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Archive for April, 2013

MACBETH and a Lesson in Courage

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Last night I got a great lesson in courage.  And from a rather unlikely source:

Last night I went to see the brilliant production of Macbeth (starring the always-amazing Alan Cumming) currently running on Broadway.

How can a production of MACBETH be a lesson in courage?


The entire show (except for a few lines) is performed by Alan Cumming.  That’s right.  I MEAN (almost) ALL OF THE ROLES.  And this isn’t a kitschy “let’s to Shakespeare as a one-man show” kind of production.  This was brilliantly thought out, planned and staged.  Incredibly inventive and not gimmicky–even though they used multi-media and technology in ways that surprised me.

But this isn’t a review of the show.  I’ll leave that to those that are qualified theater reviewers.

I want to tell you how Cumming’s performance rocked my world.

He took more risks than I’ve ever seen an actor take on stage.  He was naked (literally, at times) in how he presented the piece. He didn’t shy away from the show’s dark subject matter.  He didn’t break character.  He didn’t act as though he was being cute in a look-what-I-can-do-aren’t-I-being-clever kind of way.

He was willing to take risks that could have been colossal failures.  He screamed.  He whispered.  He wept.  He laughed maniacally.  There were times when I grabbed onto the side of my seat, sinking down and muttering under my breath, “Oh no, Alan. Don’t do that.  They’re all going to laugh!  It’s too risky!” (Thank God I wasn’t directing the show.)

He stood tall.  He bared himself–physically and emotionally–for the sake of the piece.  For the art of the craft.

He put himself on the line to bring the piece–and the artistic vision of everyone involved in this production–to life.

He was courageously vulnerable.

And in my eyes, that makes him a hero.

An artistic hero.

When I was working as/aspiring to be an actor, I wasn’t anywhere near that brave.  I was ridiculously self-conscious,  aware of every move that I made.  I chose to play it safe.  I didn’t want to fail.

And you know what?  I wasn’t successful.  My attempt to “not fail at any cost” was a total failure.

Art is about risks.  But so is life, right?

As a haole from the “the big city” who is working as a Hawaiian musician and teacher, it’s all about risks.  Being who I am and doing what I’m doing is a risk.  Some people will DISLIKE me based on that alone.

And that’s ok.

Because I’m not going to please everyone. And in truth, I’m not trying to please everyone.

I’m trying to be authentic and represent who I am–where I am now as well as the road that’s lead me here.

And I’m trying to be authentic in my sharing of what I’ve been asked to share.

And that’s scary.  That’s really scary.

But it’s totally worth it.

Because when you watch someone like Alan Cumming redefine a classic piece of theater– when you watch him reinvent it and yet honor its roots so beautifully–you can’t help but cheer and rise to your feet at the curtain call.  (And did I mention that he received a standing ovation through not one but THREE curtain calls last night?!)

He was successful in his portrayal.  All of the choices he made/had been directed to make were great.  They worked.  But even if the production had been flawed, he would have been successful in my eyes.

He acted with courage.  He acted with conviction.  He gave himself to the piece.

And allowing yourself to be vulnerable takes courage.

I hope to be that strong when I share a song or story or lesson that I’ve been asked to share.

I hope to represent what I know as bravely as he did.

We owe that much to those that believe in us.  Our directors.  Our teachers.  Our kūpuna.

Because it’s all about them when it comes to the curtain call at the end of the day.

Be pono.  Stand tall.  Share Aloha.

Right on.


jason poole, accidental hawaiian crooner, uke night, birdland, broadway at birdland, strum, kamaka ukulele

Aloha, gang!

I’m so excited to be a part of this AWESOME EVENING OF ‘UKULELE MUSIC here in NYC on Monday, April 15th!!

Yup.  This one is gonna be GOOD!

Lots of Broadway stars.  Lots of singing.  Lots of strumming.

And all of it the legendary venue, BIRDLAND.

Here’s what they’re saying about it on Facebook: UKE NIGHT! at Birdland on Monday April 15th. Proceeds to be donated to the Barden Family Fund, helping the family of young Daniel Barden who was a victim of the Sandy Hook/Newtown tragedy. Come on out, hear some fine uke-playing on some songs you might not expect and help donate to a very worthy cause.

And please click HERE to access a link to Birdland’s website.

So if you’re going to be in the NYC area, I’d LOVE to see you there!  Great music for a very worthy cause.

(And come on–you know you’re going to need some good tunes to take away the sting of Tax Day, right?!)

Right on.



Monday, April 15th  7:00PM

$25 ticket plus $10 food/drink minimum.

For tickets and reservations: (212) 581-3080


Halawa Valley, Molokai, Jason Poole, Accidental Hawaiian Crooner, Pilipo Solatorio, Anakala Pilipo

Hālawa Bay today. (Hālawa Valley, Molokai, HI. March 2013)

On April 1, 1946 at approximately 7:15 AM (HST) a tidal wave struck the Hawaiian islands.  And in its destructive path was the village of Hālawa on the island of Molokai.

My kumu (teacher)/hānai Pops was only six years old when it happened.  A child who watched the wall of water reach 1.6 miles into valley he calls home and wreaked havoc on all that it touched.


This afternoon, I was working on the computer in my apartment in NYC–a zillion miles away from the quiet of Hālawa Valley–when the phone rang.

It was Pops, calling from his cell phone up near Pu’u O Hōkū Ranch where the cell phones sometimes catch service.  Our conversation started out friendly as always and then he grew quiet.

“Do you know what today is?  Do you know what happened sixty-seven years ago today?”

I could hear him inhale and then his voice seemed to catch in his throat.  ”The tsunami came to Hālawa sixty-seven years ago today.”

“This morning, I came up to the lookout  to remember.  I came up and put a lei on the pōhaku (rock) at mile marker 27–where we ran to when the water came.  I sounded the pū (conch shell trumpet) over and over and over and over.  It was only me and the spirits of the kūpuna (elders).  And I cried.”


Pops tells the story of the tsunami often.

Sometimes to the people of Molokai when he offers a talk-story/cultural presentation.  But most often, he shares the story with the visitors he receives in Hālawa Valley–folks coming for the hike to the waterfalls or to learn about the valley and its rich history.

I’ve heard it so many times.  And yet every time I hear it, I get chickenskin.  Goosebumps.

He tells the story best.  And to REALLY hear it, you should hear it from him.  Live and in person.

But I’ll do my best to tell you what I remember from his story:

The story begins on March 31, 1946.  Back in those days, Hālawa Valley had a telephone–kind of like a “party line” where every family had their own ring.  At at about 8:00 PM, the phone rang.  It was the police informing them that a tsunami would be hitting the Hawaiian islands the following morning.

“We didn’t know what a tsunami was,” Pops says.  ”That was a Japanese word.  But we knew it meant something important was going to happen.  So we waited.”

“At about two o’clock in the morning, all of the animals in the valley started making noise.  The old folks came and woke up all of the children, saying, ‘Makaʻala!  Makaʻala!’ Be alert!’”

He says that Tūtū Kāne (Grandpa) led the family in prayer, asking for guidance through whatever was about to happen.  The younger children went back to sleep and the older folks stayed awake.

“In the morning, it was the custom for the women to go down to the beach to kūkākūkā.  Tūtū Kāne used to  call that ‘women’s talk.’”

And when they were on the beach, they were horrified to see that ocean had receded a huge distance.

“They could just see coral mountains and big splashes coming from the fish flopping in the holes.”

He could hear them scream as they raced back into the valley.  ”KAI EʻE!  KAI EʻE!  KAI EʻE!”  Tidal wave!  Tidal wave!  Tidal wave!

Someone had run to the church in the valley and rang the bell frantically to signal an emergency.

“Tūtū Kāne had the children go and loosen all of the animals we had tied up in the valley.  We grabbed up important documents, pictures and the black book (the Bible).  Then the whole family ran up the mountain to the place where mile marker 27 stands today.” (Note: the Bible was important to the family not only because of its religious significance, but also because it contained the family’s genealogy in its front pages.)

Tears usually fill Pops’ eyes as he talks about watching the wave reach the valley.  ”It’s not the kind of wave you can surf.  It was a wall of water that came in and and went all the way through here,” he says with a sweep of his hand that seems to cover the entire valley, from the ocean to the mountain.

“And it was the most frightening sound you can imagine.  Houses being moved from their foundations, nails ripping from boards and rocks and boulders rolling and tumbling down.”

He talks about watching a family jump from their home as it was being sucked out into the ocean by the receding waters.

“The wave just kept coming–in and out, in and out.”

When the waters finally withdrew from the valley, the families were afraid to return to their homes.  ”We weren’t sure what was going to happen.  We didn’t know if it was safe.  We waited and prayed.”

Eventually, they did return later in the day.  And they were horrified by what they saw and smelled.  The valley had been devastated by the water.  And the ground was covered with dead fish and other sea life.  ”The fish were white–the blood had been sucked out of them by the pressure.”

Pops is always quick to add that the reports of over 200 people dying in the tidal wave are completely untrue.  ”No one died that day in Hālawa.  Folks get that mixed up with what happened on Hawaiʻi Island.”

He also makes sure he points out that while the tidal wave had severely damaged the valley and its plentiful loʻi (taro patches)–it did not destroy them.  The loʻi had, indeed, been filled with sand.  But the people were able to dig out the sand and flush the taro terraces with fresh water.

“The kalo (taro) flourished, again, after that,” he says.  ”And we rebuilt.”

Another historical inaccuracy is that folks were forced to leave the valley after the tsunami.  But that, too, is false. According to Pops, many folks had already left when Word War II began.

“Many of our boys and men went to war.  Many didn’t return.  Those who did return were offered jobs on military bases around the world.  For a lot of folks, that was an opportunity to leave the farmer’s life behind.”


As the oldest living descendant still residing in the valley, Pops feels it’s important to share the story of what happened the day the tidal wave struck.

“It’s important to keep the memory alive,” he reminds me.

And I will, Pops.  I promise.