Spook Me, Thrill Me

Most call fright master Jeff Gere a storyteller, and indeed he is a 25-year veteran of the art. But I would add something else to his title: magician. He deftly brings a roomful of boisterous children from full-throttle 60 right down to zero in a matter of seconds.

Three school buses let loose their load of high-energy third-, fifth-and sixth-graders, giggling, chattering, bouncing and teasing each other as they queue up at the door of Tenney Theatre for Gere’s latest collection, Spooky: Haunted Stories from Around the World.


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Jeff Gere makes use of shadow puppets in his haunted tales. Photo by Brad Goda

As the kids fidget their way to their seats, the volume pipes up to a low roar. When, out of a strobed crackle, Gere materializes dressed in a royal tunic and positions himself in front of a giant haunted moon backdrop, shrieks of delight split the air. Then he does something daring. He gets them even more hyped up, encouraging screams and laughter and shouting. As he scares them with one eerie anecdote and their voices rise in one loud screech, “Don’t worry, it gets worse,” he assures them with a muhaha chuckle. He works hundreds of kids into a frenzied crescendo and then manages to hush the room with a dramatic word or gesture.

Skeptical adults, wild keiki – he mesmerized us all. Nevermind that kids of this generation have access to steroid-hopped-up versions of entertainment, from graphic video games and movies pumped with special effects that far out-gore Jaws or Aliens, to the fathomless stretches of the Internet. Gere’s audience was utterly captivated as he spun stories from American Samoa, Persia, Maine, Japan and Italy. His multimedia presentation included a story box, shadow puppets, an overhead projector, various other props, and good old oral delivery complete with morphing faces and voices.

There’s something timeless and satisfying in being coaxed by the sound of an expert voice into imaginary realms. And Gere makes sure you learn a few Italian phrases and other bits about various cultures in the process. He also makes you laugh, which is a wonderful release from the darker recesses into which he guides you. Kids will be thrilled, adults will be pleasantly taken off guard.

The show is presented by Honolulu Theatre for Youth, whose staff noted Gere tailors his presentation so that it’s more lighthearted for an all-keiki audience and just a tad darker for a general audience. Did I mention the cosmic forces, the poetic justice that brought Gere into this world on Halloween day? Yes, he was divinely intended for delivering chickenskin to his all too willing, obake-loving Hawaii audience.

the TICKET stub
When: Oct. 27 at 4:30 and 7:30, with an Onstage Workshop at 2:30
Where: Tenney Theatre (229 Queen Emma Square)
Cost: $20 general, $15 for seniors and $10 for youths
More Info: htyweb.org or 839-9885

Reel Quest

It’s the 1930s and a plucky Chinese-American woman in Hawaii teams up with a reporter. The duo, Li Ling-Ai and Rey Scott, are novice to filmmaking, yet they produce an epic film, Kukan, about war-torn China that makes Academy Award history by becoming the first feature-length documentary to win the prestigious award. Yet, all reels of the film disappeared, until another spirited female Chinese-American in Hawaii, Robin Lung, embarked on a quest and found a full copy of the lost film. Lung is filming a documentary, Finding Kukan, which focuses on Ling-Ai and the journey to unearth a copy of Kukan while exploring issues of race, gender, identity and art.

“As an Asian-American female filmmaker, I feel a great kinship to Li Ling-Ai and an obligation to bring her largely forgotten story to light,” says Lung. “I am inspired by the gumption and perseverance of these two novice filmmakers who had very little chance of success when they started out, but kept at it for four years to get their message to the world.

“Li Ling-Ai was an independent spirit who was way ahead of her time, so her story still resonates with women today who are struggling to make a difference, especially in the largely male-dominated world of media and film. That Kukan was conceived in Hawaii by a woman reminds us that Hawaii has always had an influential role as a bridge between the East and West, and that stories generated from Hawaii’s unique vantage point are worthy of the world’s attention and must continue to be told and recorded.”

An Oct. 28 cocktail party, A Night in Old Shanghai, at Indigo Restaurant ($32 entry) will raise funds toward completing Finding Kukan. Learn more at FindingKukan.com.