Summer Stars 2019

Welcome to Summer Stars 2019!


Erin Gaines,
HCT Administrative Manager

Erin Gaines has been the Hawaii Children’s Theatre Administrative Manager for 3 years, but has been involved with HCT for MUCH longer. She did her first show with HCT when she was 15 and hasn’t stopped since. Erin has a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with an Emphasis in Natural Medicine from the University of Northern Colorado. Her main role is playing mom to her two fantastical children, but you may have seen her in a few shows here and there. Erin played Fantine in “Les Miserables”, Maria in “The Sound of Music”, Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins” and most recently The Witch in “Into the Woods”. She loves working behind the scenes to bring such an amazing theater experience to the youth of Kaua’i!

AM Program Staff

Dolly Kanekuni,
AM Director, Vocal Instructor

Dolly Kanekuni has been teaching vocal technique for over 25 years and is passionate about providing the tools artists need to reach their vocal goals. She is a certified member of Vocology in Practice (VIP), a worldwide group of leading voice professionals in the fields of vocal science, rehabilitation, technique, artistry and psychology. Here on Kauai, Dolly has trained many singers of all ages for their theatrical roles as well as Musical Directed productions for Women In Theatre and HCT. Dolly also takes the stage in musical theater and at special events and serves as President of Hawaii Children’s Theatre.



Taj Gutierrez,
AM Coordinator

Taj Gutierrez has been involved with Hawaii Children’s Theatre (HCT) from the age of eight. Throughout the years, Taj has been fortunate enough to participate in numerous shows, working with excellent directors, and unforgettable cast members. The past three years, Taj has shadowed in and assisted both the director and stage manager during Summer Stars shows such as Alice in Wonderland Jr., James in the Giant Peach Jr., Lion King Jr., and Beauty and the Beast, Jr. In addition to this, he was privileged with the task of stage managing the rehearsal process of HCT’s 2017 Fall production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Taj is very grateful to stage manage this year’s Junior Production of Frozen, Jr. He looks forward to a Summer full of fun and learning with the young aspiring actors!


Carol Culver, AM Dance Instructor

Carol Culver moved to Kauai in 1998 after a long successful career as a Broadway, TV and film dancer, choreographer, singer and actress. She has danced for many famous choreographers including Michael Bennett and Bob Fosse, and coached and choreographed many celebrities. She was assistant choreographer to Patricia Birch on several shows including the hit movie “Grease” in which she was also a featured dancer, and the Broadway production in which she also played Patty Simcox. In addition to running her own dance school on Kauai, Carol Culver Dance Academy, she has choreographed over 20 productions for Kauai Performing Arts Center and Hawaii Children’s Theatre and recently directed and choreographed “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” for HCT, and she is very excited to be directing and choreographing “Matilda” for HCT this fall


Julie Benson,
AM Acting Instructor

Julia Benson moved to Kauai after graduating with a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Speech from Pensacola Christian College in Florida. While earning her degree she had the opportunity to assist with and direct several productions, and she performed in several shows as well. Her favorite role was Aunt Mary from The Happiest Millionaire. She looks forward to teaching all of the stars this summer and helping them discover the magic of theatre.



Jennifer Plunkett,
AM Keiki at Play Instructor

Jennifer Plunkett is new to the Summer Stars program but not to theatre. She has participated in many plays throughout her years as a “drama queen.” She performed in multiple plays in high school and college, traveled with a drama and music group through college, and then performed in a few community theatre productions, most notably in the HCT productions of “Cinderella” and “Willy Wonka, Jr.” Her most recent stage time has been in the Calvary Chapel Lihue Theater’s productions of “Hope Station” and “Christmas in Rockville” the past three Christmas seasons. Jennifer has taught drama at Kauai Christian Academy for 8 years, directing and even writing plays for Christmas and May Day. She is excited about coming to play with and enjoy the Keiki in Play group this summer.


Laurel Petterson-McGraw,
AM Workshop Instructor

Laurel McGraw returns for her third season of teaching Improvisation for Young Actors at Summer Stars. She has taught scene study, directing, and script writing for the Kauai Performing Arts Program, KPAC and been involved in theater on kauai for the last 19 years. She has acted and directed for Kauai Community Pkayers, Wonen in Theater, the YWCA, and The Purple Striped Honu Theater for Kids. She is also on the board of Tropicbird Entertainment and helped create the April, 2018 event #MeToo and Beyond.


Alice April, AM Workshop Instructor

Alice April is a theatre arts teacher at Island School who works with middle and high school students to find their confidence and voice through theatre classes and play productions. Alice has a BA in Theatre Arts and Speech Communication, a Master of Arts in Teaching from OSU, and 25 years experience directing, coaching, and teaching youth. As a high school varsity athlete and a 100-meter state dash champ she struggled with performance and social anxiety. Acting was not only a family legacy, but a way to deal with anxiety and master it. That experience allows her to be a compassionate and effective teacher. Alice recently became a Zumba instructor and also enjoys hiking, paddling, yoga, weightlifting, and MMA. Please check out Actingwithalice.com


Bobbee Downs,
AM Workshop Instructor

Bobbee was the first Artistic Director and co-founder of HCT, which was preceded by Kauai Kids at Play, beginning in 1987. A graduate of Yale University Children’s Theatre program, she brings forty years of experience to the program. She’s old! Though retired she is always interested in the ongoing development of the aesthetic values and activities for kids in HCT.
With an undergraduate degree in Hair & Makeup she loves coming back once a year for this workshop.
Having directed over 300 productions she still finds it amazing to get paid to play!



Taylor Howell,
AM Workshop Instructor

Taylor was born in the States but grew up in Canada where she caught the acting bug in high school. From there, she attended a musical theatre program in Toronto and learned many wonderful things! She was in many shows along the way such as Once Upon a Mattress, Into the Woods Jr. and even had the privelage to write, direct and perform in an original sketch comedy production. After school, she spent a summer performing with the Heritage Park Acting Troupe and from there, became a Mad Scientist with Mad Science of Southern Alberta where she taught many children about the coolest parts of science! She is so excited to be coming aboard with Summer Stars this year to teach about theatre special effects!

PM Program Staff

Rebecca Hanson,
PM Program Director

This will be Rebecca’s sixth year with Summer Stars and she is excited to be back at it again!  She started her professional theater career after earning her BA in theatre arts.  She was blessed to tour the nation with both “My Little Pony, Live!” and “Sesame Street, Live!” for four years.  After touring she was a mascot for a minor league baseball team in St. Paul, MN and worked as a character performer in the Twin Cities area.  She soon fell in love with teaching theater and dance and answered her calling.  She has recently earned her BS in Elementary Education and enjoys teaching every day.  You may often find her on the Kauai stage, most recently in “The Shadow Box” with Kauai Community Players.  Rebecca has also recently directed “Newsies” with HCT, and “Sweeney Todd” with KCP.  Rebecca is looking forward to another wonderful year with Hawaii Children’s Theatre Summer Stars and is thrilled to get to put “Frozen, Jr.” on the stage!


Taj Gutierrez,
PM Stage Manager

Taj Gutierrez has been involved with Hawaii Children’s Theatre (HCT) from the age of eight. Throughout the years, Taj has been fortunate enough to participate in numerous shows, working with excellent directors, and unforgettable cast members. The past three years, Taj has shadowed in and assisted both the director and stage manager during Summer Stars shows such as Alice in Wonderland Jr., James in the Giant Peach Jr., Lion King Jr., and Beauty and the Beast, Jr. In addition to this, he was privileged with the task of stage managing the rehearsal process of HCT’s 2017 Fall production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Taj is very grateful to stage manage this year’s Junior Production of Frozen, Jr. He looks forward to a Summer full of fun and learning with the young aspiring actors!


Nina Saraos, PM Musical Director

Nina Saraos, who grew up on Kauai, had no idea she’d be in this deep into theatre after graduating from college. Most recently she served as the musical director and choral master for KPAC’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Last summer Nina was the musical director for Beauty and the Beast, Jr. and she is happy to be returning for this year’s Summer Stars production of Frozen, Jr. She was also the musical director for HCT’s Fall 2018 production
of Newsies. Nina currently teaches piano at Kauai High School and chorus and assists with the band program. She is also on the staff of the award-winning Kauai All-Island Band. If Nina is not making music, she’s either in cooking, baking, getting lost in 4100 pages of the Harry Potter series for the umpteenth time or keeping up with her fountain pen hobby.


Ethan Whatmore,
PM Choreographer

Ethan Whatmore was born and raised on Kauai and graduated from Kapaa high school in 2016. He has been a part of multiple KPAC and HCT productions including Legally Blonde, Spamalot, and Mary Poppins. Ethan has been trained in tap, jazz, ballet, swing, contemporary, and hip hop over 14 years and continues to pursue his dance education at Western Washington University for a degree in dance. When he isn’t dancing, he enjoys picking and selling fruits from his family’s farm, playing with his cats and dogs, and taking naps on the beach. With a firm belief that anyone can dance, Ethan loves being able to share his passion with others and is honored to be choreographing for HCT.


Daphne Sanchez,

Daphne Sanchez was born and raised on the island of Kaua`i. She graduated from Kapa`a High School in 2009 and went straight to Kaua`i Community College where she attained her AA degree in Liberal Arts. In 2016 she graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of Hawai`i West Oahu. Now you will find her as a Concierge at Marriott Waiohai. Daphne puts most of her time on music. She hosted the Jam Room for over 5 years, which is an open mic/open stage located at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center. On her downtime, Daphne enjoys participating in community theatre whether it’s working backstage or on stage. A couple of her favorite roles she played recently were the Baroness in the past production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Crystal (1 of the 3 street urchins) in Little Shop of Horrors. She loves working with kids and helping them develop their passion for music and theater.