Interview with Kimee Balmilero about DA BREAKFAST KINE CLUB Stage Reading
An ’80s classic with a Hawai’i twist: Five local high school students from Honolulu spend a Saturday in detention together to find out that they have more in common than they thought. In this special live streamed stage reading of the classic John Hughes coming-of-age film THE BREAKFAST CLUB*, this pidgin english rendering will be performed by local actors from the Honolulu theatre community. Directed by Hawai’i born actor and Improv Hawaii founder Kimee Balmilero (HAWAI’I FIVE-0, MAGNUM P.I), get ready to eat up this Brat Pack classic with two scoops rice and lots of ono gravy on top!
DA BREAKFAST KINE CLUB goes live online on Thursday, November 19, 6:00pm HST. Although this one-time event is free, a ticket is required to receive the Zoom link. In lieu of admission, we ask audiences to make a donation to Corona Care Hawai‘i.
We sat down with Kimee, in-between rehearsals for the stage reading, and asked her about the concept behind this unique take on John Hughes by infusing it with local flavor. Let’s just say, it’s more “Pidgin to Da Max” rather than Long Duk Dong.
1. When HIFF approached you to do a stage reading of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, what were your first impressions?
I was STOKED! They asked me at a pretty busy time in my schedule, but I really wanted to be a part of it. I grew up watching that movie, so placing it in a local Hawaii high school sounded exciting!
2. Are you a fan of John Hughes movies?
For sure. I’m a child of the ’80s and had the biggest crush on Andrew McCarthy growing up. PRETTY IN PINK is one of my all time favorite movies. I still have dreams of cutting up a perfectly good dress and reconstructing it all on my own.
3. Because of the pandemic and as we shelter at home, online stage readings are a big thing this year. How are you trying to make this unique and different from the plethora of stage readings happening nowadays?
At first I was thinking of all the different “tricks” we could do to make it more exciting, but after rehearsing with the cast I realized the magic came from them and the way they were able to still find a connection with each other and the material through Zoom. All the technical stuff we’re doing (backgrounds, transitions, music, etc) are really to support their work and not to distract from what they are doing. We also trimmed as much as we could to keep the energy up. I’m confident people are gonna dig it even if they’re not familiar with the movie.
4. How did you and the actors approach the material? Was it an approach to make it more “local” but also more inclusive too?
I was very careful in casting. I chose actors that I knew were gonna bring something extra to the table. To me, that’s the most exciting part! Our approach was to still keep it grounded and make it “local” by simply making the cast local. I told them to only speak pidgin if it felt right. Only one character is doing pidgin the entire time. We’ve changed little things like Brian having a Filipino lunch or Claire being from Kahala. I didn’t want anything to feel forced. We’ve also changed some of the roles from male to female. Both Vernon and Bender are now female and it’s been very cool too see how it changes the script up just a little bit, but it still makes sense. Especially with the Bender and Claire connection. Maybe this is why Claire is considered a “tease” and has never gone all the way with a guy. This just proves that a solid storyline can be done anywhere with anyone.
5. You founded ImprovHI. You are a born performer, especially on stage. How are you and your fellow brethren holding up during a pandemic where live in-person events are prohibited?
We pivoted really quickly after the first shut down in Honolulu by moving all classes and shows online. We had a lot of support at first, but have definitely seen a drop in participation recently. I think everyone is fairly tired of doing everything on their devices right now and I totally understand. I am too! We’re we’re working on some new and fun ways to keep our students and audiences engaged. Our spirits are still high and we’re looking forward to a fresh start in 2021. People need a little bit of comedy to get through all of this, so we’re gonna keep busting things out no matter what!
6. What are your top 3 “high school movies?” They don’t have to just be in the John Hughes oeuvre either…
Oh wow. That’s a tough one! I would put PRETTY IN PINK in there, but I’ll leave it out since I already mentioned it. Okay…first ones to pop in my head are CLUELESS (still quote it to this day and can’t get over the fashion), LEAN ON ME (I was so inspired by this movie as a kid. The scene where they sing the school song in the bathroom still makes me cry.) and GREASE (even though all the actors were much older than high school when they shot the movie.)
About Kimee Balmilero:
Hawai‘i born actor Kimee Balmilero is best known for her regular role as Medical Examiner Dr. Noelani Cunha on CBS’ HAWAII FIVE-0 and MAGNUM P.I. Other professional credits include: The 3x Emmy Nominated musical children’s series Hi-5, the Original Broadway Cast of “Mamma Mia,” and the 2nd National Touring Company of “Miss Saigon.” While working in NYC and LA for 15+ years, she studied improv & sketch comedy at the famed Uprights Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood and performs with the on-going show “Filipino AF” whenever she is back in Los Angeles. Kimee also recently appeared at the San Francisco Sketch Fest with “Filipino AF” and “Asian AF.”
In March 2015, she created and produced the first ever Hawaii Comedy Festival at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Doris Duke Theater. The festival has continued to thrive and launched a junior version in the spring of 2020.
A lifetime student of the legendary Hawaii stage director Ronald E. Bright, Kimee made her directorial debut with the Hawai’i Premiere of “Mamma Mia” at the historical Diamond Head Theatre in Honolulu in 2016. The show was a hit with Hawai‘i audiences and was sold out for the entire run and extension.
In May 2018, Kimee produced and directed “The Last Five Years,” the premiere production of her Honolulu based theatre company, Stage Fish.
*Mahalo to Universal Pictures and the John Hughes estate for allowing HIFF to mount this one-of-a-kind event!