UH Hilo fall production: Play focusing on impacts of 9/11 debuts on the historic date

Filmed over the summer, the UH Hilo production of Banyan is debuting on Sept. 11 because the central character in the play is dealing with the trauma and fallout from the tragic event.

By Susan Enright.

Justina Mattos
Justina Mattos

Marking 20 years since the tragic events of 9/11, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo presents Banyan, a play written by Lifetime Member of the Dramatists Guild Jeannie Barroga and directed by UH Hilo Associate Professor of Drama Justina Mattos.

“We are opening on 9-11 because this year marks 20 years since that day, and the central character in the play is dealing with the trauma and fallout from that event,” says Mattos.

Filmed over the summer, the performance debuts virtually at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, and runs continuously through the 13th.

The plot:

It is post – 9/11, in a conglomerate’s secret room. Ona is an office worker, employed as a paper shredder. She lures her brother, Ian, to visit the Philippines – for “roots.” Allegorical Wizard of Oz icons double their roles and affect Ona’s escape from her own cage. The play parodies the chaotic moment in history of falling buildings and dwindling confidence in leadership where opportunists cover their tracks and “munchkins” demonstrate resilience.

“I found out about the existence of this play through a Thursday evening playwrights’ Zoom Hui that I created and have been leading since the start of Covid a year-and-a-half ago,” says Mattos. “We gather online each week to read works in development, and many of the works have appeared onstage or online after being workshopped with us. UH Hilo’s world premiere of Moore, shared online last fall, was also developed through that process.”

The lead in Banyan is played by Rhealiza Pira (Ona), a 2017 alumna of the UH Hilo performing arts and English departments. Bios of the full cast can be found here.

The show is produced by the UH Hilo Department of Performing Arts and the Performing Arts Center.

Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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