“The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu” brings the Hawai’ian queen, and her epic political and religious dilemmas, back to life
By Kara Briggs
“The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu,” by Native Hawai’ian playwright Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, is the first play to be produced at the museum in Washington using exclusively local acting talent. It explores the powerful, controversial leader’s decision to destroy the male gods of the ruling classes, and later to convert to Christianity. More than 550 people attended the May 15-16 performances, including many from the Native Hawai'ian community in Washington, D.C., joining a discussion with the author afterward.
“I wanted to deconstruct this idea that Native peoples are children who need to be led around, that our chiefs didn’t have the intelligence to have informed choices for themselves,” Kneubuhl said. “When we look back at history we don’t realize how difficult it was.”
Below: "Missionary Sybil Bingham, played by Charity Pomeroy, ministers to Hawai’ian Queen Ka'ahumanu (Melonie Leihua Stewart) in the museum’s recent production of 'The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu.'" (Photo by Katherine Fogden, National Museum of the American Indian)