Deceased May 20, 2019
I met Malcolm on my first day at Amherst. My father, Arnold ’40, and my sister, Laura (Smith ’74), dropped me, a trash bag full of clothes, a stereo and two cases of beer and headed back to Buffalo. Gerry Stover ’75, a Phi Delt friend of my future brother in law, Jim Mixter ’73, collected me and took me to Kirby Theatre. Bob Thayer ’77 and Malcolm were there, working on the first production of the year. Malcolm was also a legacy (Gordon ’37). We always agreed that otherwise we wouldn’t be there at Camp Amherst for boys. This began a friendship that lasted some 46 years. He sponsored me at Theta Delta and got me work at the Chateau D’Ville dinner theatre in Windsor Locks, Conn. We worked on many, many shows together. He directed Sleuth as the first graduation/reunion show. We also worked together on Three Penny Opera, his thesis production. He stage managed and I was master electrician on probably 12 or so shows. He was the consummate professional. He worked summers at the Weston Playhouse, then under the direction of Darts Prof. Walter Boughton. He and Tim Fort ’72 eventually took over its operation with Steve Stettler, and they made it into a nationally renowned summer stock theatre. He stood up as best man at my wedding to Kate Siegel Olena (Smith ’79) in Painesville, Ohio, in 1979 and my son, William (USNA ’09), carries Malcolm as his proud middle name. Little Mal, as he was known to Malcolm, was always glad to hear news of his namesake.
After graduation, Malcolm spent some time as the assistant tech director at Kirby with Bob Colby as head carpenter. Malcolm was a long-time stage manager with the Steppenwolf company in Chicagoland and toured shows all over the world and to Broadway. He was the first stage manager named an ensemble member of Steppenwolf, a signal honor. We last saw Malcolm in the fall of 2018, on his way from Weston, Vt., to Chicago. We enjoyed a dinner full of laughs and reminiscences. I think we both knew we wouldn’t do this again. His cancer had come back, and he was on his way home for treatment. He was, as always, optimistic and positive. He was that friend who you wouldn’t see for a year or two, yet pick up the conversation as if you had last talked to him the day before. To paraphrase Noah Webster, the world is now a smaller place, and I love it less. I know this hasn’t done true justice to the man, but so be it. A good man’s life well lived speaks for itself.
Ken Olena ’77