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Happy 50th, HTY!


If you counted how many people have attended a Honolulu Theatre for Youth production since 1955, when Nancy Corbett founded it, it would amount to more than 5 million.

Today, HTY tours the six main islands each year, reaching children from every corner of the state with its positive, unique brand of local theatre.

"Our 50th season is filled with marvelous works," says HTY managing director, Louise King Lanzilotti. "Our preschool show will be the returning play, Musubi Man by Lee Cataluna, and, at the older end, we're doing a return of Eddie Would Go and a new play by the same writer about Rell Sunn-two icons of Hawai'i."

HTY has always celebrated diversity: It produces well-known classics, works that are folkloric in nature, adaptations of contemporary children's literature and an array of original scripts. The plays often have cultural and historical themes, addressing everyday issues that are important to Hawai'i's young people, and HTY knows how to make them fun.

"You know, people were quite thrilled with our operas of the Dr. Seuss stories," says HTY artistic director, Mark Lutwak. "We staged them last year and brought in the Hawai'i Opera Theatre and the Honolulu Symphony-it was a very big thing down at the Hawai'i Theatre." Lutwak says HTY's wide range of work is what he finds most exciting about his job. "We're not stuck doing one kind of play. On the one hand, there's Dr. Seuss. On the other, we did a hip-hop version of Othello a couple of years ago with DJ Jedi, and toured the high schools."

"One thing that's happened in the past few years, despite some very challenging economic times nationwide for theatre," explains Lanzilotti, "is that HTY has managed to overcome a deficit and begin a cash reserve." Despite this achievement, it should be noted that HTY puts on more than 300 performances a year at schools, libraries and other public venues, without the benefit of a permanent home. This is perhaps HTY's biggest objective at the moment-finding its own full-time performance space.

Along with about 18 staff members, HTY has a core group of five to seven actors. "These actors are just as passionate and put as much of their heart and sweat and blood into a production they know will be seen by a lot of adults as they do into a play they know only 2- and 3-year-olds will see," says Lutwak. "That's kind of an exciting thing."

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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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