TODAY-JAN. 24

>> Festival highlights the art of clowning

Enjoy a week of “clowning comedy” with the Aloha Haha Festival, with shows in Chinatown and on the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus over the next nine days.

Anna Walden, a performer in the festival, said the shows are rooted in the teachings of Philippe Gaulier, a famous clown and teacher based in France who is considered a “guru” of clowning worldwide — as transmitted by Aitor Basauri, a disciple of Gaulier from Spain, who has been teaching clowning here for the last five years.

This is not clowning that you would see at a circus. “We think of clowning as the traditional painted face, red nose and big shoes,” Walden said. “But really, clowning for us is a preservation of innocence. It’s working from a place of ‘blank canvas,’ and usually we lean towards comedy, but it can be a great source of tragedy and drama as well.”

A central production is “Haha Hawai‘i (The Show),” which was developed locally over the last few years. It’s an “attempt to bring back humor and laughter to the island, and to empower people through laughter,” Walden said. “We touch on the creation of Hawaii and the colonization of Hawaii, and we talk about Rap Reiplinger’s ‘room service.’ It’s a celebration of local culture and a direct look at what we’ve lost over time.”

Shows include Walden’s “Pearl City Sunshine,” on stage today. It’s inspired by her grandfather, who died recently after a long and eventful life. “He grew up in Chinatown, he was orphaned because one of his parents was Japanese and the other Chinese, he saw Pearl Harbor, he participated in the Korean War,” Walden said. “(The show) deals with telling the story of his life, but through my perspective.”

Also on the schedule today: award-winning one-man show “Tiramisu” with visiting artist Michael Burgos of Virginia. He’s been described as “part mime, part clown, part zany, part goof-off” who has “perfected a unique comic persona.”

ALOHA HAHA FESTIVAL 2019

Schedule:

>> “Tiramisu” and “Pearl City Sunshine”; 7 p.m. today, Good Vibes Center, 925 Maunakea St.

>> “Haha Hawai‘i (The Show)”: 8 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Earle Ernst Theatre, Kennedy Center, UH-Manoa; 7 p.m. Friday and Jan. 23, Good Vibes Center

>> “ Sub-Aquatic Adventures” and “The Werewolf Gameshow”: 7 p.m. Jan. 24, Good Vibes Center

>> Cost: $20-$25

>> Info: haha-hawaii.com

FRIDAY

>> Women play “Men on Boats”

Kevin Keaveney founded Kailua Onstage Arts to present plays that Oahu’s older theater groups weren’t doing. KOA’s next show, Punjabi-American playwright Jaclyn Backhaus’ “Men on Boats,” is a good example.

The story is a retelling of American military officer John Wesley Powell’s 1869 voyage of exploration through the Grand Canyon — but Backhaus requires that it be performed by an all-female cast.

“’Men on Boats’ upends what would otherwise be a standard adventure yarn,” Keaveney said. “It teases out threads that question our assumptions of gender roles and the drive to be first, and a frontier that has been both mythologized and forgotten.”

Backhaus doesn’t require that her all-female cast be directed by a female. Keaveney is delighted to be able to direct.

“I have always loved stories of the Old West,” he explained. “I was raised on a steady diet of, first, traditional John Wayne/Lone Ranger Westerns and, later, revisionist Westerns which criticized the white man’s destruction of Native America’s land and people. This play seems to go a step further, in that it’s able to recognize both the underlying heroic qualities of pioneers as well as the negative impact of Manifest Destiny, and do it all without hitting you over the head with a message.”

The play’s author has good reasons for requiring that “Men on Boats” be performed by females playing males, Keaveney said. “The hard-living adventurous explorers that she had written in her play were characters that were normally not available for women to play,” he said. “However, the joy of this casting is not limited to a levelling of the playing field. Because the contrast between the actor and the character being portrayed is presented as a matter of fact, the end result is a shift of focus onto qualities of courage, curiosity, and comradeship that we all share.”

– John Berger, Star-Advertiser

“MEN ON BOATS”

>> Where: Kailua Onstage Arts, 171 Hamakua Drive

>> When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 26

>> Cost: $20-$30

>> Info: 829-8606, kailuaonstagearts.com

FRIDAY

>> Americana music takes heart with Jason Isbell

Grammy winner Jason Isbell brings his rich blend of storytelling, sentimentality and country rock to Blaisdell Concert Hall this weekend.

The Alabama native has been performing since his teen years and started performing with the Southern alternative rock band Drive-by Truckers in his early 20s, writing a lovely tune, “Goddamn Lonely Love” for them. They parted ways in 2007.

It took five years for his career to rebound with his single “Alabama Pines,” which won Song of the Year at the 2012 Americana Awards. That was also the year Isbell went to rehab for a drinking problem; he’ll mark 7 years of sobriety next month.

Isbell’s 2013 album “Southeastern” rose to No. 5 on the Billboard Indie Chart and was praised by Bruce Springsteen and John Prine, who told Rolling Stone magazine: “I really haven’t heard anybody that different in probably 30 years.”

With songs about lost love, lost dreams, lonely rural towns and even lonelier people — one of the songs from his 2017 album “The Nashville Sound” is titled “Last of My Kind” — Isbell has been called “one of America’s thoroughbred songwriters” by the New York Times. He won two Grammys from his 2015 album “Something More than Free.”

Isbell will be performing with his band, The 400 Unit, pictured below, including vocalist and fiddle player Amanda Shires, to whom Isbell is married, with guitarist/vocalist Sadler Vaden, bassist Jimbo Hart, keyboard player Derry DeBorja, and drummer Chad Gamble.

JASON ISBELL

>> Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall

>> When: 8 p.m. Friday

>> Cost: $39.50-$69.50

>> Info: 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com

FRIDAY

>> Musical maverick headlines Soulgasm

Soulgasm, the long-running dance monthly, brings an internationally respected musician, composer, DJ and performer to the decks this week.

Mark de Clive-Lowe straddles cultures by nature. He’s described himself as a “half-Japanese half-New Zealander” who was born in New Zealand and graduated from high school in Japan, where he spent his free time haunting jazz clubs. Eventually, he dedicated himself to electronic dance music, spending 10 years in London immersed in drum-and-bass, house and broken-beat genres.

He’s played piano and keyboards since he was a youth, and has released both jazz albums and beats-propelled music blending electronic sounds, hip-hop, funk, jazz and world music, collaborating with popular performers including Lauryn Hill, Sheila E. and Jody Watley.

As a DJ, De Clive-Lowe fills dance floors with his live, “re-mix” approach to performance, playing keyboards to complement his selections. He co-founded a club night, “Church,” in Los Angeles in 2010, and has released two albums of music from the club. His 2016 album “#Bluenoteremixed Vol. 1” takes the approach to new heights, recorded live as Clive-Lowe remixed samples from the venerable Blue Note Records catalog, joined by guest musicians.

— Elizabeth Kieszkowski, Star-Advertiser

SOULGASM

Featuring DJ Mark de Clive-Lowe

>> Where: Bar 35, 35 N. Hotel St.

>> When: 9 p.m. Friday

>> Cost: $10

>> Info: fb.com/SoulgasmHawaii