The false missile alert the morning of Jan. 13 generated widespread fear and panic in Hawaii, but also spurred creativity in some quarters of the arts and entertainment community.
Kumu Kahua Theatre soon put out a call for scripts for an anthology production titled “38 Minutes Last Saturday Morning,” with a reading to take place in the spring or summer. The works might even be developed into a play in an upcoming season. (March 8 is the submission deadline.)
“I’m sure we’re going to get a mixture: some comedies and some dramas and somewhere in between,” said theater managing director Donna Blanchard. “I’m really looking forward to it. We have so many great playwrights.”
Blanchard described herself as “one of the people who was absolutely panicked” during the 38-minute missile scare.
As friends and family were frantically calling her, Blanchard’s phone died and she felt numerous emotions as she realized she had no idea what to do. After the all-clear was given, it occurred to Blanchard the experience could be made into a show. She mentioned it to Kumu Kahua’s artistic director, Harry Wong, and he suggested the title.
WANT TO SHARE YOUR STORY?
To share creative work inspired by the false missle alert on Jan. 13:
>> Kumu Kahua Theatre: Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title: “38 Minutes Last Saturday Morning” until March 8.
>> Juris Productions: Share your story for the documentary, “This Is Not a Drill” at email@example.com.
“When you’re an artist, you’re always figuring out how to plug emotions and situations into theater somehow, to share it, because that’s what we do,” she said. “I thought that because I needed to process it.”
Wendy Awai-Dakroub of Kakaako sent in a monologue developed from a post she originally wrote for her blog, pintsizegourmets.com, the night of Jan. 13.
Awai-Dakroub, her husband, Youssef, a survivor of the Lebanese civil war, her 8-year-old son, 10-year-old daughter and pet Chihuahua had huddled inside their master bedroom closet, praying and thinking their lives were about to end. She described an “overwhelming ache” in her heart similar to the one she felt when she lost her stillborn son 11 years ago.
Even though she had an emergency backpack with two weeks of rations ready for such occasions, she said she was not prepared mentally. Unable to sleep that night, she found solacein writing.
Comedian Frank De Lima was having breakfast at Anna Miller’s restaurant in Pearlridge with writing partner Patrick Downes when the missile alert sounded. Walking back to his car after the all-clear, he told Downes: “Well, false alarm … but we’re still alive. And thank God for that.”
The words to his newest song parody, “Staying Alive” — set to the Bee Gees disco hit — came to him as he drove home. De Lima recorded and released the song three days later. (Download the song for free at frankdelima.com, though he welcomes donations to his school enrichment program.)
De Lima, who also composed a parody song for the 2010 tsunami that never hit, said it’s good to be able to laugh about tense situations and then move on.
Photographer Leslie Gleim of Honolulu was on a chartered helicopter flight over Pearl Harbor when the false missile alert went out. She was up in the air with fellow photographer Bruce Omori for a series Gleim is working on documenting human impacts on Hawaii’s ecosystems, including sea level rise.
“If the missile had hit we would have photographed the last images of the island of Oahu before the destruction,” she said in an email. “Or we would have been in position to photograph the detonation of the nuclear missile as it hit.”
She described some of the images she captured during those 38 minutes as eerie, with vacant beaches stretching from the airport to Diamond Head. Looking at the photos, Gleim said she was struck by the sheer beauty of the island and the Koolau range, and how they would have been forever lost or changed if there had indeed been a missile strike.
“For me, the urgency became real, of what we have to lose,” she said.
The images from Jan. 13 will be incorporated into her project, “‘Aina: Threshold 4° F.” An exhibition date has not been set.
Rob and Keiko Feldman of Juris Productions in Pasadena, Calif., were so riveted by news of the false missile alert in Hawaii that they decided to produce a feature-length documentary called “This Is Not a Drill.”
“The focus of our documentary is the human stories that happened during those 38 minutes,” said Rob Feldman. “We’re not getting into why was the button pushed … but what did it feel like to think it was the end of the world?”
They‘ve already collected stories from both visitors and residents.
“We found a significant number of people who instantly thought it was a hack or crank, but there are people for whom it was absolutely real at that time,” he said.
Some of the stories people recalled are funny, he said, but others are terrifying and some are heartwarming tales of courage that they look forward to sharing.
The false missile alert added a new dimension to a work in progress by Native Hawaiian artist Bernice Akamine, who was at a conference on Hawaiian language with about 100 students on the Kona coast. She said they knew within 10 minutes the alert was false but the palpable fear in the intervening moments will stay with her.
“We’re all targets because we have this connection to the U.S., because we have the military base,” she said.
For the past year, Akamine has been repurposing bullet casings, planting them with seeds and pairing them with targets painted on canvas for an April exhibit at the East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo. She is creating one target for each of the seven inhabited islands in Hawaii, painted with earth pigments from each location.
“In the beginning, I felt that I was making a statement about the earth and that we needed to stop and think about what we’re doing,” she said. “But we’re caught up in this nuclear race. If we start bombing everything — if they bomb us, we bomb them, someone else gets involved, then we destroy the whole planet and then there’s nothing left.”