Guzman Reaches New Heights In Performance with KPAC Productions


By Danielle Smith
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(Photo courtesy of Raena Guzman (11)) The rehearsals contributed to the formation of bonds amongst Raena Guzman (11, farthest left), the cast, and crew members of “In the Heights.”

From the streets of Mililani to those of  Washington Heights, Kaimuki Performing Arts Center (KPAC) showcased the musical, “In the Heights” from Feb. 17 to March 5. The musical attracted the talents of students from various locations on the island, including Junior Raena Guzman. From balancing four different roles and venturing to unfamiliar parts of the island, “In The Heights” offered Guzman lessons of family, self development and support.

“I got to know (the cast) really well and we became really close. I think that if the word family is what ‘In The Heights’ is supposed to represent, it’s represented not only in the storyline of the show but in the cast as well. We are really tight and close,” said Guzman.

With music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and playwright by Quiara Aegria Hudges, the musical followed a Dominican-American community in New York City in the Washington Heights neighborhood. Focusing on the lives of various characters, the production touched on issues of love and family, while consolidating a comedic spin to each scene.

KPAC provided Guzman with a different experience in working with play productions and new people. “It was kind of like a life culture shock to me, because I had to go to school (then to KPAC) everyday after school and it was a new environment since I rarely ever go to that side of the island. But I think their production quality is really good. Because they have their own stage, they put a lot into the set. It’s a really great set and cast,” said Guzman.

Guzman balanced her multiple roles as an understudy for characters Daniella, a sassy salon owner, “Abuela” Claudia, the neighborhood grandmother and Camila Rosario, mother to Stanford University student Nina Rosario. In addition, Guzman was also a member of the ensemble. The hard work that came with the numerous roles were only met with determination and support. “She is very independent so she didn’t really ask (her friends) for help,” said Junior Alex Pai.“I would learn all the dances for the ensemble numbers and we learned to sing as a group in the ensemble. With that, I also had to learn the lines of my three characters and also practice their songs individually,” Guzman said. “Preparing for it and being able to practice for that character is still fun.”

Guzman’s commitment and dedication was evident to her friends and family. “I feel very proud of her, very proud to call her my friend. I don’t know anyone else who has the capabilities to do (Winter Guard, homework and the musical) at once,” Senior Kalen Hara said. “When I look at her, she’s really into it. It’s like she bleeds the desire to do all that.” Pai added, “It was hard struggle for her and we see her every morning and sometimes her head would be down which was very saddening. But she went through it and gave a great performance.”

While the musical focused much on family and a sense of home, the musical also provided Guzman with other attributes that carried in other parts of her life. “She had to memorize the script for the play and then the movement for the guard show and her show. Somehow, she knew how long she had to spend on each part, so she split it apart (she practiced) script, then movement, then go early to practice to learn what she missed and then do homework at night afterwards,” Hara said. Guzman added, “I opened so many new doors for myself, not only in the way that I got to meet these new people but learning how to work with other people in different environments really helps you to adapt in other situations as well.”   With her newfound skills and experiences in hand, Guzman intends to continue her performances in the Ohana Theatre of Arts this summer and continues to be uplifted by friends and family.