Dragonfly: Community Engaged Theater

Dragonfly: Community Engaged Theater
Helping Hawaii’s Children-In-Need.

PlayBuilders in collaboration with The Foster Care Training Committee, presents “Dragonfly”, a community engaged play based on story circles and interviews with former foster youth, therapists and social workers conducted and collected by Terri Madden between January of 2016 and 2017. The Foster Care Training Committee is a public-private partnership of organizations committed to enhancing the lives of foster children by providing nurturing, support and training for their caregivers. The play will be performed at various venues between April 22 and May 28, as a means of helping to educate the public regarding Hawaii’s children-in-need.

Madden and the PlayBuilders Ensemble met with former foster youth every Sunday night at the ARTS at Marks Garage in 2016 to study theatre and share stories about what it is like to grow up in the foster care system. Sometimes social workers, therapists, and foster parents joined them.

Former foster youth, Layla Kilolu and Apu Turano wrote original songs for the play.

Directed by well-known local actor and director, William Ha’o, “Dragonfly” is choreographed by PlayBuilders Ensemble member, Becky McGarvey, with music direction and arrangements by Ruth Shiroma Foster.  The play is made possible through the support of The Hawaii Community Foundation, The Victoria S. and Bradley L. Geist Foundation, The Hawaii People’s Fund, Chinatown Soup, The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, and East Oahu Realty. Organizations who have donated their venues for the free performances include The Mayors Office on Culture and the Arts, Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church, Dot’s Restaurant, Wahiawa, and New Hope, Leeward.

The title of the play, Dragonfly: The story of a young local girls journey through foster care, came about after a former foster youth shared her story about a dragonfly she encountered.  We later discovered that in almost every part of the world a “dragonfly symbolizes change and the change in the perspective of self-realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.”

Based on real life experiences of Aunty Allene and Uncle Arthur Uesugi of Waianae, who fostered over 300 children in Waianae during their foster care years, Terri Madden weaved other stories collected, based in truth, into a fictionalized account of Tara, a young girl who is removed from her birth home at the age of 4 and then struggles throughout her childhood to find love and acceptance.  Through her childhood journey of constant change and loss as a foster youth, Tara eventually learns that only forgiveness and self acceptance can lead her to an ohana of her own making, and her true purpose in life. This is a beautifully raw story performed by 22 performers, several who are former foster youth. Here are some reactions to the play shared by audience members from the foster care community who attended the first reading of the play last November:

"I honestly think this play will make a difference."

"(Dragonfly) humanizes the system: gives hope, shows how resilient the youth are and the incredible amount of changes they go through."

" I love that the play honors a long time caregiver and her late spouse and their dedication to these children."

" Music and lyrics are awesome. The feelings, stories, and diversity displayed."

" I loved the music! I loved Danni’s dance."

"The original songs written by former foster youth are amazing"

"I very much loved the play... It was touching and emotional."

PlayBuilders of Hawaiʻi Theater Company’s mission is to gather and share real stories that resonate with, empower and connect individuals throughout the culturally rich and diverse communities of Hawaiʻi.  For more information, please contact Terri Madden at terri.madden@playbuilders.org or call her at 808-218-0103.