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Noveber 4, 2008

Dream benefit for ‘Lost’ fans

For a veteran stage actor accustomed to large audiences, this was nothing. Many of the 150 or so Honolulu Theatre for Youth patrons attending the annual gala fundraiser were dressed in costumes, or adorned with wings and sparkles, thus projecting a decidedly nonjudgmental air. Even so, “Lost” star Michael Emerson was nervous. “It doesn’t matter that it’s a small group thrilled to see you do anything,” he said. “It might as well be Broadway.”

The audience probably felt transported to (Off) Broadway—a thrilling, intimate, casual stage performance laced with their favorite celebs—when Emerson and his “Lost” colleagues performed several scenes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Koolau Golf Club Oct. 25.

Daniel Dae Kim, Jorge Garcia, Elizabeth Mitchell and Henry Ian Cusick joined him in donating their time to help raise funds for the Honolulu Theatre for Youth. Emerson’s wife, actress Carrie Preston also joined the fun. Cusick’s wife, Annie Wood, organized the performance.

“I’m so passionate about children’s theater,” said Wood. “It goes unrecognized a lot of the time, so I’m honored to help them, and this is one way that I can—by accessing these fantastic people who are always willing to help. They are so accommodating, and they all worked in theater and they all love it.” Though finding time to rehearse around their shooting schedules proved challenging, she added, “they went beyond what I asked them to do originally!”

The reading focused on Shakespeare’s play-within-a-play, and included plenty of spontaneity and hilarious interaction between tragic lovers Pyramus (Emerson, who played the character like a “bombastic actor”) and Thisbe (Garcia, with a comic wig and high-pitched voice) that left the audience roaring. Garcia, Emerson and Kim (who brought life to the brick wall standing between the ill-fated lovers) turned a death scene into pure, brilliant comedy. Later Emerson deadpanned, “People are so cold sometimes.”

At one point, Emerson, a veteran of weekly readings in New York, expressed his appreciation for the minimal rehearsal time. “My philosophy is to do less. It’s a reading, so let it be a reading. Just go up there, hold the script in your hand and read it out loud, and the audience will fill in the action. When you throw yourself at it a little cold, like we did tonight, things will happen. Things will break, props won’t be where you want them to be, people fall down. But somehow you make magic of it in the moment.”

Kim, who relished the opportunity to work with his fellow actors in a different setting, agreed: “When you get a bunch of talented actors together and you have a great script, sometimes what develops moment to moment is really just a joy to watch. We all know what we can do in the context of a television drama, but to see each other do Shakespeare, we learned something about each other, and that’s rare after five years together.”

Kim participated to give back to the community he now considers home, and said he’s a fan of youth theater in Hawaii. He also found the material fairly alluring. “I have a special place in my heart for Shakespeare, so to be able to do this in a relaxed, casual environment was a treat.”

Mitchell jumped at the opportunity as well. “The thing about readings that I love is the idea that the audience feels they’re with you,” she said. “I think mistakes are fascinating to people, so if you go into it with a joy and excitement about what you’re doing, that’s the most fun. I looked around and everyone was laughing so hard, I was so happy. Everyone’s just there to have a good time.”.

After their performance, the actors bid at the silent auction and mingled with grateful guests. In their typical, obtuse fashion, some hinted at what’s to come on Season 5 of “Lost,” set to launch in early 2009.

“I’m reunited with John Locke, and it’s powerful and shocking,” said Emerson, eyes twinkling (probably since the last shot of Locke’s face was framed by a coffin). Mitchell said no one character carries the show. Instead, it revolves around “little bits of all of us.” Furthermore, “none of the usual people are hanging together,” she added. “New alliances are forming.”.

As has always been the case, even the actors don’t know what’s coming from week to week. Mitchell noted that “we still laugh and gasp when we read the script.”.

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