PlayBuilders Board of Directors
Donna Prather, President
When Donna arrived in Hawai’i 20 years ago, it was with the idea that her family would spend two years here before moving on to her husband’s next assignment. By the end of the first year, however, she was telling friends that they would have to drag her kicking and screaming onto a plane to leave. And so, the family stayed. In 1993, Donna began a 15-year career, first as faculty then as Chief Academic Officer, at TransPacific Hawaii College in Aina Haina. During that time, she received her MA in ESL from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Donna also has a Master’s Degree in Urban Studies from Old Dominion University. From 2008-2012, she served as the Executive Director of the Atherton YMCA, a Campus Y, adjacent to UH. Her last and only starring role was la Princesse de Navarre in the eponymous play by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Staged in French by the Department of Foreign Languages, the play was performed at the University of Louisville.
Paul Kuehn, Vice President
Paul is a new grandfather and Dean of Academic Services at Leeward Community College. He has been instrumental in making us feel very welcome on campus as the Leeward Theatre’s Resident Theatre Company. Paul has 21 years experience in educational administration at the community college, middle school and elementary school levels and nineteen years experience in teaching at the post-graduate, community college, middle school and elementary levels. He brings to PlayBuilders management experience concerning all aspects of recruiting, hiring, supervising and evaluating certificated and classified personnel.
Deanna Espinas, Secretary
Deanna Espinas was born and raised in Honolulu and currently resides in Palolo Valley. She worked for the Department of Public Safety for over 31 years as a correctional librarian, and retired in January 2014.She serves on the board of directors for Hawaii's Plantation Village, the Filipino-American Historical Society of Hawaii, Friends of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Hawaii People's Fund. She enjoys participating in a variety of cultural activities which celebrate people's experiences growing up in Hawaii. She is a member of Keolumana United Methodist Church, Faith Action for Community Equity, and just began her term on the Hawaii District Board of United Methodist Women.
Espinas believes that stories of family and friends who were born in the Philippines and struggled to make a new home for themselves here and elsewhere are fascinating. All stories shared become movies for the mind. There is an opportunity to imagine the actors, hear their voices, see what they wore, ate, and feel their emotions; these are memories to be passed on to our children.
Mark Merriam, Treasurer
Mark is president of Aloha Graphics, a quick print shop, in Chinatown, a business he has owned since 1996. Prior to that he was Executive Director of the Hawai’i Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for six years and from 1978 to 1990, he was Program Director, District Executive of Boy Scouts of America. A very active member of our community, he is a member of the Rotary Club, Metro and is an active volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America.
Norma was featured in PlayBuilders’ very first community based play, Wahiawa, Remembah Wen… and also participated in the Po’okela Award winning production ofHouseless in Paradise. She is a special education teacher and currently teaches drama at Aliamanu Middle School in Salt Lake. She has a Bachelors of Business degree from the University of Hawaii and a Masters in Special Education from the University of Phoenix. She served 10 years in the U.S. Army, Air Defense Artillery and was honorably discharged as a Captain. She and her husband, Robert E. Combs, have been married for 26 years and have a daughter, Leilani Lariing Combs, and a 2 year old Chihuahua terrier, Paco.
Kenneth Choy was born and raised in Hong Kong and moved to Hawaii with his family 15 years ago. He attended St. Louis Schools and earned his degree in Bachelor of Science at University of Hawaii at Manoa. Afterward, Ken stayed on the island and worked for a non-profit art organization, Hawai’i Arts Alliance, while engaged in a number of community projects that focuses on building social adhesion through the arts. In college, he also started a group called Mino’aka Project, whose mission is to recruit pre-dental students and organize events to raise awareness of oral health in underserved or primarily immigrant communities. That remains his passion and a project that he is continuing today. Ken maintains a private practice as a specialist in the field of periodontics at Ala Moana.
Rachel Funk Heller
Rachel Funk Heller is an award-winning television producer with over twenty-five years of experience. She began her career as a journalist at CNN and worked in both the Atlanta headquarters and the Washington DC bureau. She's the author and illustrator of The Writer's Coloring Book: A Whole Brain Approach to Writing and Storytelling. A unique writing guide that provides a visual playground for both sides of a writer's brain: the passionate dreamer and the rational organizer. It's available at writerscoloringbook.com. An accomplished video editor and graphic artist, she was commissioned by the Hawaii Department of Education to produce several storytelling television programs and curriculum guides for young viewers. You can find her online at rachelfunkheller.com, and on Twitter at @RchelFunkHeller.
Terri Madden, Founder, Executive Director, Acting Artistic Director
Terri Madden was brought to Hawai’i by her military family in 1973 and is still married to the same sailor she met at “The Point After” in 1974. A proud grandmother of 4, she founded PlayBuilders of Hawai’i Theater Company early in 2011 after obtaining her MFA in Theatre at the University of Hawai’i. Since then, Terri has spearheaded 6 community collaborative performance pieces for PlayBuilders including “Someone Else’s Slippahs, Chinatown”, “Wahiawa, Remembah Wen,” “Yes, I am; Stories from Honolulu’s LGBT Community,” “Yes I Am: Leeward Edition,” “Houseless in Paradise” and “The Waipahu Project.” Of those 6 projects, Terri directed or served as playwright on several.
Terri is a recipient of Lisa Toshigawa Inouye Award for Excellence in Playwriting, a multiple Po’okela Award winning actress for both straight plays and musicals, and was recently acknowledged with a Po’okela award for directing “Houseless in Paradise” which was also selected as “All-Around Play” for the 2013-2014 season.