Recognized Artists

Recognizing local and Native Hawaiian artists is at the core of the conservatory’s mission

Interior of Palikū theatre facing stage from top of seating

Students rehearse, create, and train beside professionals in the entertainment industry. The Hawaiʻi Conservatory of Performing Arts highlights working artists to help guide the students on their journey towards a career in the performing arts.

Established Island Artists

The conservatory chooses one or more established island artists, producing a selection of their body of work, and facilitating their creation of new, original work, which our students will present to audiences. 

Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna’s most recent work, Heart Strings, was produced at Atlantic Theater off Broadway in 2022. She was awarded the ReImagine Grant from TYA/USA in 2021 to support her work in theater for family audiences. Current commissions include Sons of Maui for San Francisco Playhouse, Royal School for Honolulu Theatre for Youth, the national BIPOC Superhero project, and Emma Riot for Arena Stage in D.C, part of the Power Plays project.

Lee was commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse to write Home of the Brave for the 2017 POP Tour, and What the Stars See at Night, a play for families during the pandemic. Her play Flowers of Hawaii was produced at Kumu Kahua Theater and UH Manoa and workshopped at Native Voices in Los Angeles, Out of the Box Theatrics in NYC, and at Chautauqua Institute.

In 2020, Lee was the winner of the Von Marie Atchley Award for Excellence in Playwriting through Native Voices. She was part of the inaugural Oregon Shakespeare Festival Indigenous Playwrights Cohort and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She has written plays for Kumu Kahua theater, Honolulu Theatre for Youth and Diamond Head Theater. She is of Native Hawai‘i heritage and has an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside. 

Established Island Artist, Lee Cataluna

Emerging Island Artists

Additionally, the conservatory will recognize one or more emerging island artists annually, and connect this innovative and exciting work to the established artist’s legacy of work. The established artist paves the way, the emerging artist invigorates the art with their innovative and exciting takes on the ever-evolving culture and living traditions of performing arts in Hawaiʻi.

Alysia-Leila Kepaa

Alysia-leila Kepa’a (she/her) was last seen in iHula at Palikū Theatre. Her previous credits include, Protocol Z, Oriental Faddah and Son, Demigods Anonymous (Palikū Theatre) and Taming of The Shrew (Hawaii Shakespeare Festival), Folks You Meet in Longs, Wild Meat and Bully Burgers (Kumu Kahua Theatre).

Alysia was recently featured in Las Vegas for the KCACTF Region 8, Festival 55 invited production of Demigods Anonymous. Her training includes classical text and performance with Taurie Kinoshita, voice, movement and acting with Alexander Durrant, stage combat with Dueling Arts International, and Shakespeare in Performance with East 15 Acting School and The Royal Shakespeare Company. 

Noa Helelā

A Hawaiian-Asian-European multimedia artist whose work includes filmmaking, playwriting, music, and poetry. A Windward Community College alum, she made her playwriting debut with Demigods Anonymous at Kumu Kahua Theatre in 2018 which will be produced at Palikū Theatre in Fall 2022. Her projects are set in Hawaiʻi and involve fantasy realism and dark humor, with themes including racial identity, racism/racial violence, native issues, diaspora, colonization, feminism, queer relationships, and trans identity.

She is currently creating two TV series: one about neurodivergent people with superpowers, and another about a Hawaiian trans heroine who gains plant-based powers from a GMO experiment. She is also creating a horror-comedy comic book about queer hapa-Asian friends involved in a bizarre string of murders.

Both the established and emerging artists work closely with the cohort of students in training at the Hawaiʻi Conservatory of Performing Arts, leading workshops, symposiums, and serving as mentors to individual students.  

Emerging Island Arts Educator

The Emerging Island Arts Educator Initiative amplifies and supports local teaching artists, offering them paying work delivering courses in our Foundation in Acting, along with mentorship by our faculty, as well as the support needed to pursue the credentials and degrees required to thrive in a long-term career as a performing arts educator in the islands.

Kirstyn Trombetta

Kirstyn Trombetta is a local actor, writer, and educator. Her recent and notable stage credits include Kimo the Waiter at Palikū Theatre, Haoleland and #iambadatthis at Kumu Kahua Theatre, Waitress at Diamond Head Theatre, Macbeth and Hedda Gabler with Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival. She received a Po‘okela award for Featured Female in a Play as Lady Macduff.

Her collaborations with Playbuilders and Leeward Theatre have given her opportunities for her works to be produced. She received a Po‘okela award for her play Saudade in 2017. She has trained under Betty Burdick during her days at Leeward Community College and holds a Bachelor’s in Secondary Education with a concentration in English Language Arts from UH Mānoa. Kirstyn hopes her efforts as a public school educator make a difference in her students’ lives and perhaps ignites the same fire she possesses for all avenues of storytelling in them as well.

Alaka‘i Cunningham

Alaka’i Cunningham was born and raised in Kailua and trained at Windward Community College. He has continued to hone his craft as an actor, appearing in Oriental Faddah and Son, Walking Shadow (Palikū Theatre) She Kills Monsters (Leeward Community College Lab Theater) Gone Feeshing (Kumu Kahua Theater) and Macbeth (Hawaii Shakespeare Festival).

Alaka’i studied abroad in London training at East 15 Acting School and with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Alaka’i is a certified Actor Combatant with Dueling Arts International, trained extensively in all weapon disciplines. Alaka’i was awarded a po’okela for Best Supporting Actor and was invited to perform at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival as part of the cast of Demigods Anonymous

Distinguished Visiting Artists

We bring the best in international performing arts to Hawaiʻi to engage in exciting cultural and artistic exchange with local artists, as well as inspire and teach our students and connect them to the wider industry. We are fortunate to work closely with The Kennedy Center, East 15 Acting School, the Royal Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Dueling Arts International, and many other national and international partners. Every year, we sponsor one or more visiting artists to work alongside our faculty and island artists. They offer their specialized skills and training to our students through courses, workshops, master classes, and one-on-one mentorship.

Scot Reese

Scot Reese is the Head of Theatre Performance in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. His expertise areas are Black theatre, directing, and musical theatre.

He’s directed over fifty plays and musicals, including productions from Los Angeles to New York. His work includes Bells are RingingPurlie, and the world premiere of Blues Journey at the Kennedy Center; Once On This Island and I at the Round House Theatre; Pretty Fire and From the Mississippi Delta for the African Continuum Theatre Company; The Heidi Chronicles and Barefoot in the Park (with Laura Linney and Eric Stoltz) at LA Theatre Works, blackballin’ for Arena Stage’s Old Vat, To Be Young Gifted, and BlackUrinetownThe Colored Museum, and Jane Eyre: The Musical at the University of Maryland; A Raisin in the Sun at Olney Theatre Center.

Television credits include daytime dramas, situation comedies, variety specials, commercials, and an Emmy Award for individual achievement in performance.

Earl T Kim

Earl T. Kim

Earl T. Kim is an international actor, creator, storyteller, voiceover/performance capture artist, and movement director based in Los Angeles. He is a multifaceted artist whose career has spanned live and recorded mediums. On stage, he has performed in productions all over the World as part of companies such as (UK) Shakespeares Globe, BBC Radio 3, The Arcola, Battersea Arts Center (Aus), The Queensland Performing Arts Center, Metro Arts, The Adelaide Fringe Festival (USA) Lajolla Playhouse, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, The Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

His television credits include Shameless, Two Broke Girls, Will and Grace, The OA, and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Most notably, he portrayed (voiceover/performance capture/model) the warrior monk Norio in the Playstation game Ghost of Tsushima.

Kim holds an MFA in Acting from East 15 Acting School in London (UK) and a BFA in Contemporary Performance from Naropa University in Boulder, CO.

See Past Recognized Artists