Honolulu Theatre for Youth tours Under the Blue to schools and libraries

September 21, 2023
Puppeteer holding large parrotfish puppet up to colorful display of coral made of yarn
A short video introduction to the production at the Hawaiʻi State Art Museum

State Foundation on Culture and the Arts program coordinator Danica Rosengren partnered with Honolulu Theatre for Youth to develop “Under the Blue”, an art installation bringing together visual artists, theatre artists and community members to create an immersive space and sensory friendly performance for young people with developmental differences. It was a journey through the different levels of the ocean that explored various animals and plants found in each of the ocean’s layers. As the room changed from lighter colors and lighting to darkness, visitors traveled from the surface to the deepest depths of the sea. Honolulu Theatre for Youth has now transformed the immersive experience into a touring show.

“Under the Blue” at schools

Honolulu Theatre for Youth is touring “Under the Blue” at schools August 21 – October 26, 2023, and for schools at Tenney Theatre October 31 – November 9, 2023. For more information, please visit the Performances for Educators page on the Honolulu Theatre for Youth website: membership.htyweb.org/2023-2024-season-educators.

“Under the Blue” at public libraries

The Hawaiʻi Public Library System has partnered with the Honolulu Theatre for Youth to provide quality children’s theatre in our public libraries. “Under the Blue” will allow keiki ages 3 to 5 and their families to explore the aquatic wonderland through music, puppetry, and a lot of imagination! Free 40-minute performances will be held at selected libraries on Oahu, Hawaiʻi Island, Maui, and Kauaʻi from September 21 through October 24. View the library performance dates on the LibrariesHawaii.org website: LibrariesHawaii.org/events/list/?tribe-bar-search=under+the+blue&hide_subsequent_recurrences=1. All HTY library performances are sponsored by the Friends of the Library of Hawai‘i.

“Under the Blue” at Tenney Theatre (Honolulu)

Public performances October 29, November 4, and November 11, 2023 at Tenney Theatre in downtown Honolulu. For more information, please visit the Honolulu Theatre for Youth website: membership.htyweb.org/under-the-blue.

About “Under the Blue”

The walls of the installation at the Hawaiʻi State Art Museum (now Capitol Modern) were curated and imagined by artist Solomon Enos. About a thousand museum visitors of all ages added millions of tiny dots to the walls over the course of two months. These dots represent the plethora of phytoplankton that lives in the ocean.

The coral reef and all the yarn creatures in the installation were made or curated by scientist and artist Michelle Schwengel-Regala. The pieces were made over 10 years ago when she put a call out in 2011 to people all over the world to crochet marine life from the Hawaiian archipelago.

The performance for young people with developmental differences had a few different stages. First, the ”Under the Blue” team provided a sensory workshop for every school who signed up for the performance. During these workshops, the young people were invited to touch different textures, explore shadows, and interact with some of the puppets. This workshop allowed the young people to get to know the team and the theme before arriving to the performance. In addition, these workshops helped shape the performance. For example, there was one fuzzy blanket that the team brought to the schools, and at almost every workshop, a student expressed they wanted to be engulfed in the blanket. When the Under the Blue Team learned that there is an animal called the Blanket Octopus, they knew this animal needed to be in the show and give an “Octopus hug” to everyone who wanted one.

During the show, the audience was welcome to explore the room and the performance on their own terms. Unlike a traditional theatre experience with assigned seats, the audience was provided cozy blanket squares on which they were invited to sit, but if they wanted to explore the room, or even get up in the stage space with the actors, they could! The audience experienced the show through a variety of senses and were invited to touch some sea-spray, receive a limu lei which they could then feed an ʻuhu, play with shadow puppet fish, and investigate the deepest part of the ocean with UV lights where they discovered hidden animals on the walls.  

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