she says, laughing. “People can also walk in front of me without me necessarily getting up. In the old theater, my knees would hit the seats in front.”
“Two, our theater seating is determined by the number of parking spaces that we have. We have a parking lot that has to match the number of seats in the theater. We’ re allowed a certain number of stalls, about 100, to a certain num- ber of seats, 482, so that’s why the number of seats re- mains the same.”
Additionally, the lobby boasts a built-in concession stand filled with snacks and beverages that may be pur- chased using a contactless credit card system. According to Dray, this was an important feature “so that people can have a nice intermission and enjoy talking about a show and then go back in to see the second act.”
What the new building will not have, however, is more seats. Dray says there were two reasons why it was decided not to “go bigger.”
Beyond the up-to-date au- ditorium, theatergoers will also find welcome relief in the expanded restrooms.
Diamond Head Theatre has staged many productions over the years, including (clockwise from above)
Anything Goes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Elf. PHOTOS COURTESY DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE
JANUARY 18, 2023
   ence members) and rows that are perfectly spaced apart.
seats, we’ll add performanc- es,” she explains.
the number of toilets for the ladies and almost double the number of men’s toilets, so it’s quite different.”
 “One, we like the feel of the old Diamond Head The- atre. It was a good size for us, we consistently filled it and we didn’t want to get out beyond our comfort level and have empty seats or try to keep filling a theater that was bigger. If we need to add
“When I was in the old theater, I would stand in the back of the line to the ladies room and would be so sad for the people waiting,” notes Dray. “Now, we have double
“The old theater certainly had a kind of charm to it that was important to a lot of peo- ple. But there’s just going to be such an upgraded experience for everyone compared to what we had before,” she states.
ent who just gave birth fol- lowing a long pregnancy, Dray answers in the affirma- tive.
hen asked if she sometimes feels like a proud par-
facility would conform to design district requirements and reassuring area residents that the theater would remain a good neighbor.
very supportive,” she says. “I mean a lot of them come to the theater, which is nice. But we’ ve really worked hard at maintaining a good relation- ship with them and I think we’ve succeeded.”
        If there ever was an ideal show to introduce the new and improved Diamond Head Theatre, it’s the enduring classic Cinderella.
“I do,” she chuckles, “and the labor pains have been sig- nificant!”
“The city and state are very protective of the Diamond Head monument and wanted to be sure that the buildings nearby weren’t garishly out of place with the general feeling of the neighborhood,” explains Dray.
About the only parts of the project that still need to be completed are landscaping work and the installation of sidewalks on the property. Gray expects those features to be completed soon, proba- bly “sometime in the spring.”
Following Cinderella, DHT will stage productions for La Cage aux Folles (March 24–April 9), The Bodyguard (May 26–June 11), and Beauty and the Beast (July 21–Aug. 6).
Slated for a two-week run (Jan. 20 – Feb. 5), the fairy tale romance promises appearances by Prince Charming, Fairy Godmother and the usual cast of char- acters while also celebrating the overriding theme: that wishes are often granted.
Talks about building a new theater first began in 2007. At the time, it was just “a germ of an idea,” but theater offi- cials knew something had to be done soon to replace the aging facility, which had enjoyed a good long run de- spite obvious limitations for a contemporary live theater company.
“But also, we’ re in a resi- dential district, located across from a college (Kapi‘olani Community College) and a block away from a hospi- tal (Lē‘ahi Hospital), so we needed to fit in here,” she continues. “That took a lot of time to secure the architects and have them understand the unique neighborhood we live in and how the design had to conform to the neighborhood and still be unique and attrac- tive that people would feel like celebrating.”
“Cinderella is really the perfect show for us because it’s a classic and everybody knows it,” says Deena Dray, DHT executive director. “Emotionally it’s a story about dreams coming true ... and people will walk into the new theater and feel that. This has been a longtime dream for us and we’ve had a few fairy godmothers along the way that actually made this theater happen.
In the meantime, commu- nity theater lovers can get ready for a brand-new expe- rience at DHT — which, de- spite all the modern upgrades, still has that familiar spirit of the old building.
“So it’s very serendipitous that Cinderella is the show we’re opening with.”
She adds that audiences have lucked out with “an extraordinarily talented cast, with all the best coming out” to take part in the production.
“It was holding us back as far as progressing into what Broadway is doing now,” she says. “A lot of what Broad- way does we mimic here on a smaller scale. But we wanted to be able to keep up and grow as a community theater.”
“We’ve been giving early tours to people who support- ed our fundraising campaign and they’ve said, ‘You know, it still feels like Diamond Head Theatre!’ — which is great, because that’s what we want it to be,” says Dray in conclusion. “And really, it’s the people and the feeling that make a place a home, not a building.”
“These are people who live and work here, so we’re lucky to have such an abundance of talent here in Honolulu. That’s the thing about a community theater — it’s the people who live and work here that are coming out for the show, and not professional artists.”
Season subscriptions are available and start at $125. Individual tickets are sold prior to each show at the box office or at For more information, call the box office at 808-733-0274.
To make this project a re- ality, however, DHT had to overcome its share of chal- lenges. Among the obstacles were ensuring that the new
Fortunately for Dray and DHT, the neighbors were re- ceptive to news of the project.
“We have wonderful neighbors and they’ ve been

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