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Lin McEwan from first impressions to theater succession

Meet the new executive director of ProArts Playhouse

Lin McEwan, Brett Wulfson photo

T’he first time I met Lin McEwan was in August of 2014. She walked into the Historic Iao Theater and inquired about an audition. Leaving her headshot and resume, I was immediately impressed by her preparedness, professionalism and theatrical experience. A few weeks later, she was cast as the lead in “Wait Until Dark,” and five years later she will assume the newly created position of executive director of the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.

In the press release issued by the ProArts Board of Directors, they thanked departing Artistic Director Kristi Scott for her many contributions in the rebuilding and creative successes of ProArts Playhouse over the years.

“I will do my utmost to honor the legacy of the theater’s previous and current leaders, while expanding on the commercial and creative success that they have fostered,” McEwan says.

A magna cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt University, she earned her degree in theater, studying all aspects from set design to directing, and was its first graduate to receive high honors in creative writing. In addition to her creative talents, McEwan brings to ProArts over 13 years of operational and administrative business leadership experience with Fortune 500 companies.

I asked McEwan about her business background and how she hopes to enhance ProArts.

McEwan in “Boeing Boeing.” Jack Grace photo

“I’ve been brought in to expand upon our success and growth because of my business experience in helping emerging companies get to the next level,” she explained. “We want to develop new business opportunities by curating and cultivating the best of local art beyond the main theatrical season. I hope to regularly feature musicians, raconteurs and even visual artists, in addition to the strong theatrical and comedy offerings that are our core. I believe that our small size is actually an advantage in that it provides an intimate setting for local artists to share their work, and that it can be multi-functional. The Playhouse is amenable to a variety of presentations, and I hope to curate and cultivate smaller locally-based art and performing arts events to utilize the space more frequently.”

Well aware of continuing in its strong history, McEwan commented on ProArts’ creative contributions of the past decade.

“Creativity has always thrived at ProArts under the artistic vision of Jonathan Lehman, Richard Vetterli and Kristi Scott. And again, our small size has been in some ways our greatest asset. It allows us the freedom to try something a little out of the box, a bit challenging.”

While living in New York City, McEwan was the information coordinator with Related Affordable Housing Group.

“It was an all-encompassing, one-person, self-starting position where I took on a myriad of tasks with the largest real estate company in New York at the time,” she recalled.

McEwan as Morticia Addams. Jack Grace photo

On Maui, McEwan has been the administrative director with Behavior Health Maui, an outpatient substance abuse treatment facility, for the past five years.

Over the years, Maui audiences have witnessed McEwan’s exceptional and wide-ranging acting work as the blind Susy Hendrix hunted by three ruthless criminals in “Wait Until Dark,” the iconic Morticia Addams in “The Addams Family,” the excitable German stewardess Gretchen in “Boeing, Boeing,” the vulnerable Rachel Brown in “Inherit the Wind,” the strong-minded Mary Wollstonecraft in “Vindication” and the untamable Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.”

I have worked with McEwan as a both performer and producer on “The Addams Family,” Boeing, Boeing” and at the Maui Fringe Theater Festival, where she received the Audience Choice Award for her self-scripted original drama, “Vindication: Scenes From the Life of Mary Wollstonecraft.”

A long-time theater gypsy, I asked if there was a life moment when she just knew she had to be in theater.

“I sang a solo in a gospel concert in high school, and I found the energy that pulses between the stage and audience positively intoxicating,” she replied. “That may have been it, although my mom always says that I started performing for my stuffed animals when I was two.”

McEwan In full character in “Boeing Boeing.” Jack Grace photo

I asked what drew her to Maui theater after stage successes in New York City and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Within my first three weeks on Maui, a new friend brought me to see ‘Legally Blonde,’ which featured Casey Hughes, Charles Cook, Dylan Bode, Dale Button, Francis Taua, Brett Wulfson, Laura Cole and many others, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, this is not your average community theater scene. There is some serious talent on this island,’ “ McEwan shared. “At its best, the quality of Maui theater is on par with regional theater. I tried out for ‘Wait Until Dark’ a couple of weeks later.”

I inquired if she had an all-time favorite production.

“As a performer, it would have to be ‘Cabaret,’ bar none. Mounting my own piece, ‘Vindication,’ at ProArts last year was a dream come true. As an audience member, I can’t say I have a clear frontrunner, but the original productions of ‘The Light in the Piazza’ and ‘The Pillowman’ are definitely up there,” she offered.

McEwan’s work on “Vindication” should be an example of her many talents as author, promotor, co-producer and co-director in addition to managing all of the design elements from costumes to set pieces and props. I asked if she would be directing any productions this year.

McEwan starring in “Wait Until Dark.” Jack Grace photo

“I’m not directing this season — however, I do plan on directing in the future,” she said.

If the new executive director has any dream shows or passion projects in the works, we’ll have to wait to find out.

“Oh, far too many to name. Besides, I can’t give that away yet!

“I’m excited for the whole season, but right now I am focused on our opener, ‘Strangers on a Train,’ which has an incredible cast and production team, and I think is just going to be riveting to watch.”

On the horizon, ProArts has a co-production of “Evil Dead The Musical” with Roseox Productions set for October, and planned for 2020 are “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” the farce “Out of Order” and the Tony Award-winning musical, “Fun Home.”

McEwan wowed audiences as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.” Jack Grace photo

Longtime ProArts board member and frequent production contributor Sarah Loney Mark echoes McEwan’s enthusiasm.

“We are so excited about Lin McEwan joining ProArts as our new executive director. Her phenomenal business background and theater education combined with her enthusiasm and tenacity will be vital in taking ProArts to the next level. She has some great plans to bring in some new high-quality live performance opportunities that we’ve not experienced before in South Maui, in addition to our regular season and on-going co-productions. We’re really looking forward to what lies ahead.”

THIS WEEK

Cluck your brains out with Free Range Comedy, the uncaged, untamed, award-winning improv group. Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Temple of Peace in Haiku. Tickets are $10 and available in advance through https://mauifreerangecomedy.yapsody.com, or bring a can of food donation for the Maui Food Bank to receive $2 off your already “cheep, cheep” ticket at the door.

UPCOMING

Cabaret & Cocktails presents “SS Burlesque.” This one-night-only event welcomes you aboard the SS Burlesque to experience “the voyage of the naughty yacht in a fantastical trip across the seven seas.” Join Cabaret & Cocktails dancers Sadie Vine, Miss F-Bomb, Lili O Lei and Bourbon Layne along with Captain Ted Anderson, the Bar Backs, Margot Rita, and many more as they guide you to far-off exotic locales to explore the four corners of the world, Burlesque-style. Performance is at 8 p.m. Aug. 31 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets range from $30 to $45 and are available online at https://thelittleboxoffice.com/proartsmaui. This event contains adult content and is for those 21 years of age and older.

OPPORTUNITIES

OnStage Dance Company is calling dancers of all types to audition for their second annual dance revue from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Dancers must be 16 years or older to audition and are not required to prepare anything for the audition, which will entail a warmup and a lyrical, contemporary, jazz and tap (if applicable) combination. All are requested to wear appropriate shoes and dance attire. Rehearsals will vary depending on the choreographers and will start soon after auditions. Tech rehearsals will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 8 and 9, 2020 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10 through 12, 2020 at the Historic Iao Theater. To sign up visit www.mauionstage.com, or for more information email osdcmaui@gmail.com.

All aboard the SS Burlesque featuring (from left) Miss F-Bomb, Sadie Vine, Lili O Lei and Bourbon Lane. BRETT WULFSON photo