She's one of Maui's hardest-working, most-recognizable personalities, a diminutive dynamo with more energy in her baby toe than most of us have in our entire beings. Radio broadcaster, essayist, actress, performance artist, poet, emcee, she's got so much life, talent and humor to offer, she had to split herself in two. If she's there, you want to be there. She's Kathy Collins - and, sometimes, she's Tita.
"Tita's the local girl part of me," Collins said, speaking of her straight-talking alter-ego. "She says what I would say if I didn't have to worry about what I said."
A spunky amalgam of Collins' "dearest friends, family and kids I grew up with," Tita is the rapid-fire, pidgin-speaking storyteller Collins originally created for a show on Mana'o Radio.
Jim Beckmeyer photo
"My husband, Barry, always said: 'Tita is the real Kathy!' " Collins recalled, laughing.
Barry Shannon, Collins' husband, founded Maui's only listener-supported, commercial-free station, Mana'o Radio, with her. He passed away three years ago, leaving Maui a priceless legacy.
Last month, Collins had the opportunity to take Tita on the road - all the way to the Big Apple, where she shared the stage with other female poets, storytellers and performance artists from around the world during the "La Casita" segment of the Lincoln Center's two week "Out-of-Doors" Festival.
Catch Kathy Collins' "best friend" Tita's "Chicken Skin Stories" at the Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 and at 3 p.m. Oct. 24. For more information, call the Maui Academy of Performing Arts, 244-8760.
Hear Collins' original act live on Mana'o Radio (91.5 FM) every week. Log on to www.manaoradio.com to check the schedule.
"It was five straight hours of multicultural performances, all solo acts," Collins said. "There were Mandingo prayer chanters, Balkan welfare poets; there I was the only one from Hawaii."
The day after the Lincoln Center Festival, Tita headed over to the Bronx, where she and the other "La Casita" performers wowed the crowd at Teatro Pregones.
"The Puerto Rican women in the Bronx loved Tita," Collins said. "She told them some Pele stories and they really appreciated the 'Titatude.' It was a fascinating, empowering experience."
Empowerment is what Kathy Collins is all about. Even when she was a very, very young girl, she always yearned for a little bit of the spotlight.
"I was an only child," she said, "and I was blessed with wonderful, indulgent parents. I had a very active fantasy life and I would write little plays for my family to watch me perform."
Little Kathy's act was confined to the parlor for the most part, until one of her friends at Baldwin High School encouraged her to join the Speech Club. After a few speech competitions, another friend dragged Kathy to an audition for the school's production of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." It was there she first met Sue Anne Loudon. The beloved drama teacher who would become Collins' close friend and mentor.
"Miss Loudon always told me I had grease paint in my blood," she recalled. "I still remember my first line in that play. We were performing for the little elementary school kids. I was a munchkin and I was the first one to run onstage before the show started. I ran in front of the curtain and I pointed and said: 'A big black wind up high! See?' And I'll never forget the kids' reaction when they saw me run on and point. They started screaming and laughing and cheering and that was it. I was hooked."
Since that fateful day - whether she's melting into iconic characters like Bloody Mary (in MAPA's summer blockbuster production of "South Pacific"); giving a group of giggling kids a serious case of "chicken skin"(when Tita tells her favorite spooky stories every year around Halloween time); hopping onstage to join the Comedy Hui for some shock-and-awe, on-the-spot improv; or writing the newsletter for Kau Noa Senior Center (another labor of love, which she considers her "day job") - Kathy Collins hasn't stopped offering us the very best of herself, day in and day out.
Maui Arts & Cultural Center welcomes na kumu hula Napua Makua and Kahu'u Maluo, along with Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka for Mohala Mai 2010, an evening blossoming with both traditional and contemporary hula, oli (chant) and mele (song). The halau will share the stage with Hawaii's finest musicians and award-winning groups. Watch their graceful movements and listen to the enchanting voices of the 'olapa (dancers) as they present the imagery of Hawaii as described in its beautiful poetry.
It begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $37 (plus applicable fees), available at the MACC box office, online at www.mauiarts.org or by phone at 242-7469.
Maui OnStage presents "Arsenic and Old Lace," Joseph Kesserling's macabre comedy about a newlywed drama critic who introduces his unsuspecting bride to the skeletons in his family's closet. The show runs from Oct. 8 to 24. For more information, call 242-6969 or log onto www.mauionstage.com.
Alexander Academy of Performing Arts will hold auditions for its winter ballet production of "Mary Poppins" at its facility in Kula on Sunday. Registration for all dancers - from beginners ages 6 and older to advanced dancers of all ages - begins at 11:30 am. Performances will be held at the Maui Theatre in Lahaina in mid-February. For information, call 878-8970.
Hollywood children's acting coach Chambers Stevens will be teaching two workshops on "How to Audition for Television" at Kihei Charter School, Ohukai campus on Oct. 2. Stevens is considered one of the top children's acting coaches in the United States. The first workshop, for children ages 7 to 12, will run from 9 a.m. to noon. The second, for ages 13 to 18, will run from 2 to 5 p.m. The cost for each workshop is $75 per student. To reserve your spot, email Theresa Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited.
Heartfelt aloha to the winners of the prestigious Ku Mai Ka Hula 2010 held Sept. 11 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The colorful hula festival brought halau from Maui, Oahu and Fujisawa, Japan, to compete. The winners were as follows:
Group Kahiko -Wahine: First place: Halau I Ka Wekiu; Second place: Halau Hi'iakainamakalehua; Third place: Halau Nawaipunalei
Group Kahiko -Kane: First place: I Kona Maui Lima
Group 'Auana-Wahine: First place: Halau Hi'iakainamakalehua; Second place: Halau Nawaipunalei; Third place: Halau Hula O Na Lehua O Laka
Group 'Auana -Kane: First place: I Kona Mau Lima
Mr. Hula Maui: First place: Halau I Ka Wekiu - Kaimana Domingo; Second place: Kona Mau Lima - Johah Souza
Ms. Hula Maui: First place: Halau Hi'iakainamakalehua - Ashley Tamanaha; Second Place: Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua - Sarah Correia
Maui Nui Award: I Kona Mau Lima
Leianaikaroselaniomaui Award: Halau I Ka Wekiu