The opening of “Shipment Day” at Manoa Valley Theatre

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Manoa Valley Theatre’s 50th Anniversary continues with the world premiere of “Shipment Day” by Hawaii-born playwright, Lorenzo DeStefano.

The play is about DeStefano’s Portuguese cousin, the well-known leprosy activist Olivia Robello Breitha, and portrays her painful, traumatic experience with Hansen’s disease. 

At the age of 18, Oliva was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, placed in confinement at Kahili Hospital for two-and-a-half years, then shipped to Kalaupapa where she spent seventy years of her life, until her death in 2006 at the age of 90.

DeStefano shares why he felt Olivia’s story was important to tell. 

“Having known Olivia for 17 years and learned so much from her about strength and survival of the individual in the face of institutional oppression, it seemed a natural step to share her story in a theatrical context,” explained DeStefano.

“We are experiencing similar profiling going on now with issues surrounding minorities, the disabled, different sexual orientations, immigrants. It seems a good time to remind people, as Olivia did, that we are dealing with individual human beings here, not faceless masses. As Olivia often said. ‘I am not my condition. Call me by my name. Call me Olivia.’”

“Shipment Day” also hopes to break the stigma of patients associated with Hansen’s Disease. 

“People would be surprised to learn, as I did, that these are not “afflicted” people. These are everyday citizens whose rights have been taken away by the forces of fear and ignorance,” said DeStefano.

“The people I met and grew to love and admire in Kalaupapa each had their own distinct personalities, just like people in any neighborhood. Some were more friendly than others. Some more open to talk about their lives. Others more protective. What they all seem to have shared, even at times of disunity, is their special connection to this place where their lives intersected and where part of Hawaii’s history was formed and still plays out to this day.”

Performing in the show are Aiko Chinen as Betty, David Heulitt as Hank, Eddie Vancil as Carl, Karen Kaulana as Mary Fernandez, Ku’ulei Shafee as Olivia, Lauren Murata as Linda, Maleko McDonnell as Les Texeira/Joe and William Ha’o as Manuel Robello.

The play will run November 8 – 25. Show times are Wed. 7:30 p.m., Thur. 7:30 p.m., Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 8 p.m., and Sun. 4 p.m.

Tickets are $40.

Seniors and military are admitted for $35, youth 25 years old and younger are $22.  

Minimum age is 12.

Call 988-6131 or purchase tickets online at https://manoavalleytheatre.com.

The doors will open for seating 30 minutes prior to each performance.

Beverages will be available for purchase on site.

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