A fusion of talent and energy came together in the sold-out world premiere of The Story of Everything (TSOE) in Honolulu, Hawai`i on September 26, 2015. Kealoha, an award winning spoken word poet and a graduate of MIT with a degree in nuclear physics, led the effort. The theatre, filled with a community of mothers and babies, students, and young adults to elders of all ethnicities and professions, represented the vast diversity of communities Kealoha desires to work among. The performance was the culmination of a lifetime’s work for Kealoha and one of the pilot projects of NACF’s Community Inspiration Program.
One never would have thought that science could be so accessible, humorous, and entertaining at the same time. With a cast of thirteen and Kealoha as the central storyteller in every scene, the audience was taken on a journey through the big bang theory, the stars and solar system to the homo sapien migration. His depiction of the planets as a Hawaiian family spoken in Pidgeon English personalized our connection with the universe. The story between the earth, sun and the moon touched on deep love and caring for one another. Both emphasized that “we come from one big universal family” and nobody gets left behind.
In the year prior to the premiere while Kealoha was completing the writing for TSOE, he performed pieces of TSOE and conducted a workshop on poetry and storytelling for students at Kapiolani Community College’s STEM program for incoming freshman, with Native Hawaiian Student Services at UH Manoa, and at Punahou School’s summer PUEO Program which identifies middle and high school students in neighboring public schools with high academic potential, but with low economic opportunity. In addition to the student community, he presented the TSOE script to a diverse adult community at Kumu Kahua Theatre to seek feedback on the six sections of the poem. Subsequently, he changed some aspects of the writing. He worked with a community of thirteen other artists who were part of the performance in what was a very organic process of creativity and collaboration.
Kealoha’s passion is the sustainability of our planet and the issue of climate change. In the last section of his poem called “Our Future” he outlines nine pathways or “parallel dimensions” that may result depending on the action or inaction the human species chooses to take. In the Native Hawaiian community, this has a high degree of interest as our relatively small island archipelago continues to be threatened with over-development, destruction of our natural environment, and over-reliance on outside energy resources such as fossil fuels.
What is especially provocative about his approach is how he champions the value of a scientific viewpoint and presents it with pop culture and indigenous perspective. One of the most compelling parts of the show was when Kealoha and Kaui Kanaka`ole wove in the genius of Native Hawaiian knowledge with the Kumulipo synchronizing the storylines, a favorite piece of many in the audience.
A very poignant moment in the Q & A after the performance between the performers and audience was a comment that a few members of the audience made stating that this show needs to be taken to Congress, to the Kennedy Center, to the world. Kealoha responded in his usual humble and appreciative way, “Yes, and I would like to take it to the neighbor islands if possible”.