Aloha Theatre artistic director Jerry Tracy says goodbye after 28 years

  • The Stage Manager (Jerry Tracy), left, listens to Grover’s Corners newspaper editor Mr. Webb (Joel Michaelson) in the Aloha Performing Arts Company’s production of the Thornton Wilder classic “Our Town” in 2015. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today, file)

  • Robin O'Hara (left) and Robb Dahlke (right) read lines from the script of "Beyond Therapy" (Adam Pigott/ West Hawaii Today).
  • Robin O'Hara (left) and Quinton Loder (right) read off of the "Beyond Therapy" script (Adam Pigott/ West Hawaii Today).
  • Aloha Theatre artistic director Jerry Tracy watches the auditions for “Beyond Therapy,” his upcoming show. (Adam Pigott/ West Hawaii Today)

  • Mark Twain (Jerry Tracy) with his family Livy (Robin O’Hara) left, Jean (Lotus Buss), Clara (Mahina Farmer) and Susy (Riley Newton) in “Christmas with Mark Twain,” an original play at the Aloha Theatre that ran in 2015. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Whether it is his undying commitment, his long resume of productions or his general love of theater, artistic director Jerry Tracy has played a huge role in the success of the Aloha Theatre.

But come June 30, 2020, Tracy will retire, stepping away from the place he’s left so much of his creative impression.

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“Jerry’s importance to the theater cannot be overstated,” said Aloha Theatre managing director Melissa Geiger. “He has been the face and the heart of the theater. Losing him to retirement will be a big change for us.”

When the season wraps up, it will mark Tracy’s 28th year. During the nearly three decades, he’s led countless cast and staff through good times and bad, lean years and robust ones.

“The Aloha Theatre would not be what it is without him,” Geiger said. “He kept the theater together through many challenging years when we had few resources. His spirit and passion for theater really held the place together and brought us to where we are today.”

Tracy, however, sees the change as a positive one, and was quick to give credit for the theater’s success to everyone around him. He said he knows his final season will be memorable.

“I would like this season to be a success for everyone,” Tracy said. “The highlight of my whole career is this community and the volunteers who come year after year … They are doing this out of the kindness of their own heart and out of their love for the theater.

“The volunteer core of the Aloha Theatre are the heart and soul,” he added. “They have been the highlight of my professional life for the last quarter century.”

Despite the upcoming feelings of nostalgia, Tracy also noted feeling upbeat for what the future holds.

“I tried to avoid thinking about retirement,” said Tracy. “Now that it is happening, I am excited. I am excited to embrace a new chapter of my life. I am going to finish with this beautiful place that I love, sell my home in Ocean View and I am going to start off on some new adventure that will end up with me in New Orleans.”

The theater is currently planning a retirement event in November for Tracy, where he will portray Mark Twain, the well-known author from Missouri. He has portrayed the author a number of times over the past 15 years.

“I will play Mark Twain at his 70th birthday party,” said Tracy. “That will be the first half. The second half is about me being 70 and my retirement, and it will consist of people who will be ‘roasting’ me.

“Twain is a fellow Missourian. We both are from the same state, and the towns that we were born in are only 80 miles apart,” he added. “He had a heartbreaking life filled with tragedy. The way he took that and transformed it into his art fascinates me.”

But true to his craft, Tracy will go out with a work-fueled bang.

Before he officially retires, he’ll be directing three productions, “Beyond Therapy,” the musical “Into the Woods” and a drama called, “The Laramie Project” based on the life of Matthew Shepard, who was brutally killed for being homosexual, an event that ushered in new legislation in America.

Tony Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang wrote “Beyond Therapy” in 1983, and Aloha Theatre’s production will be set in that year. It is a satirical piece on the therapy industry, dating and sexuality. Production dates are weekends from Sept. 27-Oct. 13 at the theater in Kainaliu.

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“Ultimately, what I hope to leave behind is an influence on those that have grown and changed through their involvement in the theater,” Tracy said. “I want to be a playing factor in the growth that the Aloha Theatre has experienced in the last 28 years.

“The organization is thriving now due to a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” he added. “I feel like I am passing the torch. It is time … I have had my time and run, and I hope to leave behind a thriving theater company called the ‘Aloha Theatre.’”

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