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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Honolulu Theatre for Youth losing 42-year mainstay to retirement

By Wayne Harada
Entertainment Editor

Jane Campbell, managing and producing director of the Honolulu Theatre for Youth since 1977, is retiring at the end of this season after 42 years with the drama group.

Jane Campbell is leaving the Honolulu Theatre for Youth after 42 years. She will remain until May 2002.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It's just the right time," said Campbell, who will be involved in the search for her successor. She decided last November that she would retire in a year and informed the HTY board of her decision two months ago, though she has not publically announced the move.

"I thought staying till my 50th year was stretching it," she said. "But I'm leaving with good feelings and plan to do absolutely nothing. Read. Re-pot plants. That kind of thing."

Her administrative colleague, artistic director Mark Lutwak, said of Campbell: "She is one of the amazing women of American theater. I heard of Jane Campbell well before coming here because of her reputation in working for professional children's theater and her impact on professional organizations throughout the U.S. It is nearly impossible to fill her shoes; I think we'll have to build new shoes."

Campbell will remain in her post until May 2002, but could leave earlier, following a transition period, if a new director is in place. Her decision to depart comes at a time when HTY is struggling financially, but her leaving is not related to that problem, she said.

"We're trying to make up $40,000 in strike-related losses," said Campbell of HTY's ledger. The 19-day public school strike in April caused the cancellation of school-financed performances of "Beyond the Falls," dramatically affecting the theater's revenues. The theater is five months behind on rent at its Ualena Street headquarters and paying additional interest on a bank loan it had intended to pay off. Four staff members have been laid off and those on salary took a pay cut for the month of May to minimize the financial crisis. "We're moving ahead optimistically, but cautiously. We still have the tin cup out," said Campbell.

How HTY donations help kids
 •  $40: subsidizes admissions for four students
 •  $100: provides gasoline to transport a production to OÎahu preschools.
 •  $200: pays for postage to mail out education study guides.
 •  $325: supports drama education for one week in an elementary school classroom.
 •  $1,000: provides scholarships for two students to attend Stage One and Stage Two summer programs
 •  $5,000: enables a writer to write a commissioned play for future production.
 •  Donations may be sent to: Honolulu Theatre for Youth, 2846 Ualena St., Honolulu HI 96819-1910.
Despite the shortfall, Campbell said the HTY board has approved the 2001-2002 budget for the fall season, beginning Oct. 4 with a production of "Winnie the Pooh," and HTY also has received three recent grants.

And Campbell said she has been gratified by some unexpected gifts. "We got a really wonderful anonymous gift of $10,000 from an O'ahu family," said Campbell. Media attention to the theater's strike-related problems alerted the family to the need, said Campbell. "They felt it was a good way to give the money to something worthwhile because their children, now grown, had gone through our creative drama program," she explained.

The theater also received a $50,000 two-year grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts (to finance a playwright-in-residency position) and a $10,000 National Endowment for the Arts Challenge American grant (to extend the Pacific Young Playwrights program to Moloka'i).

Prior to joining HTY in 1960, as a part-time publicist, Campbell was a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, writing under the name Jane Vertrees in the late 1950s. She eventually became full-time publicity director and was named managing director in 1977. Under her guidance, HTY has produced 300 plays for more than 5 million attendees, growing from a tiny community ensemble to a professional company with a $1.3 million annual budget and 35 employees.

HTY restructured its leadership several years ago, with a trio shepherding operations: Campbell as producing director, an artistic director (Mark Lutwak) and a director of drama education (Daniel A. Kelin II).

A committee, headed by Sydney Keli'ipule'ole, will conduct a search for her successor.

HTY also plans a "Women for HTY" luncheon honoring Campbell, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 15 at the Mauna Kea Ballroom of the Hawai'i Prince Hotel. Tickets: $50; call Lisa Ueki at HTY at 839-9885 or Carolyn Kishi at 739-0563.