Starting this Friday April 26th and going until May 5th, the Manitoba Theatre for Young People is presenting a show that deals with our connection to nature as told through the stories, oral histories and traditions of Hawaiian and South Pacific people.

MTYP has teamed up with The Honolulu Theatre for Youth to present a play called The Pa’akai We Bring. This original production introduces audiences to the Native Hawaiian relationship with pa‘akai or (salt). Traditionally, pa‘akai is food, medicine, a sacrament and a treasured gift. The play follows a family with multiple generations of salt farmers on Kauai. Mixing in ancient stories, hula, live music, original songs and plenty of audience participation into a tasty potluck of performance, joyously served up with aloha.

Honolulu Theatre for Youth is an organization that was founded in 1955. It is one of the oldest and most respected children’s theatre companies in the entire U.S. They are also the only professional theatre company this exists in the state of Hawaii.

The Pa’akai We Bring is all about salt and salt farming and it may seem like a bit of a head scratcher to figure out how someone would write an entire play on the subject; but the play is so much more than that. Salt is used as the basis to explore themes such as the importance of family, traditions, the value of hard work, and environmental awareness. As Sarah Flynn Artistic Associate for MTYP explains, “Salt farming on Hanapepe which is the specific island within Hawaii that a lot of these stories come from…is a tradition that has been passed on for generations and generations in that area. The families have been doing it forever. [Farming salt] Because for them salt is such an important thing. It’s a medicine, it’s a food, it’s a gift…to be given salt is a really beautiful thing. It’s all about the family, the traditions and the continuing of these traditions… but also the continuing those long standing traditions in the face of the world we are in now versus what it was like when the process was started.”

The play tells these stories through a number of different mediums.  As Flynn states, “They tell a story through hula…it’s not maybe the traditional hula that you think of when you go on your resort trip to’s really a form of storytelling, where they are telling stories through the movement…through the music…they tell of the first salt making through hula,” says Flynn.

One of the other ways they deal with tales and customs is through music, As Flynn explains. “The music is so woven into the piece that it’s used as background for scenes….it tells its own stories…it adds to the hula…it’s all part of another element that helps to tell the stories.”

There is also audience participation, where the players on stage will teach the audience words in native Hawaiian and song lyrics as well. The audience ends up singing the lyrics back to the players. So there is very much a call and response element to the show between actors and audience.

Many of the themes that the play talks about, such as the environment, the importance of family and keeping traditions alive and reconciliation are subjects that are very pertinent to what we are dealing with here in Canada. As Flynn states, “These are their native Hawaiian stories, and they talk about how they have tried to grapple with these issues of reconciliation within their own traditions and in their own ways of life…and I think that is always going to be transferable to here in a place where we’re always working towards reconciliation; and that’s such a hot topic issue of trying to figure out how to work together and how to move forward. This show is them sort of saying ’this is how we did it. It might not be how you do it but it’s a view into the fact that it is possible’ …that here are ways to do it…and we can find paths through some of those more difficult times in life.”

The Pa’akai We Bring is sure to be entertaining for both children and adults as well. Children will learn about the importance of hard work, family and carrying on traditions, and adults will definitely be able to pick up on some of the nuanced themes that the play presents. It promises to be highly rewarding no matter how old you are.

The Pa’akai we bring starts this Friday April 26th and goes until May 5th.   For more details visit the Manitoba Theatre for Young People’s website.