cott Hanada plays Uncle Makana in the award winning Not One Batu, written by Co-Artistic Director Hannah Ii-Epstein, directed by Rachel Slavick, in association with cultural specialist Lanialoha Lee and Aloha Center Chicago. Not One Batu is the first full-length Hawaiian Pidgin-English play produced in Chicago, centered around the meth epidemic in Hawai’i and its impact on families for generations. Not One Batu closes July 21st. The play runs Wednesday through Saturday at 7pm, at Berger Park Cultural Center Coach House, 6205 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago IL. Tickets are available here. The press opening is Wed, June 27th, 7pm.
What's your personal story?
I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Back home, I always had a hard time learning scripted work; instead I dove deep into the improv scene and absolutely loved it. I had never thought about moving off the rock until I visited Chicago in 2010 to check out the Chicago Improv Festival (CIF). It was awesome! All these people from all over world in one city for improv!
From then on, I had Chicago in my brain. 2 years later, I jumped at a chance to attend iO’s Summer Improv Intensive. 5 weeks of improv classes and shows, exploring the city, breathing in its chocolaty air, it was a magical summer!
Your air smells of chocolate! If you don’t think that’s magical, get off your cynical butt and breathe!
Less than 11 months later, Chicago had moved from my brain to my heart and, my feet touched down at O’hare; not as a visitor, but as a new resident. Since the move, I have enjoyed my time in Chicago’s improv community. I’ve completed iO’s improv program and Second City’s Conservatory; performed in a bunch of groups, including Chicago’s longest running All Asian improv and sketch group, Stir Friday Night; and toured around the US with Chicago Improv Production Touring Company. I’ve even had the honor of actually performing in CIFs 2014-2016!
Now, I’m in performing in my first Nothing Without a Company production, Not One Batu. I love that I am part of a show about Hawaii, in Chicago. Not One Batu’s story is beautifully written with characters that feel as real as the islands I’ve come from and Rachel is an awesome director, really encouraging us to discover those characters within us.
Still need to find out where the chocolate air is coming from…
What's your character's story in "Not One Batu"?
Uncle Makana is friends with everyone. He is host of the party. He does not smoke ice, but he does deal marijuana. He might be homeless, but does not let that get him down. Uncle Makana is the personification of joy.
What challenges does your character face telling this story?
As challenges go, Uncle Makana doesn’t like people knowing he has any. He just wants everyone to be more like his chillaxin’ self. That desire does cause him to be more of a peacekeeper and can put him in the middle of some fairly unpredictable situations.Makana may never show it, but he does have some very serious secrets that no one else can uncover.
How does the character overcome those challenges?
As peacemaker, he does what he can to make friends with everyone. Because, he’s homeless, he wants everyone to feel like they’re part of his ohana. He might be homeless, but he is very disarming. He is a clown and jester of sorts, which allows him to collect all sorts of secrets and treasures in his shopping cart. If you ask him how he does it, Uncle Makana would say, “No worries beef curry.”
Any other comments?
Two more things to note about why I love being part of this show:
- For a while, we have all noticed that other productions and their companies find it hard to create a show with a fully diverse cast. Nothing Without a Company proves with Not One Batu that it can be done. The show truly reflects the diversity of the state.
- People don’t want to hear about the ugly in Hawaii. They want to believe that it’s this perfect paradise. Just like how people outside of Chicago are uncomfortable hearing about this city’s ugly and its truths. But these stories need to be told because they are all part of our reality, our truths.