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Small Mouth Sounds at Roundhouse Theatre

Stage and Screen: August 2019

THROUGH SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Aladdin
We all remember seeing Disney’s iconic animated film Aladdin as 90s kids. With a recent adaptation of the film, this is the best time for the hit Broadway musical to make its way to the Kennedy Center. From the producer of Broadway’s The Lion King comes the timeless story of Aladdin, a thrilling new production filled with unforgettable beauty, magic, comedy and breathtaking spectacle. It’s an extraordinary theatrical event where one lamp and three wishes make the possibilities infinite. Various times. Tickets start at $39. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

TUESDAYS THROUGH SEPTEMBER 24

Harold Night
Harold Night is Washington Improv Theater’s weekly homage to the world-famous long-form improv performance known as Harold. The show begins with suggestions from the audience, and the players create what the audience is imagining right before their eyes. The night ends in a free jam where the audience is invited to try improv side by side with the actors and performers – no experience necessary. Seating is first-come, first-serve so it would be best to get there on the earlier side. Pay what you choose. Show starts at 8 p.m. The Source: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; www.witc.org

MONDAY, AUGUST 5 and MONDAY, AUGUST 19

Comedy, Magic & Martinis
Mix and mingle with your fellow speakeasy-goers at the Mansion on O’s magical event. Instead of a stage and curtains, this will be closeup magic and it’s sure to shock and surprise you every step of the way. The speakeasy will be a bit hidden, so you may have to do a bit of sleuthing to find the six famous Houdini clocks. You’ll also be able to enjoy themed rooms and exhibits as well as $10 martinis. Doors at 5 p.m. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50. The Mansion on O: 2020 O St. NW, DC; www.omansion.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15 – SATURDAY, AUGUST 17

DC Black Film Festival
The Miracle Theatre and Mayflower Hotel present this festival featuring notable films like Solace, Oklahoma is Black and Murder in Mobile, as well as web series and television content by and about people of African descent. Visit the website for more information about the 2019 festival showcase, including a full schedule of events. Various times. Tickets start at $15. The Miracle Theatre: 535 8th St. SE, DC; www.dcbff.org

SUNDAY, AUGUST 18

Signature Theatre Open House
To start off its 30th season with a bang, Signature Theatre will be hosting its annual open house in mid-August. Starting at noon, you’ll be able to enjoy performances every 15 minutes as well as master classes, family cabarets, games, crafts and much more. One new addition this year: you’ll be able to enter a lottery to win free tickets to the theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. The event runs from 12-7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

THURSDAY, AUGUST 22

Brian Parise
After being nominated for an Emmy for his writing on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Brian Parise is back to provide many laughs and standup for audiences of all ages to enjoy. Parise got his start in the DC comedy scene and quickly became a rising star before moving on to host a monthly comedy show in Brooklyn. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. The Comedy Loft of DC: 1523 22nd St. NW, DC; www.dccomedyloft.com

MONDAY, AUGUST 26

Spotlight Berlin
The Goethe-Institut Washington is partnering with Scena Theatre to present a series of workshops featuring selections of the latest and greatest plays to appear on the Berlin stage. This reading features Look Who’s Back, a play adapted from the novel – both of which were written by Timur Vermes. This will be the last reading of the series, so don’t miss it. Show starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets free with registration. Goethe-Institut Washington: 1990 K St. NW, DC; www.goethe.de

THURSDAY, AUGUST 29 – MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

Small Mouth Sounds
To start off Roundhouse Theatre’s 41st season, Small Mouth Sounds focuses on six people who find themselves on a weeklong silent retreat in the woods. As they move through the week together, they begin to realize that being able to look “inward” is much more difficult when you are trying to get to know those around you first. Artist Director Ryan Rilette has created a show where the audience will find “equal parts humor and tenderness.” Various times. Pay what you can. Roundhouse Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; www.roundhousetheatre.org

Kaena Kekoa as Jasmine // Photo: Deen van Meer

Into A Whole New World: A Q&A with Aladdin’s Kaena Kekoa

“Jasmine knows what she wants and she is determined to get what she wants, she stood out to me because she is a sign of empowerment for young girls.”

Kaena Kekoa said to me over the phone as we discussed her role in Aladdin. The Broadway national tour of the play is making its way through cities across the country to bring a whole new world to each audience, taking the Kennedy Center stage on July 18. While many remember the classic 90s Disney film, the stage version has chosen to rewrite Jasmine in order to give her more “umph” as Kekoa says. On Tap was able to speak with her about her start in theatre and what it means to play such a well-known character.

On Tap: When did your interest in the theatre first begin?
Kaena Kekoa: I got into the theatre when I was 11, mostly church musicals and community theatre. I have been singing for most of my life. 

OT: What brought you to Aladdin?
KK: I went to an open call at the end of January 2019 in Honolulu, when I auditioned for the show. I had moved back home after college, they had an open call for Frozen, Lion King and Aladdin. I had no intention of going because I was already home and I missed it and wasn’t planning on leaving. I thought it would be a fun thing to do, I got called back for Princess Jasmine in mid-February, which felt so fast!

OT: Why were you interested in playing the part of Princess Jasmine?
KK: Honestly, I had no intention of doing any of it, it kind of just happened for me. She is a role model for young girls, especially in this time where girls need a strong independent woman figure. Especially on the stage, they get to come to the show and see her. She knows what she wants and she is determined to get what she wants. She stood out to me because she is a sign of empowerment for young girls. 

OT: In terms of the power dynamic, Jasmine tends to get pushed away as a female, how did you approach this?
KK: In the show, we give her some umph, she was written with more umph than the animated film. She has her friends who push her, we have three attendants instead of a tiger, who push her to run away. “Love comes to those who go and find it, and if you dream then stand behind it,” she really takes that on in this show. She is determined to find what she wants. Even though her father is telling her what to do, she is still determined to go out and be a better person for her people and for herself. She’s not just another Disney princess, she has developed [much more].

OT: Do you think Jasmine’s story as a character is important? Why?
KK: Oh most definitely! Mostly because she kind of wears the pants, she is the only Disney princess who wears pants, actually. She takes charge of her own life. In this production, Jasmine is one of the only female principles in this show and she is surrounded by men telling her what to do. [It’s] relatable to this day and age, and it’s a story for all, not just for the little ones. 

OT: Did you feel pressure playing this character that is so well known and well loved by anyone who grew up with Disney?
KK: Honestly, no. I love taking on a character and figuring them out and adding my own flavor to it, but I didn’t feel as much pressure with Jasmine. As a woman of color, I love to represent that on stage because it is so important. 

OT: Do you ever get pre-show jitters/how do you get past them?
KK: I definitely had pre-show jitters for the first month straight. I’ve never been part of a Broadway national tour. I had a mentor in high school who told me to turn my nervousness into excitement and that will give you the energy to go on stage and take people to a “whole new world,” [laughs] if you will. 

OT: What are your favorite productions, what is your dream role?
KK: Hmm, good question! A Chorus Line, everyone in the theatre can relate to the first song, “I Hope I Get It,” and that song runs through your head and the story overall, getting to know all the different characters and their stories is just so touching and moving. Honestly, I probably don’t have a dream role, I feel like they are the ones we don’t know about yet, whether they are written or not, I haven’t played it yet so I guess I wouldn’t know what it is. I can [also] tell you that Princess Jasmine is my dream come true. 

OT: What advice would you give to anyone coming into this business? Something you wish you had known?
KK: Hmm, I guess I would say to be kind to everyone, and I kind of knew to be kind to everyone, but it’s something that not a lot of people know how to do. There are so many people working hard behind the scenes making sure you are safe and that your show works, be thankful and say thank you and express that to everyone backstage. Express your gratitude, because if they weren’t there then you wouldn’t have a show. 

“Aladdin” will be featured at the Kennedy Center from Thursday, July 18 to Saturday, September 7. For more information and for tickets please visit here.

John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org