Gridiron: Good Times, Big Laughs, Great Friendships

Moani Wright-Van Alst
August 31, 2015

I participate in a biennial news parody show called the Gridiron. As a full-time working mother of two young boys, I am constantly struggling to find balance in my life. So why would I subject myself to six weeks of intense rehearsals that culminate in one of the most anticipated productions at Diamond Head Theater? 

Yes, for those of you who know me, I do enjoy performing and the show allows my dreams of being a Broadway star come true for a few days…but that’s not the real reason. The show improves my well-being: physically, mentally and emotionally. 

I do it for the camaraderie and life-long friendships forged through the crazy, chaos of the show. I started participating in 2008 and while I may not see some of my castmates after the show, when we get back together again, it’s as if no time has passed. After the typical, “How’s life, what’s new?” questions are done, the laughs are constant and the bonds are back. The stress of the show almost has a reverse-effect because the stress is what pulls us closer together. People are on the sidelines helping each other learn choreography. I had to take my kids to several rehearsals and many uncles and aunties would jump in to watch and play with them while mommy sang and danced. We enjoy each other’s company outside of the show and go out for pupus after rehearsals. And when the show is done, we all have the post-Gridiron blues. 

This year, I also honed in on a new reason to participate in the show: it’s me time. Or as cast mate Cat Toth would remind me when I was having severe mommy guilt: it’s “Moani” time.  As a mom, it’s often easy to forget about you and even forget who you are as a person. You’re constantly running around to get the kids ready, take them to school, feed them, play with them, read to them -- mommy and daddy duties can consume your life. And your identity becomes “mom.” But it's incredibly important for your own personal well-being to do something for you.  My doctor reminds me about the importance of “filling your tank” every time I see him. If you take care of yourself, you become a better person, worker, partner, and mother. The show helped me discover me again. And an added benefit … weeks of dance practices resulted in me dropping a few pounds.

The Gridiron show is a fundraiser for the Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Funds raised support student journalism internships in the state. The show is comprised of songs and sketches that mock every major news headline from the past two years including rail transit, TMT, traffic jams caused by the infamous break down of the Zip mobile, and just about every politician. It is literally three-hours of gut-wrenching LOL moments! If you don’t walk out with a sore stomach from laughing too hard, then something's up.

Thank you to those who put year-round work in to make the show a spectacular, special event that I look forward to: Keoki, Robbie, Ahnya, Roz, Stirling, Garett, Theresa, and the many others I am missing. Thank you to the cast and crew for accepting me for my crazy “tita” self (yes, I’ve been type-casted), and filling my tank. Thank you to Uncle Gordon, Chance, Scott, Garett, and Aunty Anna and Alexis for watching Kaimalu and Kamaha’o during rehearsals. And a special thanks to the ladies of the cave: Jen, Cat, Shannon, Robbie, Malika, Ashley, Olena, Esme, Colette, and Vicki for being you. And of course, thank you to my family and friends. Without your love, support, and babysitting, I wouldn’t be able to do the show.

If you missed this year’s show, mark your calendars now for August 2017. Tickets typically go on sale in June and sell out in just a couple hours. Check out the SPJ website at for more information. 

And for those of you news-makers, “relax, never fear, we’ll get you right here at the Gridiron.”

Main image and second to last photo image credit: Craig T. Kojima, Society of Professional Journalists

Final Image Photo Credit: Catherine Toth

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