Theatre Actress Pruden Lauded At Po‘okela Awards

Wednesday - July 18, 2007
By Lisa Asato
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Jo Pruden
Jo Pruden

Mililani resident and long-time local theater actress Jo Pruden will receive the 2007 Pierre Bowman Award for lifetime achievement at the Po’okela Awards banquet Monday.

“I’ve acted all these years because I love it,” said Pruden, who is 68. “To receive an award like this is gravy on top.”

In her four decades in local theater, Pruden has performed in some 75 shows and won 11 Pookela Awards, which are Honolulu’s version of the Tonys.

“I love seeing theater, but even more than seeing it I love doing it - acting,” said Pruden, whose favorite roles include Miss Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy, Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful, Grace in Grace and Glorie, and Big Mama in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. “She kind of reminded me of my own mother,” said Pruden, who has graced many Oahu stages, some of which are now only memories.

Three months after arriving in Hawaii from Alabama with her husband, Jip, in 1967, Pruden was already rehearsing for her first show - “Send Me No Flowers at the Schofield Little Theater, which doesn’t exist anymore,” she said.

Pruden has been the box office manager at Army Community Theatre for 10 years and director of the readers’ theater group at Arcadia, a seniors’ retirement home, for six. She was named Best Actress working in Local Theatre by Honolulu Weekly readers in 1996. Her No. 1 fan, though, is her husband, whom she calls “my most ardent supporter and my severest critic. ... He sees all my shows.”

Still active in theater, Pruden recently acted in Manoa Valley Theatre’s Over My Dead Body, and she wraps up a role in Aging is Not For Sissies ...!, a series of monologues about growing older, at Kumu Kahua Theatre July 20 to 22. “We took it to Chicago in March for a convention on age,” she said, adding, “It’s really caught on, people really clamor for tickets when we do it.”

Tom Holowach, president of the Hawaii State Theatre Council, which presents the Pierre Bowman award, called Pruden one of the state’s finest actresses, who may be its longest actively performing one as well. “I mean, 40 years - that’s amazing,” he said.“In fact, when we said we were giving the award to Jo, a lot of people said, ‘Well, it’s about time,’ and we’re so happy to be able to do it.”

The awards will be presented at 8 p.m. Monday at the “Stars’ Night Out” banquet at the Koolau Ballroom in Kaneohe, following 6 p.m. no-host cocktails and a 7 p.m. dinner buffet. For tickets, including to charge by phone, call Kelly Moulson at 733-0277, extension 306. Cost is $40 per person, or $400 for a table for eight and $500 for a table for 10.

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