Let Them Eat Pasta

It’s everything you’d imagine an artists’ enclave to be. Ceramic lettering on the front fence spells “Hawaii Potter’s Guild,” and hanging about the fence are clay planters sprouting with tufts of greenery. Step inside and a dozen artists are dabbling here and there in a small maze of rooms and shelves bearing pottery wheels, clay doodads and functional items like bowls and plates, a hand-molding area, several kilns and a charming, prosperous garden that doubles as a cemetery for sculptures large and small.

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Plates in the making. PHOTOS BY NATHALIE WALKER

For some general upkeep, but more so, to fund its Building with Clay program, the guild is hosting its first-ever Plates & Pasta dinner. Members have been busy shaping platters so attendees can select their favorite oneof-a-kind dish out of a hand-made selection of 400-plus.

“Some people right away are going to say ‘this one’s mine’ and some are going to walk around for a few minutes trying to choose,” says member Tricia Beaman. The plate comes with a meal (with a vegetarian option) of pasta, salad and bread prepared by the potters ― yes, there are highly praised cooks among them. There also will be live music and an artists’ sale.

Making the plates takes nearly a week each. They’re shaped, fired, glazed and, to complete the process, placed in a specialty kiln at 2,350 degrees for 12 hours. They then must cool for four days before the kiln can be opened to expose the beautiful designs that the heat has enhanced.

The guild was founded by a group of UH potters in 1967. They rummaged for scrap wood and metal to shape an impromptu, open-air workspace on an earth and gravel lot leased to them by Church of the Crossroads on Bingham Street. The 100-plus members have since installed cement flooring to create a presentable work area, and recently added a bathroom. They’ve also annexed an unusual plot of land leased from the City and County ― a cozy bit of space tucked under a freeway on-ramp, with freeway support beams sufficing as walls for pottery shelving.

The guild teaches more than 30 classes throughout the year, including some by renowned local ceramicist Jeff Chang. The outreach programs in particular are getting a boost from Plates & Pasta, where guild members go into Hawaii’s public schools to share with keiki the joy of creating with clay. The fundraiser is similar to the national Empty Bowls program the guild will take part in come April, serving soup to raise funds for Meals on Wheels. Meanwhile, the cache of pasta fundraiser plates is so beautifully unique and varied in texture, shape, color and design, that it’s going to be hard to choose just one.

the TICKET stub
PLATES & PASTA
When: Sept. 20, 5-8 p.m.
Where: Manoa Valley District Park Rec. Center
Cost: $30, $25 pre-sale through Sept. 10
More Info: 941-8108, hawaiipottersguild.org

ALSO SHOWING
You Say Shoyu, I Say Soy Sauce

Let’s call the whole thing off. Cultural and ethnic differences can be as conflict-ridden as political or religious differences. That’s what Mainland transplant Cathy (Joanna Mills) discovers when she arrives in Hawaii following her engagement to a local boy. In Kumu Kahua’s Shoyu on Rice (through Sept. 21, 536-4441), Cathy and her soon-tobe in-laws (the excellent duo of Jim Aina in a comedic turn and Kat Nakano) find that the harder Cathy struggles to gain acceptance, the more tensions rise. A side story follows Cathy as she adapts to teaching at an all-boys high school in the ’80s.

That’s my coming-of-age decade and the very time I relocated back to Hawaii for high school. I’m delighted to proclaim that director Reiki Ho has artfully and authentically created a time-capsule rendering of the era. This is no stereotypical kitschy throw-back, and it has structure and clarity that Will the Real Charlie Chan Please Stand Up, Ho’s most recent directorial stint, lacked. Completing the loving ode to bygone times by playwright Scot Izuka is expert work by sound designer Stu Hirayama and costumer Friston S. Ho’okano.

Shoyu (and I was guilty of dousing my rice with “soy sauce,” not realizing the faux pas) bears truth no matter your generation. A membrane of nostalgia makes this a feel-good slice of life, yet the conflict is not whitewashed. Nakano sees to that, delivering her role with meaty bark and bite. Cathy’s frustrations, too, are very real, and there’s some mean-spirited student gossip. Character interactions magnify the complexity of not just intercultural but interpersonal negotiations, as well as the paradoxical innocence, meanness and insecurity of youth.

Musical scene changes ― real deal ’80s gems … Hey Mickey, Sweet Dreams ― set the mood as Cathy moves between the in-laws’ home and high school. Her students navigate their own issues, including a rapturously played young romance by Bronte Amoy, in her bejeweled shoes, and Ryan Okinaka in a coveted “cool kid” windbreaker. I convinced my mom to buy me one, but by then high-top Reeboks were all the rage.