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Malcolm Ewen, stage manager who took Steppenwolf shows to Broadway, dead at 64

He worked for Steppenwolf for 32 years and was the first stage manager to become a member of the Chicago ensemble.

Malcolm Ewen, longtime Steppenwolf Theatre Company stage manager.
Malcolm Ewen’s credits as Steppenwolf’s stage manager included “American Buffalo,” “BLKS,” “The Christians,” “The Doppelganger,” “East of Eden,” “Familiar,” “Man From Nebraska” and “The Tempest.”
Michael Brosilow | Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Malcolm Ewen traveled the globe as a longtime stage manager who took Steppenwolf Theatre Company productions to Broadway and around the world.

Mr. Ewen, who grew up on the North Shore, died Monday in Chicago, according to the theater company, which said he was 64 and had cancer.

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.”

His hard work, organizational skill, cool head and sense of humor were recognized when he was tapped in February as the first stage manager to become a member of the famed Chicago ensemble.

“Malcolm has been a part of our Steppenwolf family, and his officially becoming a member is simply a formal way to tell him we love him, we appreciate him, we’re grateful for him and that he has been a member of our ensemble living within our hearts for decades,” Gary Sinise, one of Steppenwolf’s co-founders, said when the announcement was made Feb. 15.

“There is no one who embodies what it means to be an ensemble member more than Malcolm Ewen,” Anna Shapiro, Steppenwolf’s artistic director, said then. “We all know the lie of the theater is that it’s made by the people you can see. For more than 30 years, Malcolm has been a pillar of Steppenwolf, contributing immensely to the honor, to the legacy and to the spirit of this company. Malcolm has touched the lives of every single member of our ensemble, and it’s time for the world to know the impact he has made — and continues to make — on us all.”

Mr. Ewen expressed his gratitude for the honor by saying: “For over 30 years, I have been given the opportunity to work at one of the greatest theaters in the world. I’ve had the chance to work with hundreds of extraordinarily talented people — from those onstage to those on the creative teams, on the production staff and backstage; from many wonderful artistic and executive directors to those on the administrative staffs, front-of-house staff and parking-lot attendants.”

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.

In his first show at Steppenwolf in 1987, he stage-managed “Born Yesterday” with Glenne Headly and John Mahoney.

In a written statement on Mr. Ewen’s legacy, Steppenwolf called him “truly the best of us. Welcoming every actor and artist through our doors, he carried the originating spirit of ensemble, embodied it and passed it along to each production that had the good fortune of Malcolm at the helm. He was the keeper of the time and the schedule and the stories and our sanity — remembering our history and living it and making certain that we didn’t leave it behind.”

Mr. Ewen also was the production stage manager for the Paul Simon-Derek Walcott Broadway musical “The Capeman.” And he worked at the Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Remains Theatre and Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

A graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts, he returned to New England for more than 30 summers to direct at the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, which he co-founded, according to Steppenwolf.

He received a lifetime achievement honor, the Del Hughes award, from the Stage Managers’ Association of the United States.

A graduate of New Trier High School in Winnetka, he was from a family of American bluebloods. His mother Mary Ewen, who always attended his theatrical productions, was a member of the Colonial Dames, a group that traces family lineages to the Revolutionary War. His maternal grandfather Bill Lyon played on a Yale golf team that won a national championship in 1908. His maternal great-grandfather Daniel Lyon was a golf champion at the 124-year-old Misquamicut Club in Rhode Island.

Mr. Ewen’s father Gordon Ewen was a president of the Western Golf Association, which runs the Western Open. His father served on the executive committee of the U.S. Golf Association and officiated at the U.S. Open and the Masters.

His parents raised large sums of money for the Chick Evans scholarships, which award college scholarships to caddies.

According to Mr. Ewen’s Steppenwolf biography, he’d also worked in California at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse.

He is survived by his sister Camilla Durbin, brother William and five nieces and nephews. Funeral arrangements are pending.