The Fine Arts Department at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) presented its student showcase for the spring 2023 semester with a production of the short play “Lefusina” on May 3rd. “Lefusina”, written by former ASCC faculty member Dr. Sybil Johnson, combined drama, song and dance to tell a story not unlike a Western fairytale, but from a decidedly Samoan angle. The ensemble performing the work combined students from this semester’s Speech, Drama and Music classes, under the direction of Fine Arts chairman Kuki Tuiasosopo, with assistance from Art facilitator Regina Meredith-Fitiao and Music instructor Leagatonu Loretta Puaauli.
Performed in the College’s Lecture Hall to a capacity audience, “Lefusina” delighted those in attendance with its mixture of Western and traditional Samoan performance elements. The play also reflects the Fine Arts Department’s intentions to showcase more material with a Samoan or Pacific emphasis. “In the past, our students have applied their talents to stage productions based on Broadway musicals,” reflected Tuiasosopo, “but we feel it’s time to give them more exposure to the artistic expression being produced by Samoans and other Pacific islanders in the field of drama, as well as visual arts and music. The idea we’d like to instill is that life in our country and our region deserves expression through just as much as anything being done in the rest of the world.”
The Fine Art Department’s staging of “Lefusina” follows-through, thematically speaking, from its showcase production last semester, which was a performance piece staged in December 2022 to accompany the event “U’A: A Visual Exhibition Performance”, a celebration of the historical legacy and ongoing cultural significance of siapo. The December event featured not only a siapo exhibition, but also an original musical play written by Meredith-Fitiao in collaboration with Tuiasosopo and Puaauli, and performed by Fine Arts students. In the play, set 100 years from now, two ASCC students meet at a museum to go through a box of siapo and related artifacts, and with each item they take out, something magical happens. “One interpretation of the play might be that the magic that happens with art represents the beliefs, hopes and dreams of our culture, which are meant to be preserved and re-discovered,” offered Tuiasosopo.
The success, in both artistic and educational terms, of the “U’A” and “Lefusina” productions have informed the Fine Arts Department’s decision to keep its focus on works that explore life and culture in Samoa and the Pacific. While some might assume that Samoan and Pacific-oriented works are few and far between, Tuiasosopo emphasized how this is far from true. “There are materials out there for more Samoan-themed theatrical productions,” he explained. “Samoan writers like Albert Wendt and Sia Figiel have written theatrical pieces with Samoan themes. The late John Kneubuhl had his groundbreaking work ‘Think of A Garden,’ another piece we could do. Dr. Sybil Johnson is continuing to adapt Samoan legends for the stage. There are also plays that have more of a trans-regional slant, such as ‘The Last Virgin in Paradise’ by Vilsoni Hereniko.”
Tuiasosopo further suggested that the Fine Arts Department could provide a resource that encourages original work. “I myself have thought of writing a musical piece based on Samoan modern history,” he shared, “but I’ll get back to you on that. For now, there’s a lot of material out there that perhaps our people are not aware of, even though it may be quite well known in other areas of the Pacific. Having that said, I believe we should recognize Samoan and even non-Samoan playwrights who bring Samoan themes and perspectives to the theater. Speaking as Fine Arts chairman, for me t’s an honor watching these works come to life on stage, and I know it’s a valuable educational experience for our own talented and gifted students.”
ASCC President Dr. Rosevonne Pato has expressed her support of the Fine Arts Department’s intentions to continue exploring the artistic resources offered by Samoan and Pacific artists. Following the production of “Lefusina”, the ASCC President publicly thanked via official memo Tuiasosopo, the Fine Arts faculty and its students for a successful production despite the disruption to their rehearsal schedule caused by the late April measles lockdown. “The play was a great outcome to witness,” wrote Dr. Pato, “especially knowing how resilient and flexible our students were in adjusting their time of preparation with the closure of classes last week. This truly shows how talented and resourceful our students can be. The presentation also marks an achievement of the ASCC mission of integrating our language and culture into our curriculum and the student learning experience!”
For more information on Fine Arts classes offered at ASCC, see the College’s catalog, published online at www.amsamoa.edu.