Behind the Curtain
We go to movies, we attend games at Aloha Stadium, we catch the latest musicals by our local theater groups. Behind each of these experiences are the unsung heroes. The technical directors, the ushers, the costume designers who work long and hard so that the stars shine and we, the audience, are thrilled. Devoted craftspeople behind the curtain make it all happen. Here are their stories.
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Consolidated Theatres projectionist
You might think a movie projectionist gets to see more movies than Roger Ebert. Toshi Arai rarely sees more than 10 minutes of a movie at a time. When he’s working his shift at Ward Stadium 16, he’s in charge of all 16 projectors, and spends his day on the move.
“I’m running between all the machines, making sure everything is OK. On Thursdays and Fridays, I don’t even have time to eat,” he says.
Automation has made this one-man show possible—timers set ahead of time start the movies right on schedule, and huge platters on the projectors hold up to four and a half hours’ worth of 35mm film, so Arai doesn’t have to switch reels midway through a movie. Some things still happen the old-fashioned way. On Thursdays, new movies must be spliced together by hand.
Arai has been with Consolidated since 1967, and has worked in many of Hawaii’s historic movie houses, including the Waikiki 3. Ironically, he’s not much of a movie buff in his spare time. “When I watch a movie now, I cannot enjoy it,” he says. “I’m always watching for scratches, listening to the sound levels.”
associate artistic director for the Hawaii Opera Theatre
You may not have seen Beebe Freitas on stage during one of Hawaii Opera Theatre’s productions, but the show wouldn’t be able to go on without her help. A more-than-40-year veteran of HOT, she’s been referred to as the glue that keeps the place together—doing everything from auditioning potential singers in New York City to playing accompaniment for all the rehearsals and coaching the chorus on the subtleties of Italian or French operatic diction. At any given moment, Freitas is likely juggling three different seasons of opera in her head. “People ask me what we did last year, and I don’t even remember,” she says.
Freitas began her musical career in New York City, training at the Juilliard School and working with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. When her husband accepted a job offer from the University of Hawaii, Freitas thought that her career was over. “When I left, I had to turn down a job in New York City with Igor Stravinsky,” she recalls.
Her next gig would be playing a church organ in Niu Valley—a far cry from Stravinsky—but she soon got involved with HOT, and quickly made herself indispensable. “Some people want to make a living in music, but they have this tunnel vision about what they can do,” she says. “But you can expand: Maybe you can start as a gofer at the radio station, or you can work in the office at the symphony. The point is that you’ll be learning.”