Tane Falevai — the handsome and multi-talented Tongan who for the past four years has been playing the main character of Mana in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s world-famous evening production, Hā: Breath of Life — said the role inspires him in real life to be a better person as well as a new husband and eventually father of his own family.
The Hā storyline traces Mana’s life from birth, early development, romance, marriage, the death of his father and the birth of his own baby in a variety of Polynesian settings. For example, as a boy Mana is called upon to perform as a Hawaiian; he emerges in early adulthood as a Maori warrior; meets his true love, but also has to prove himself as a Samoan fire walker and knife dancer, a Tahitian dancer; and deal with the death of his father as a Fijian warrior during the show.
Originally from Ha’ateiho, Tongatapu, Falevai first came to the Cultural Center in 2011. Since then, he served a Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saint mission in Costa Rica; graduated from BYU–Hawaii in 2014 with a BFA degree in sculpture and painting plus a minor in graphic arts; and recently married Lauren Benson, a BYUH junior from Ventura, California, who is studying pre-nursing. In addition to his theater work, Falevai also does carving for the PCC and graphic design in the marketing department.
“Being Mana for the night show means a lot to me, not only the way I perform but how I actually have to step up whatever I do to meet the standards of that role,” Falevai said. “Basically, Mana leads the whole show, and I have to do my best every night because there are so many people out there who need to be touched. If that character is not well portrayed, then the message may not get out.”
Mana marries his sweetheart
“I have a standard, even if I feel sick, which I always try to meet or surpass,” he continued. “Every night, I always try to give it my best, so that I don’t regret anything that I could have done better. I go over the storyline every night, until I feel like I’m really telling my own story, and putting myself into the shoes of that role; like, what if my own father passed away. If I feel it, then the people will feel it; if I don’t, then I can’t touch the people.”
“Playing Mana helps me work harder. The first time when my own parents came and watched the show, they were surprised and they were really proud of me. I’m proud to play that role.”
“The story of Hā also talks a lot about family, which reminds me of the way I was raised in Tonga, focusing on our families and taking care of them.” He added that his own wedding reception at the Polynesian Cultural Center reminded him of his role in the night show.
Story by Mike Foley
Mike Foley, who has worked off-and-on
at the Polynesian Cultural Center since
1968, has been a full-time freelance
writer and digital media specialist since
2002, and had a long career in marketing
communications and PR before that. He
learned to speak fluent Samoan as a
Mormon missionary before moving to Laie
in 1967 — still does, and he has traveled
extensively over the years throughout
Polynesia and other Pacific islands. Foley
is mostly retired now, but continues to
contribute to various PCC and other media.