by Haylee Kushi
On Tuesday, March 1st at 6:30pm, a Native Hawaiian and Black actor named Moses Goods will perform his one-man-show, Duke, at the Calhoun Cabaret. Moses Goods worked as a cultural educator at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop museum and practices both Hawaiian hula and storytelling. He studies and performs a range of performance arts, from kabuki to noh to West African dance.
Duke tells the true story of a Native Hawaiian surfer-turned-Olympic athlete, Duke Kahanamoku. Kahanamoku dropped out of high school to financially support his family and spent his free time surfing in Waikīkī. After winning two gold and two silver Olympic medals in 100-meter freestyles between 1912 and 1924 and traveling to compete in surf competition around the world, Duke Kahanamoku became a Native Hawaiian icon in surfing and tourism.
The play is both a biography and a discussion of the historical, cultural, and social context in which it takes place. The play mentions the annexation of Hawaiʻi, uses the Hawaiian language, and compares Kahanamoku’s views about water and the natural world to those of the Ojibwe, another indigenous community.
The Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP) invited Moses Goods to perform Duke at Yale after the program director, Cherokee lawyer and playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle, read the script for Duke at Goods’ request.
Duke represents what YIPAP seeks to do – support Native artists who wants to represent themselves and their own histories through theater and other performing arts. Mary Kathryn Nagle leads the program with the help of American Studies professor Ned Blackhawk, the faculty coordinator, and four Native student workers. Founded just last year, YIPAP student workers participate in Indigenous performing arts by helping coordinate performances, figuring out logistics for different venues and actors, and sometimes acting in productions.