Malcolm Ewen, founding artistic director at Playhouse, created home for artists at Weston

Malcolm Ewen, a founding director of the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, beloved colleague and friend, died Monday in Chicago after a long battle with cancer. He was 64.

In 1988, Mr. Ewen, Tim Fort and Steve Stettler, took the reins of Weston Playhouse, rededicating the theater to its community, reorganizing it as a not-for-profit company, and entering into an agreement with Actors’ Equity, the professional union of actors and stage managers.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr. Fort and Mr. Stettler wrote, “Mal was our partner, our brother, and our soulmate for more than four decades. Although his career included Broadway and London’s National Theatre, he was never happier than when creating theatre with the Weston family which he helped to nurture. His love of life and theatre was the essence of the Weston experience and remains an example for all of us.”

Mr. Ewen personally guided the expansion of the company’s accessibility, now a leader in the state. Weston has grown to become an award-winning regional theater, nationally known for its multi-stage summer festival and its year-round Education and New Works programs.

His impact on Weston will be felt far into the future since he was instrumental in opening a new second stage in 2017, Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm, an incubator for the arts and a hub for community engagement.

Actors fondly remember his iconic “red tech hat,” which came to symbolize his approach to the arduous 12-hour technical rehearsals. “Remember,” he would say, “It’s called a play ​for a reason. Have fun and tell the story.”

Charma Bonanno, Weston Playhouse’s director of development, and her husband David, a long-time actor with WPTC, who live in Weston, say, ” ‘Uncle’ Mal was irreplaceable; a dear, loving friend for decades. His warmth infused everyone around him and made Weston the kind of place an artist would want to return to again and again.”

Mr. Ewen was the heart of the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, making every artist and theatre-maker feel at home and a part of the Weston family. He will be remembered as a creative leader and inspiring mentor. His joyful spirit is forever woven into the fabric of the company.

Actress Susan Haefner of Andover recalls, “Mal had time for everyone. And if he didn’t have time, he made time. He was a friend to all. As a director, he took every cast under his wing and made us feel like a family. After 9/11, when we were doing Of Mice and Men and we thought the world was coming to an end, Mal held us together and gave us hope, and at that moment, our friendships were cemented for life. We felt safe. Mal made us all feel special, unique, and accepted as artists. We will miss him terribly.”

The theater company will be dedicating this, its 83rd season, to Mr. Ewen and honoring him with a memorial in Weston later this summer. Arrangements are being made and will be announced shortly.

Executive Artistic Director Susanna Gellert says, “Malcolm’s love for this theater, its artistry, and its community, are the cornerstone of Weston’s work today. His joy and abounding love for the family he created in Weston were infectious. We are profoundly fortunate to have known, loved, and learned from him.”

“No words can fully express our sadness at Malcolm’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to know him,” says Londonderry resident Oliver Olsen, chair of the WPTC board of directors. “Over the years, he shaped and developed a company culture that continues to define Weston as an extraordinary and special place for artists to do their best work.”

Over the course of his tenure, Mr. Ewen directed many productions and audience favorites including: The Music Man, Guys and Dolls, To Kill A Mockingbird, Chicago, The Oath, The Threepenny Opera, Doubt, Urinetown, The Drawer Boy, The Full Monty, Ragtime, Stones in his Pockets ​and Of Mice and Men​. Last year, his production of Fun Home opened the inaugural summer season at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm.

Mr. Ewen has also been a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre family since 1987, receiving an invitation into Steppenwolf Ensemble in March 2019, the first stage manager to be asked to join the company. During his 32 years there, he stage managed more than 40 shows and took four productions to Broadway, including the recent Tony Award winning production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf​?

He was the 2014 recipient of the Robert Christen Award for Technical Collaboration presented by the Michael Merritt Awards and in 2018, he received the Del Hughes Award for lifetime achievement in stage management given by the Stage Manager’s Association of the United States.

A lifetime advocate for actors and stage managers’ equitable treatment in the workplace, Mr. Ewen was proud to serve on the Council of Actors’ Equity Association, diligently fighting for the rights of his fellow union members. Mr. Ewen was also a proud, long-serving board member for Season of Concern, and helped many theaters raise money over the course of his career. He previously served on the board of The Actors Fund.

In addition to his theater family, Mr. Ewen is survived by his brother William Ewen, sister Camilla Durbin and five nephews and nieces. His wonderful spirit will be missed by so many.

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