Building Permit

 

GENRE: Comedy.

STATUS: In distribution. Building Permit can be viewed on the public Roku TV channel, All Hawaii TV, and the Public, Education, and Government (PEG) access provider, Olelo Community Media. It can also be viewed in its entirety on this web page. See below.

LOGLINE: The story of the Hawaii community theater, TAG – The Actors’ Group, long operating unofficially under the radar, attempting to pass Honolulu’s building code and gain formal city approval.

COMPANY NOTES: This was actually a stage production produced by TAG. However, it was filmed and edited like a movie in that during an additional night of filming, each scene was separately recorded, and unlike recording the run of a single performance, the best of each scene was then edited together to produce the final cut, which plays like a movie, in that it has good sound and clear shot angles throughout.

IMDb: Building Permit

A Brief History Of TAG

 

The Following Synopsis Provides Only A Basic Overview Of TAG’s Development Since The Narration In The Film Itself That Follows Goes Into Greater Detail

 

TAG – The Actors’ Group began on the night that Hawaii acting teacher, Dick Kindelon, decided to stop teaching his Honolulu Film Actors Workshop (HFAW) in 1993. In the class that night was his most consistent student (having taken his weekly class religiously for five years), actor Eric Nemoto. Upon announcing his retirement at the beginning of the class, Eric spent the rest of the evening inquiring if the other actors would like to continuing meeting to conduct self evaluating acting classes. The response was yes, and a month later, 15 actors were attending the first full meeting post HFAW, and upon Eric’s suggestion that a new name was needed for the group, the name of “The Actors Group” (sans the possessive apostrophe which came later) was written on a chalkboard by Eric. When asked why that particular name, Eric responded that one day the acronym, TAG, would be famous one day.

The meeting room that TAG first started meeting in was a room at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where Eric worked at the time as a TRIO counselor (Upward Bound). There, the group would hold its scene study sessions using the scripts that Dick Kindelon used to use, which Dick had given over to Eric. They all contributed a nominal monthly fee to throw into the pot which was used to pay for the room rental. TAG stayed at the university conducting weekly sessions like Dick did and once a month brought in a teaching instructor. After a year there, the group then moved over to hole-in-the wall venue on Keawe Street in the (then) predominantly industrial section of Honolulu in 1994, which was called the original Yellow Brick Studio. There, after briefly continuing to do scene study sessions, TAG morphed into ensemble of actors performing original plays based on improvisational exercises, the first play of which was entitled, “Dances For Two.”

TAG would go on to stay at Yellow Brick Studio on Keawe Street for 13 years, finally leaving the confines in 2008 (after the building would eventually become condemned and set for future condominium development) after a series of fundraisers. The theater was moved to the Mendonca Building in Chinatown where it operated for two years. Upon deciding to move to their present location in The Shops at Dole Cannery in 2010 came their desire to be approved by the City and County of Honolulu as certified community theater. Along the way, TAG evolved from being a creative curiosity to becoming one of Hawaii’s premiere community theaters, as recognized through a number of Po’okelas (Hawaii’s Tony awards), and over time attracting many of Hawaii’s best actors and directors. It became a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, garnered a significant following as witnessed by an email list serve totaling more than 2,300 names, and officially named its theater after its long-time artistic director, Brad Powell.

 

The Build Up Of “Building Permit”

 

Due to its subject matter, Building Permit benefited from great publicity. The difficulty in obtaining a building permit in the City & County of Honolulu had plagued Hawaii citizens to such an extent that it had reached near legendary status. Accordingly, in addition to the regular entertainment notice afforded by Hawaii’s daily newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the television program, Hawaii News Now, interviewed Eric Nemoto (see photo),¹ Hawaii Public Radio also conducted an interview with Eric, the Hawaii Free Press featured a blurb, and Honolulu Civil Beat wrote about the play inside of an article about the permitting process.

¹The actual interview itself begins around 00:23:58 of the program.

 

The Following Is Taken From The Souvenir Script For “Building Permit” As Written By Eric Nemoto

 

Prologue

When we were going through the process of getting our theater approved by the city, the running gag line I used was that I wanted to do a play about our experiences, but I needed to make sure that we got our building permit first. But honestly, after we finally completed everything, the last thing I wanted was to have anything to do with that process. So, the years passed. But early in 2022, I decided to write the story of our odyssey, thinking at first it would be a diatribe against the system. But as with any writing journey, the story has a way of taking you places you never expected. I realized that penning an entirely factual account of everything we went through had two major flaws to it. One, it would come across as a college lecture (and as I recall, I dozed off in most of my college lectures), and two, I couldn’t remember the exact order of things that we did anyway. So that idea soon went out the window. In addition, as that idiom suggests, the passage of time had healed all of my mental wounds, and also, curiously enough, provided me with a different perspective. What resulted is a fictional comedy drama that is inspired by real events. What is fact and what is fiction we’ll just let that be our little secret, although I will say that the exact chronology of events that are depicted is part of the made-up portion of the story. Of course, the piece certainly has its stick-it-to-the-man moments, but because nothing in this world is entirely one-sided, it does not argue that the fault points only in one direction. If there is an overall theme that is presented it is where do we draw the fine line that separates showing aloha and offering a bribe, and when is that line actually crossed? On this matter, what I wrote was intended to only pose the question, for I certainly won’t portend to know the answer. In the end, I poked fun at all of us simply because if you look beneath all of our self-righteous exteriors, you’ll find that at our essence, we’re all just humans, and so we’re prone to human mistakes. What I hope everyone will keep in mind, first and foremost, is that what we have here is just a play, and as I told our cast and crew there was a reason we call it that. We’re supposed to have fun. This includes having the ability to laugh at ourselves, something that is vastly needed these days. I finished the script on April 26th, 2022, and then forwarded it to Brad Powell for consideration as a regular season play. Brad would eventually decide to have the play lead off the 2023-2024 season, with an initial projected performance run of September 22nd to October 8th, 2023. This had to be moved up to September 15th to October 1st, 2023, when a few actors who I wanted to cast indicated they had travel arrangements, already made, that would begin during the first week of October. As far as the characters go, the script was written with several real-life actors in mind. This included many of the TAG characters, like Brad Powell, Frankie Enos, Laurie Tanoura, Larry Bartley, and Joyce Powell, who all would go on to play themselves. I also envisioned Dann Seki (Francis), Allan Okubo (Norman), Charles Timtim (Junior), Marty Wong (Debbie) when I wrote, and was fortunate when they all accepted. There were other characters in the play who were also real people, Wes Zane (some of whose lines he actually contributed), Gary Perrin, and Pat Ferraris. When each declined to act in it, I was fortunate to get Eric Mita (Wes), Mark Bush (Gary), and Cathy Roberts (Pat) to play these roles. The following actors I was so fortunate to get through either my association with them through TAG, or through my filmmaking work, or through my acting class. These included Virginia Jones (Gladys, TAG), Maseeh Ganjali (Chris, TAG), S. Rick Crump (Mark, TAG), Ken Marcus (Scotty, TAG), Pedro Kurch (Billy, TAG), Orion Tom (Todd, class), Daisy Kim Murakami (Charlene, class), Rick Bernico (Frank, class), and Christine Tsuzaki (Karen, filmmaking). Actors Lyana Atsumi (Janice) and Steven Royal (Byron) were recruited by Allan Okubo. The cast, in a word, were fantastic. In addition to their talents, they accepted my plea to perform without receiving the usual TAG stipend, simply because this promised to be one of the largest casts that TAG had ever had, and one of the great downsides given this, would be that by paying everyone what they would normally have been owed, we would put the production deep in the hole before any revenue was even earned. But to their amazing credit, every single one of them agreed, and because of this, gave TAG hope that our three-year drought (due to the COVID era) of losing or, at best, lackluster house revenue, could be turned around. Rehearsals began on August 7th, 2023, first done via Zoom, then by meeting in the lobby of the Dole building (with access to the stage when unused) until August 21st, 2023, when we could use the theater (after the previous production, “Rotterdam,” had closed). Technical rehearsal was held on September 9th, 2023, a preview held on September 14th, 2023, and we opened on September 15th, 2023.

 

“Building Permit” Appears In Its Entirety Below

 

 

 

The Following Is Taken From The Souvenir Script For “Building Permit” As Written By Eric Nemoto

 

Epilogue

When a project sets lofty expectations, seldom does it ever achieve it. But “Building Permit” turned out to be the amazing exception. At the onset, I stated to the cast that our goal was to sell out every performance. Honestly, I offered this target more in the hopes that by shooting high maybe we could fill 75%, maybe even 80%, of our seats. Still, “selling out” was behind how I wrote the script. First, I wanted to create a story with a very large cast. For a play with many actors could help our attendance simply because if every actor attracted just a few friends and family to attend, it would likely fill a significant segment of each house. Second, I thought by casting actual TAG members and having us play ourselves, would pique the interest of our followers and possibly influence more of them to attend. It had worked before. Back in the “old days,” when we still had no idea how we would ever leave the confines of Keawe Street, I wrote the TAG retrospective play, “From Penicillin to Po`okelas,” in 2007, for which a number of us played ourselves. The play recounted the history of TAG up until then, and it was performed in front of four great crowds which became the impetus for our first fundraising drive to move to a new theater. And so with myself, Brad, Frankie, Laurie, Larry, and Joyce playing ourselves, along with two other members of our board, Marty and Ken, playing other characters, I thought that those who had followed TAG for years would want to check out what this creative piece was all about. Third, the recruitment of Dann (Francis), Allan (Norman), and Charles (Junior), was purposeful. Of course, they were selected first and foremost for their talent, but it wasn’t lost on me that as frequent performers with Kumu Kahua Theatre, a portion of our audience could possibly come from those who watched them perform there. Secretly, I also eyed Eric Mita, another Kumu regular, for the part of Wes, but had to wait for the real Wes Zane to decline the role. In Wes’ own words, he said (somewhat tongue in cheek) that his animosity for the DPP would likely cause him not to stick to the script. His withdrawal allowed me to happily offer the role to Eric. Lyana Atsumi, another actor who had acted often with Kumu, was a happy addition when the actress originally courted to be Janice could not do the role as well. Fourthly, of course, there was the DPP subject matter to begin with. I hoped that TAG’s experience with the DPP would resonate with others who had possibly had the same experience. Boy, did it ever. Because of the topic, the production received some very effective publicity. Larry got Catherine Cruz to do an interview with me on Hawaii Public Radio. Allan put me in touch with Rachel Pacarro of Hawaii News Now for a television interview. Later, Christina Jedra, featured the play in an article on the DPP for Civil Beat. The play even received mention by Dr. Keli`i Akina of the Grass Roots Institute in an email to subscribers about the DPP. All of these served as confirmation of the fact that the processes of the DPP was indeed a hot ticket item in Hawaii. While there exists no exact data as to where our audience came from, anecdotally, it could readily be surmised that all four of these factors contributed to the play’s phenomenal success. In fact, we sold out the entire run, all 11 performances. A TAG first. Moreover, after years of plays that had ended in the red, or had produced uninspired income, the production brought in an astounding $15,000 (and more), also a TAG record. This included proceeds from a curtain call skit devised by Allan and performed by him and the rest of the “Kumu guys,” which asked for cash donations (which is now being continued for TAG’s future plays). Of course, again, the fact that all of the cast graciously performed without stipends contributed immensely to this amazing tally. I can’t thank them enough. Throughout the production there were a number of critical junctures and events. Perhaps the most significant was that the original script I wrote was way too long. Peppered with many references to those who had contributed to TAG’s growth, it was apparent through our rehearsals that without cuts, the play would run an unacceptable three hours. So over the course of a grueling 24-hour period, I reduced the script considerably so that it came in within two hours. Of course, this caused actors to have to “relearn” their lines (I tell you, these writers). We had a grand post opening night party on September 15th, held a talkback after the September 17th performance coordinated by Pat Ferraris, held a celebration of life for Dennis Proulx prior to the September 21st show that was organized by his wife, Belle Armstrong, and on September 23rd, one patron, Bob Howe, bought out the show to celebrate his birthday. We took an added night, September 26th, to film the play, and when we struck the set after our closing, October 1st, we held our ending party, where we took a great cast and crew photo. It can’t be stated enough, “Building Permit” was a resounding success, and indeed, we sure had fun doing it.

The Cast & Crew Of Building Permit After The Closing Show Of Its Production Run

 

Rescued From The Cutting Room Floor: Building Permit is a comedy drama that originally was also a love story. There were scenes that spoke of the many people who helped to build TAG, and TAG’s love for them. But alas, because the show needed to be a reasonable two-act play and not an episodic series, Eric Nemoto had to make the sad decision of cutting these scenes from the show. While the following is offered at great risk – for justice can never be delivered to everyone who devoted their time and talent into making TAG an award-winning community theatre and so apologies are given in advance – the list of the people who were originally mentioned in the play (some of whom appear in it) can be accessed by clicking here.

 

For information on other movies produced by Yellow Brick Studio / LegacyVision Films click HERE.