I seem to be having an identity crisis, although I hesitate to call it a crisis, since it's not causing me any stress or anxiety. In fact, it's more like a coming-out, a celebration of selves.
Like the perfect storm, this identity carnival came about through a rare combination of circumstances, the most obvious one being my involvement in "Fresher Ahi." As you may know from reading last week's column or from the extensive publicity we've enjoyed, I'm one of three actors who play a total of 16 characters. And what a crazy collection of characters it is!
Six of these local folks are mine. Actually, they're not all local; I play Melinda, one of two Brits who have joined the Ahi ohana through marriage. It's my first time playing an Englishwoman, so I've been practicing my British accent in everyday life. Only I don't want anyone to hear me, so I just talk to myself. I'm getting used to the strange looks I now get at stoplights.
The rest of my people speak in various degrees of pidgin. That's my native language, so I'm much more comfortable with Auntie Chin, the dragon lady who roars but doesn't bite. She is what I will probably be in 20 years or so, assuming I find another husband to bark at.
And there's jumpy Jeanette, the little Asian girl in love with stoner Jesse (played by Derek Nakagawa), and Ilona Flavin, the well-off widow who is the former girlfriend of Daddy Alan Ahi (also played by Derek) and hopes to seduce him away from Mommy (Francis Tau'a). I also play Jody, the flamboyant drag queen. Oops, I mean, gender illusionist.
But my favorite role is that of Roland "Bang Bang" Macadangdang, a diminutive mixed martial arts fighter. Roland is full of bravado (some might use a different word), a champion in his own mind. When I'm in Roland's rubbah slippahs, I get to poke fun at all the testosterone-driven disco kings that my girlfriends and I would studiously avoid at the Foxy Lady or Spats, the kind whose pickup line consisted of two words: Get chance?
Months ago, when I learned that I'd be playing multiple roles, male and female, I decided to shed my long hair in order to portray all of these characters convincingly. Janice, my regular hairdresser who has done wonders with my thick Okinawan hair, referred me to Roland at Vegas Hair for the big cut. Fortunately, Roland Vegas has nothing in common with Bang Bang, beyond their first names. Although "Fresher Ahi" was the impetus for my haircut, Roland V's focus was to give me a new look that would complement my lifestyle beyond the play.
Complement means to complete or enhance, and that's just what Roland did. Cutting my hair was a major milestone for me, a transition from widow to independent woman. He understood my motivation and my apprehension, and gave me the perfect hairstyle. I feel renewed, fresh and sassy. And younger.
So the new me and all six of my Ahi selves have been spending a lot of time at the mall. "Fresher Ahi" is a Maui Academy of Performing Arts production and is being presented at MAPA's Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. With our intensive rehearsal schedule, QKC has become a second home. Every time I go to the food court or the drug store downstairs, I see people who could be Ahi family or friends. There's always a Bang Bang or two at the bus stop, an Auntie Chin at the farmers' market, an Ilona laden with Macy's shopping bags.
Derek and Francis created these characters from real life, and even though I had nothing to do with the playwriting, I feel like I own them. Over the past month and a half, I've spent all my spare time memorizing lines and analyzing roles, immersed in an Ahi state of mind. I've developed a sort of multiple identity disorder, going through my day in various personalities.
Melinda isn't the only one who gets stared at in traffic, as I use my drive time to rehearse lines and practice character traits. I try not to let Roland get behind the wheel, though. Not only is he prone to road rage, he's too short to drive my car.
With only two days left before opening night, I'm already dreading the inevitable post-show depression. I always feel a huge letdown after closing a show, more so with plays than solo performances. Of course, that won't stop me from having the time of my life and relishing every moment of the next three weekends.
But I'm sure going to miss my Ahi selves. Maybe I'll keep some of them around. After six years of widowhood, it's kind of nice to have company.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.