Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

PopCult Remembers Malcolm Ewen

We have a sad note today in PopCult. Longtime readers may remember my stealth wedding in Chicago almost five years. Your PopCulteer married his long-time love, Melanie Larch, on the stage at the legendary Steppenwolf Theater.

Yesterday, Malcolm Ewen, the man who made that happen, passed away after a long struggle with a variety of ailments. Malcolm and Mel had become Facebook friends after we saw a Steppenwolf production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” back in 2011, and when the time came for us to get married, Malcolm pulled strings and made contacts so we could tie the knot in a very special place.

I’m going to switch over now and bring you Mel’s tribute to Malcolm:

Flash back with me for a few minutes. It’s around this time in 2014. Rudy & I are planning our stealth nuptuals. We know we want to get married in Chicago. In the midst of this planning, we think it’d be great to get married at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, but we don’t know if that’s doable.

So I fire off a message to Malcolm Ewen, asking, “Hey, has anyone ever gotten married at Steppenwolf before?” He replied that he didn’t know, but he’d ask! Next thing you know, I’m getting e-mails from a couple of people on staff and God bless those awesome folks, they said yes, when they could just as easily have told us to bugger off and go to City Hall. But as far as we’re concerned, Mal’s the one who got the ball rolling so it could happen.

While we were friends here on the Book of Faces–another good thing I attribute to Steppenwolf’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” that I love so very dearly–it was actually quite some time before we got to meet him in person. Sometimes it was due to the cancer he spent the last few years battling. Other times, we’d be visiting in the summer when he’d be hard at work at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont. If you read the link below, you’ll see that he had an impressive body of work, including Steppenwolf’s acclaimed adaptation of “The Grapes of Wrath.”

But we finally had the chance to meet face to face in December of 2017, when we made one of my birthday trips to Chicago. We were going to see “The Minutes” in the Downstairs Theater. Malcolm was stage managing “BLKS,” which was running at the same time in the Upstairs Theater. After waiting for that show’s fight call (for those not versed in theatre, it’s a pre-show practice of any stage combat to make sure the actors involved can safely execute it in performance) to end, Malcolm came out to the lobby and greeted us like old friends. I’m so very glad we had the opportunity to thank him for his kindness that helped us make our special day even more so.

I had sent him a message a few months back, telling him that I was going to go on my first audition in five years in the near future. His reply? “Have a great audition! Have confidence you will be great!” Those words mean a lot, coming not only from a friend, but also from a member of the company whose work I respect deeply.

RIP, my friend (& fellow Cubs fan!) Thank you for being part of my life in such a very memorable way. I’ll never forget you.
And BTW…we’ll leave the ghost light on for ya.

“Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:”–William Shakespeare

Malcolm was a beloved member of the Steppenwolf Theater family, the first stage-manager to be named a member of the ensemble, and a man who devoted half his life to Steppenwolf. He worked for Steppenwolf for 32 years and stage-managed more than 40 shows. His credits included “American Buffalo,” “BLKS,” “The Christians,” “The Doppelganger,” “East of Eden,” “Familiar,” “Man From Nebraska” and “The Tempest.”

He took Steppenwolf’s critically acclaimed “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to Broadway. Both won Tony awards. And he helped bring to Broadway Steppenwolf’s “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice,” as well as its collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, “The Song of Jacob Zulu.”

Mr. Ewen also brought Steppenwolf productions to theaters around the country and to London’s Royal National Theatre and His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, Australia.

You can read Steppenwolf’s profile of Malcom here. Your PopCulteer bids farewell to the man who helped make the happiest day of my life happen.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Wheeler

    A very nice tribute. So sorry for the loss of your friend.

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