DHT Turns 100!
Sterling and Yasmeen Sulieman
This beautiful and talented brother-sister team first appeared at DHT together in Scrooge in 1993. He’s now being cast in major roles in movies and TV, and she’s a global recording artist.
Yasmeen, who had been singing since she was a toddler, tried out for a Punahou production and didn’t get in, so mom went after something even bigger and brought her to the Scrooge audition. Little brother tagged along, sang Happy Birthday at tryouts and scored a part in the cast along with sis. The dynamic duo continued to sing, dance and act their way through several more shows together at DHT.
Sterling was also in school plays and a member of 24-VII Danceforce.
“My college counselor told me UCLA was a reach, but I believe it was my resume and my audition that not only secured me a place in the theater program at UCLA but also won me a very nice scholarship,” notes Sterling. After college, he quickly found work acting and dancing in regional Los Angeles venues, and toured the U.S. and Latin America with High School Musical: The Concert tour. Then he moved to New York where, among other opportunities, he had a co-starring role on All My Children, before returning to LA where he has starred or co-starred in top shows from Pretty Little Liars to 24, NCIS and much more.
“There is a lot of rejection in this business,” says Sterling, “but when you do get to work it is so much fun, and always worth the struggle.
“DHT was where I did my first show that wasn’t part of school. It was at DHT that I started making friends with other kids who were so passionate about theater and performing. It’s impressive to see how far so many of my peers, starting as early as Scrooge and Oliver! (at DHT), have come. Diamond Head is definitely where I officially got my start. It just snowballed from there.”
While Sterling pursued acting, Yasmeen dabbled in outlets from a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors, to TV and Off-Broadway shows, but her passion is singing. She lives in New York where she writes her own songs, mostly dance music lately, which she has performed throughout Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe. She made her Broadway debut seven months ago with an ensemble role in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which continues to have a strong run.
“I hadn’t done theater in a long time, so Beautiful is sort of a return to my Diamond Head roots,” says Yasmeen.
Now that she is comfortable with her role, Yasmeen has begun songwriting again. She and Sterling both remark on how often they run into fellow Hawaii performers in New York and LA, and how much the two of them would love to come home and give back to the local performing arts community … hear that, Mr. Rampage?
Sakaguchi got his start in 1982 at age 11 in DHT’s Oliver! After that first taste of the stage, he appeared in countless shows there since, including A Chorus Line.
“(DHT) was the first community theater in the country to do A Chorus Line, when the rights became available,” says Sakaguchi. “It was amazing as a young person to have the opportunity in Hawaii to learn from Broadway veterans like Jim Hutchison and Donald Yap, old-school professionals with high standards and vast knowledge. They inspired me to pursue a career in theater.”
Sakaguchi toured with various shows, and worked throughout Europe and in Japan, before spending 10 years teaching at Mid-Pacific Institute and Punahou (his alma mater). Although he moved back to New York, he keeps close ties with DHT, most recently choreographing and directing the season’s closing show Spamalot.
“My dear friend and mentor John Rampage gave me my first such opportunities at DHT, and I have been so grateful that the theater continues to bring me back,” he says. “DHT pretty much raised me, and though I may live in Brooklyn, I am most definitely a local boy.”
He now teaches at National Dance Institute, a nonprofit that works in partnership with New York public schools. He also continues to direct, choreograph and perform, most recently appearing in a workshop for a new musical, Behind The Painting.
Here in Hawaii, we’ve also been reaping the benefit of DHT’s keiki programs. It’s not unusual for much of DHT’s cast and stage crew to have had their start in Shooting Stars.
“We are training young people to love and support theater even if they no longer perform,” says Rampage. “They’re rising up to become a new audience who appreciates it as an art form and truly understands what it takes to put on a show. And you need that educated audience as much as you need those educated performers onstage.”