Meet the Faculty: Justina Mattos
Editor in Chief Nick Carrion
Photographs by Karlee Oyama
With each new semester comes change, and with change comes opportunity. Recently hired in the Performing Arts department here at UH Hilo, Professor Justina Mattos sat down with Ke Kalahea recently to introduce herself and share her plans for the future.
So tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m actually a graduate of UH Hilo. After getting my undergraduate degree here, I went away to Oregon for my master’s degree in theater, and then I came back to Hawai’i and went to UH Manoa for my PhD and got my degree in Theater History and Criticism over there, focusing on the local theater of Hawai’i. My goal was always to find a way to come back to Hilo to raise my kids here, and to work in this theater. And when I came back there were no job opportunities in theater, but I began teaching for the Communications department, teaching public speaking. Did that for a number of years, and I also worked for Imiloa Astronomy Center up the hill. And eventually when Jackie Pualani Johnson retired I applied for that job. It was a national search, so I had no idea. I was really hoping I would get hired, but I really didn’t know until right at the end of spring semester, right when summer was starting. That’s when I got word that I got hired.
What does this new job entail?
It’s Assistant Professor of Performing Arts. My job is to teach three classes per semester, and direct one production a semester. And for the first semester, since they didn’t know who they were going to hire, they didn’t put a production into the schedule for the fall. So there’s no official production for the fall. This year, just because it’s a transitional year, there’s no play in the fall, and in the spring there’s no budget for a musical. It’s going to be a straight play in the spring, because musicals are very expensive to produce. So in the spring, the straight play that I’ll be producing is a local play called Aloha Las Vegas. And it’s by one of Hawai’i’s most prolific playwrights, his name is Ed Sakamoto.
What are your long-term goals with the Performing Arts department?
One thing is I’d like to help facilitate the increase of not just local theater, but Hawaiian language theater. Last year Jackie and I spearheaded a Hawaiian language theater festival. And so my goal is to make that happen again on a recurring basis. Another long term goal, and this is kind of pie-in-the-sky hopes, is with our strengthened local theater and Hawaiian language theater, I’d like to see us being more connected with other Pacific Island nations, in terms of what they’re doing in theater. Every four years in the pacific there’s a Pacific Arts Festival. So they present this performing arts festival in a different Pacific Island nation every four years. And in 2020 It’s going to be in Hawai’i for the first time ever. So I’d like to be able to bring some students from UH Hilo to Oahu where it’s going to be hosted, to participate and to see what it’s all about.