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One of our resident thespians, Hawaii_Jake is a man for all seasons, a performer for all reasons, and one heck of a nice jelly.
Known in the Flutherverse as the go-to guy for luaus, it turns out Jake is much less interested in parties in real life. He’s got a lot of insight and experience in some interesting topics, and was gracious enough to let us pick his brain.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Jake just as much as I have!
I think I speak for many of us when I say I’m envious of your beautiful surroundings. You live in Hawaii! Are you a native or a transplant? Is it as fabulous as I imagine?
Yes, Hawaii is as wonderful as everyone imagines, but there’s a price for living in paradise. It’s very expensive. I’ll give you two examples: milk is $4.70/gallon on sale and cheap bread is $4.00/loaf.
The varied geography of the islands is little understood by most people who have never been here. I live on the Island of Hawaii, which is also known as the Big Island due to its size. It is almost twice the size of the other major islands combined. The eastern side of each island is wetter than the western sides because of the prevailing trade winds. I live on the eastern side, and it’s a rainforest here. The average annual rainfall is over 120 inches or over 3 meters. We don’t let the rain slow us down. We play soccer in the rain. We swim and surf when it’s raining. The theater organization I’m a part of puts on an annual Shakespeare in the Park production, and we do not stop for rain. Our audiences are used to it, and they come prepared.
I moved here when I was 34 years old, and I’m now 48. I did move back to the mainland for 4 years in the middle of that time, but I consider this home and doubt that I’ll ever leave again.
Tell us a little about your family.
I am a gay man, who was married to a woman for 14 years. I am now happily divorced and get along much better with my ex-wife than I ever did when we were living together. I have three children. My son recently moved to the mainland for work, and I have two daughters still in school. One is in high school, and the other is in intermediate school.
I do not presently have a steady man in my life. It’s okay. It will happen when the time is right.
You’re known on Fluther for throwing a heck of a luau. Out of all the questions you’ve asked, which is your favorite?
I have asked How are you? Really., How are you? Really. , and How are you? Really. . Those questions evoked some candid and heartening answers. I repeat the question about every six months and will do so again in the future.
Favorite question asked by someone else?
I loved What is your definition of art? What is your definition of an artist? It garnered heated discussion that devolved into name-calling and insults. It was wonderful! The question was asked just at the time I’d finished a play by Yasmina Reza entitled ‘ART’. The play was just like the question in that the characters actually came to blows over the subject of art. Hysterical!
Besides Fluther, what are your hobbies?
Theater. It is not hyperbole to say I worship theater. I read Shakespeare for fun. I act at every opportunity. I manage productions, and I have now directed. I love the whole process of theater. I am intimately involved in the governance of a local theater organization, which we try to keep as fun as possible. It’s not easy to keep it light and airy when all those actors’ egos are involved.
Reading. I adore books and reading. I can lose myself in the pages of great literature. I can’t stand schlock. A book has to grab me from the very first sentence. If I’m not hooked in the beginning, I put it down and move on.
Music. I like to listen to meditative, ambient music like that of Laraaji. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate other kinds of music. I listen to a lot of serious music all the way from Mozart to John Cage. I like contemporary music, too.
The ocean. I don’t go to the beach regularly, but I enjoy being by the ocean. Sitting in the shade reading is one of my favorite pastimes. There is an exquisite park by the ocean that I go to quite often to walk and sit and play.
Meditation. I am a spiritual person, though I don’t believe in any modern concept of religion. I meditate daily. It allows me to remain calm and feel like I have a center. Do I believe in god? The best I can come up with is I don’t know. I’m open-minded to both sides of the argument.
Tarot. I am a professional tarot card reader. It’s not a popular subject on Fluther, and I don’t push it. However, I have seen the cards do remarkable things. I have gained information from them and shared information with clients that I could not have possibly known. Most people on Fluther will simply assume I’m parroting information given to me in conversation with the people I’m reading for. Yet most of my readings are done by email. I never meet the questioner, and there is no conversation. Still, I hear over and over again that my understanding of the situation and the events is uncannily correct. It’s not me. It’s the cards. Jellies can think what they will. It works for me.
Interesting! I may have to hit you up for a reading, myself. You’ve said you’re very involved with community theater, and recently directed your first play. What was that experience like? Would you do it again?
Directing was thrilling. It all begins with choosing the right script. You have to know the audience you want to reach and then find the right piece for them. For my directorial debut, I chose a Christmas play (Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol by Tom Mula) with four actors playing nineteen different roles. The challenge for me was to impress on the actors that each character had to have a life of its own. They had to be fully fleshed out entities. I also had to concentrate on movement around the stage and even the lighting that I imagined would be integral to setting the mood. I received an award from the theater organization as the best director for 2011 for my efforts.
Congratulations on the award! Which of your own performances as an actor have you enjoyed most, and why?
This is a tough question. I just finished playing Dr. Martin Dysart in EQUUS by Peter Shaffer, and the whole experience was riveting. It required such concentration to the task of acting. I am very proud of that performance. Someone in the drama department of the university here said I’d found my “life role”. But I played Dracula back in 2001 and was drenched in the part. I was hissed on stage as King Claudius in Hamlet, and that moment made me particularly happy.
That’s Jake (left) playing the Emperor in “Amadeus”.
What would be the best way to go about getting into theater in our own communities?
Just start! Find out if there is an active community theater group in your town and go to auditions. Don’t be disappointed if you’re not given a part right away. Volunteer to help behind the scenes. There are never enough hands when it comes to the technical aspects of theater. Take acting classes, if you can. Put yourself out there in the community. Let the theater people know you are available and willing to help in any capacity.
You’ve mentioned performing in drag, too. Is that any more or less difficult than ‘straight theater’?
My drag name is Miss Constance Havoc. It’s an entirely different world from traditional theater. Getting drag queens to do what you want when you want is like herding cats. I haven’t done any drag for a while now. I got started in it when theater wasn’t available to me. It was another way for me to perform.
There seems to be conflicting trends in LGBT issues at the moment, with many states passing marriage equality bills, and several taking ‘heterosexual marriage only’ stances. Likewise, in everyday encounters homophobia appears to be receding, while on certain parts of the internet it runs rampant. How do you feel as a gay man living in a time of such fluctuation?
I find both joy and pain in being gay in the 21st century. There is so much to be glad about. Marriage equality is gaining momentum in Western society, but there is still indiscriminate hate and bigotry here, too. I know, on a personal level, men who have been beaten on leaving a gay bar. I knew a man who was murdered because of his sexual orientation. These crimes were committed in the U.S., the so-called bastion of liberty in the world.
My opinion is simple. If something keeps me from expressing my sexuality in the same way a heterosexual person does, then that is homophobia, and it is wrong.
I feel particularly alarmed by the rise of laws in parts of Africa and the Middle East criminalizing homosexuality. My heart reaches out to the LGBT community there.
My best friend is a transgendered woman. She has a long and tortuous story about coming to terms with her sexual identity and the hate she has encountered. Sexual identity is fluid in us all, and we should honor and support the courageous individuals who owning their true natures.
As someone who came out later in life, do you have any advice for those who have yet to do so?
I was in my mid-thirties when I came out. I do not recommend that to anyone. Being out of the closet is the best possible way to live an authentic life. After 13 or 14 years of living out, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You’ve been very open with your fellow jellies, for which I’m thankful. One of the things we know about you is that you’re a recovering alcoholic. Can you tell us a little about that?
I got sober well over 12 years ago, and it is one of the central themes of my life. There was my drinking life, and now there is my sober life. The former was full of misery for myself and all those around me, and the latter is full of love and gratitude for my family and friends that I could not appreciate before. I wallowed in self-pity and drank daily to escape for far too many years. Now, I have clarity and acceptance from my children and many loving friends.
I drank for one reason. I thought it made me happy. It didn’t work. Not once. Never. Sobriety has brought me what alcohol never could. It has brought me a measure of peace.
Do you mind if we talk a bit about what it’s like to be bi-polar? What it means in relation to your daily life?
I was diagnosed bipolar 11 years ago after a particularly bad manic episode. My mental illness has been devastating, to be frank. I live on disability income. The disease leaves me with many paradoxes. I am a good amateur actor, but I am also a recluse all other times. I cannot work. The stress of even simple jobs leaves me catatonic. I have unreasonable fears of things that others take for granted, like parking lots. When I think of going somewhere, the first thought that enters my head is where I will park and how stressful finding parking will be. I have coping mechanisms for that, but it’s still a reality of my daily life. I fear crowds and so stay at home more than is healthy.
I can’t watch television. I can’t describe it in any other words than to say I’m allergic to it. When I try to watch a show, I’m good for the first one or two minutes, and then I begin to squirm. I end up pacing the room trying to watch or simply turning off the TV. I’m not alone in this problem. I have an anonymous blog, and the number one entry is about this subject. It seems a lot of people with bipolar have trouble watching television. Before you jump to say I’m better off, remember that it’s all television, the good and the bad. I miss it all.
Mania is awful for the loss of control over much of my decisions, but the depression is excruciating at times. I have been hospitalized twice for it, and believe me, they don’t let just anyone in the hospital for depression. It has to be bad.
I’m happy to report that the medication I’m currently taking works. I still get peaks and valleys, but they are not debilitating. I’m grateful to live where and when I do. There are therapies that help. In previous eras, I would have been locked up or killed.
We’re grateful, too, and glad to have you with us! What are you looking forward to this year?
This year I’m looking forward to planning for next year. Ha! You see, 2013 is the 75th anniversary for the community theater organization I’m a part of. We are currently studying the calendar and reading plays and planning our offerings. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot of fun, too.
Sounds like a big, but rewarding project. Best of luck with it! We really appreciate you sharing some of your life and thoughts with us. Thanks, Jake!