Quote Unquote: Kip Wilborn Takes Over as Producing Director of Mānoa Valley Theatre

The internationally known tenor, actor and director joined the 150-seat Mānoa Valley Theatre this summer. The classically trained “singing actor” from Odessa, Texas, has performed globally—from Wagner and Verdi to Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables”—and served seven years on the Mānoa theater’s board. He steps in as the not-for-profit theater completes its 50th season and begins planning for the next 50.
Kip Wilborn
Kip Wilborn on set at Mānoa Valley Theatre


I came into this with my eyes wide open.


[The producing director] cleans the bathrooms, he pays the bills, he does the accounting, he helps select the artistic side. Yes, it is an all-encompassing job and I’ve got to tip my hat to Dwight Martin who, for 38 years, has done this job and has done it brilliantly.


About 13 years ago I was here doing an engagement with Hawai‘i Opera Theatre. There’s a dinner before to meet the stars and the patrons. [A friend] invited Jan [Yokota] and we were seated next to each other.


A year later we got married. For almost five years, I was on the road about 10 months of the year. I started limiting my European work and eventually my Mainland work, so now I’m here all the time.


There are several shows I would love to do, a couple that are on Broadway right now. We’re just kind of waiting in the wings to when the license will become available. And an old show, something I’ve always wanted to do, is Jesus Christ Superstar.


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I’d like to have one play per season minimum that is connected to Hawai‘i.


We need to have an education program. I want to see MVT be a hub and the schools be the spokes.


This is something [longtime Castle High School theater director] Ron Bright said to me: I don’t want to make just good actors and performers, I want to make good people. That was his philosophy all the years at Castle and later on at Palikū Theatre, directing.


I want to see kids come in and grow as human beings. They learn personal responsibility and accountability and they learn discipline and to get the work done, because the show’s going to happen at a certain time, ready or not.


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I want to find out everything that is really working well and then try to capitalize on that—then try to find the areas where we’re not doing so well and try to find solutions.


It’s kind of a neat thing to have the opportunity to shape an organization in the industry where my expertise is and to try to make that just as amazing as it could possibly be.


I’ll still perform, just not as much.


Find the lineup for the 2019-20 season, which include musicals, comedy, a Honolulu debut drama as well as an Island favorite, at manoavalleytheatre.com.


Read more stories by Robbie Dingeman