Dwight Martin: The Producer

Dwight Martin’s vision has served Manoa Valley Theatre for 30 years.

Photo: Rae Huo

When we reached Mānoa Valley Theatre’s (MVT) producing director, Dwight Martin, he was excited to talk to us—and just as eager to get off the phone so he could announce that MVT had secured the rights for the Hawaii premiere of the Broadway hit, God of Carnage, for the 2011-2012 season.

All in a day’s work for Martin, now in his 30th year in a job that has seen MVT through major changes. When he was hired in 1980, the theater was housed in its current location, but in an old, termite-infested wooden chapel leased from KawaiaHao Church. “By 1983, we realized that we’d outgrown the building,” says Martin. Then followed several years of planning, fundraising (nearly $1 million raised locally) and construction. “Our staff was even smaller then, so running the organization during the day, overlaid with building a new physical plant, was a huge responsibility.”

The new building opened in 1987—and everything after must’ve seemed easy in comparison, right? Martin laughs. “Each year brings its own challenges and higher hurdles.” The theater’s annual budget has grown from $121,000 to $830,000; fundraising, which covers 55 percent of MVT’s costs, has grown more essential. Through it all, MVT still produces six cutting-edge plays a year—with Martin himself occasionally directing or performing, drawing on experience and his bachelor of fine arts from Southwest Missouri State University.

Much of Martin’s work is relationship-building, including with the licensing agencies that grant production rights. As a result of his efforts, MVT has secured, for this season, such shows as the musical Avenue Q and the Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts. “We’re thrilled about August,” says Martin. “We already have it cast, even though it doesn’t open until May. The play took American theater by storm, and it’s in part because of our reputation [for] producing challenging pieces that we’re able to offer the Hawaii premiere.”

This year, Martin was honored with the David C. Bryant Outstanding Service Award by the American Association for Community Theatre. He’d already received a lifetime achievement award in 2000 from the Hawaii State Theatre Council, though it seems he was just getting warmed up by then. “The team represented by the name Manoa Valley Theatre is outstanding,” he says. “It’s a privilege to be a part of it. The good stuff keeps happening.”

MVT at a Glance

1969   UH theater graduate students form Hawaii Performing Arts Co. (HPAC).

1971   HPAC moves into KawaiaHao Church’s Manoa Valley Chapel.

1983   HPAC outgrows chapel, raises $1 million locally for a new home.

1987   HPAC moves into new building, officially changes name to Manoa Valley Theatre.



Now Playing at MVT

A Christmas Carol

Nov. 11 through 28

A play-within-a-play adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, told from Scrooge’s point of view.

$35 for adults, $30 for seniors, $20 for 25 and under.
2833 East Mānoa Road, 988-6131, manoavalleytheatre.com.