Toasting and roasting Mr. Tracy: Colleagues pay respects to departing Aloha director

  • Artistic director Jerry Tracy took the stage at the Aloha Theatre on Saturday night for a benefit roast/toast in his honor before he retires at the end of the 2019-2020 season. (Elizabeth Pitts/West Hawaii Today)

KAINALIU — Jerry Tracy has survived, literally, everything that has been thrown at him in his 28 years at the Aloha Theatre.

The man whose name has been synonymous with the theater has, in that time, directed around 100 plays, helped pull the theater out of financial trouble, and was even stabbed on stage during a production of “Robin Hood” gone wrong.

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All of that blood, sweat, tears and laughter was honored Saturday night at Twain and Tracy at Pier 70, a benefit and roast/toast in the artistic director’s honor before his retirement at the end of Aloha Theatre’s 2019-2020 season.

“Tonight is about Jerry Tracy, as every night at the Aloha is,” Jaquelynn Collier joked. “When Jerry enters the room, it’s a celebration for him, even on my birthday.”

Act I of Saturday’s event had Tracy reviving his popular role as the author Mark Twain at Twain’s 70th birthday party. The role is a special one for Tracy, who, like Twain, is from Missouri and is about to embark on a new adventure in his 70th year.

“This was my first opportunity to see him in a performance, but I enjoyed it very much,” Cheri Beery said. “Hal Holbrook does Mark Twain, and I’ve seen him do it professionally, and Jerry was as good, or better.”

Act II had those closest to Tracy toast his achievements and share their stories of Tracy guiding them through the community theater world, with only a few jabs thrown his way.

“You’re a drug pusher,” Kerry Matsumoto told Tracy. “The drug is the theater and you got me and you got all of these people hooked on coming back here because of you and all of the things that you do, and for that I sincerely thank you.”

Tracy’s fellow actors and coworkers reminisced about the various ways Tracy coaxed them into becoming a part of the Aloha Theatre ohana, and his loud, booming voice and laugh that sometimes caused tears, but was always used with good intentions.

“Writing for this was actually harder than teaching Jerry how to use social media. At one point I was so frustrated I wanted to just start yelling at children,” Nikki Johnson said. “It’s been said that Jerry has a strong, creative voice, from the people at Rebel Kitchen because they hear the yelling too.”

Collier and Amanda Trusty will replace Tracy as co-artistic directors when he retires in the summer.

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Collier knows she has big shoes to fill.

“To many he is everything that represents this organization. To me, he is everywhere in this organization,” Collier said. “You can find him on the stage, in the light booth, hiding in his office, teaching Tuesday Troopers, eating grapes and carrots, in Row J with his custom note taking table, brushing his teeth in the bathroom, sitting in various committees, and picking up mail at the post office. He is literally everywhere.”

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