DHT Turns 100!
Starting off the theater’s 100th season is Mary Poppins, which has “enormous appeal whether you’re 6 or 60,” says Rampage. Next up is holiday season family show White Christmas, followed by the single non-musical, To Kill a Mockingbird. Then comes South Pacific starring Tony nominee Loretta Ables Sayre, another DHT success story, who was plucked from DHT when Broadway came through to audition the revival version of the show. She’ll be reprising her role as Bloody Mary. The season concludes with 42nd Street and Shrek. The first brings tap dancing back into style and the second will be a technical feat as far as costumes and set, but says Rampage, “If we can sink the Titanic, we can come up with a green ogre.”
While Rampage is occupied with the shows, Dray is behind the scenes coming up with the funds. She raises $850,000 a year from corporations and individual donors, and has managed to get a profitable 72 percent of DHT patrons on board as season subscribers. Speaking of numbers, Dray stays busy managing human resources, including 600 volunteers, a 42-member board of directors, 1,200 students in DHT’s annual performing arts program and a total yearly audience of 40,000.
Dray promises a spectacular opening night of Mary Poppins and a season full of celebratory highlights fit for a theater that has prospered for a century. A fantastically big to-do will be a 100th anniversary gala April 25 at Sheraton Waikiki. Rampage promises a party packed with entertainment that guests will not soon forget.
“This isn’t just 100 years of theater, it’s 100 years of social and cultural life in Hawaii,” says Rampage, pointing out that all those years ago, to get the rights to a show meant allowing three to four months for a letter to travel from Hawaii to New York and back. Then came telegram, followed by telephone.
“This community theater is unique because they recognized there was a need for art and theater, and it wasn’t coming from Mainland so they developed it themselves. We have trouble getting certain types of materials for costumes now. Back then they were up against tremendous odds, but they made it work. That says so much about the people who lived here, who started it, who kept it going ― they were not daunted by the fact that they did not have what a similar theater would have on the Mainland.
“Even when (Rampage first performed at DHT) back in 1975, if the news missed the plane, you didn’t get it till the next day. Television was a week late. Live television … we didn’t get anything live, so live theater meant a lot more here. Mainland theaters haven’t had that kind of history.”
It was also a time when guests arrived at the premiere in formal attire, when the likes of dance legends Arthur and Kathryn Murray cut a rug in the lobby at intermission, and opening night parties were at Michel’s. Because Diamond Head Theatre exists in a geographically remote place and because of its timeworn status, the theater has throughout its history attracted world-renowned choreographers, directors and actors who might not normally be associated with community theater. But it’s the “everyman” in the Hawaii community that has really built up the foundation of the theater.
“This is a momentous anniversary across generations,” points out Dray. “When I talk to people who grew up with us, or whose family members have been ushering or who have been subscribers for 25 to 40 years, it’s lovely. It’s a testament to the legacy of how valuable we are to the community, what joy we bring to people’s lives every year, every generation.
“John and I are following in footsteps laid many years ago, to have a theater everybody can be proud of. It really is a community institution and a community jewel.”
Mary Poppins kicks off the 100th season, running Sept. 26 to Oct. 19. For tickets or more information, call 733-0274 or visit diamondheadtheatre.com.