John Rampage And Deena Dray
Diamond Head Theatre celebrates 95 seasons of being a staple in Hawaii’s performing arts community by providing consistent quality shows and serving as an outlet for youths and budding stars to shine.
Executive director Deena Dray and artistic director John Rampage are two of many on staff who have made DHT what it is today.
“We have a long history in Hawaii,” says Dray, who is responsible for the day-to-day management and long-term direction of the theater, among other duties. “Families have grown up coming to our theater, working at our theater and performing at our theater. We have generations who have passed down their season seats. Many young people who started on stage or backstage now have careers in film and theater. Plus we have a solid reputation for delivering a quality production. You know when you come to DHT, you’ll have a terrific theater experience.”
The original name of Diamond Head Theatre was The FOOTLIGHTS, which was primarily started as a ladies’ social club whose members were mostly affluent members of society who met at each other’s homes to read aloud and discuss plays they had written. Gentlemen, at the time, were not permitted membership.
According to Rampage, the exact year the meetings started is unclear. But in 1915, the ladies presented their first public performance at the old Opera House, located across from Iolani Palace where the post office now stands. Throughout the 1920s, Rampage explains, productions remained rather highbrow and were chosen for their elitist appeal. Then in the early ‘30s, the name was changed to Honolulu Community Theatre and its first musical, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, was produced. “Since then, musicals have become the backbone of our season, and in 1990 the name was changed once more, to Diamond Head Theatre,” Rampage says.
As artistic director, Rampage oversees everything that goes into putting a season together, including assembling the team of directors, choreographers, musical directors, costumes, sets, lighting and more. He also sits in on all auditions and has final approval on all casting decisions, along with serving for the past 13 years as director of DHT’s Shooting Stars youth program.
“Some of my proudest work (at DHT) has been with the children, teens and young adults of the program,” Rampage says. “They are the future of live theater in Hawaii, and I hope I’ve passed on to them a little of my love and passion for musical theater.”
Dray and Rampage appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in December 2004, and since then have ensured that DHT continues to do what it does best: entertaining thousands of theater-goers with Broadway-style, high-quality musicals and plays while also offering year-round performing arts classes in everything from baby ballet to hip-hop to adult acting.
“We’ll have a low-key celebration with the opening of our next show, Guys & Dolls, on May 14,” Dray says. “At DHT, our mission is to be the ‘Broadway of the Pacific,‘which to me means bringing a bit of Broadway theater to Hawaii. We entertain and sometimes enlighten our audiences. We help them to laugh and sometimes to cry. As long as they walk away with an experience, we’ve done our job.”
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