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Dot Mason and Dr Mark Mugiishi

Taking Center Stage

Mānoa Valley Theatre will honor the contributions of Dorothy “Dot” Mason and Dr. Mark Mugiishi at its Mānoa Marquee.

Mānoa Valley Theatre will honor the contributions of Dorothy “Dot” Mason and Dr. Mark Mugiishi at its Mānoa Marquee Sapphire Ball April 18.

For more than half a century, Mānoa Valley Theatre has entertained as “Honolulu’s off-Broadway playhouse,” treating audiences to a vast repertoire of productions ranging from classic dramas and comedies to contemporary musicals and even concerts.

To have accomplished that and still be at it is no easy feat, to be sure. If anything, it’s cause for celebration — which is exactly what Mānoa Valley Theatre plans to do come April 18, when it hosts its Mānoa Marquee Sapphire Ball (see “Party With MVT” on page 31) to commemorate its 51st anniversary.

But the night is not solely about all things Mānoa Valley Theatre; it also pays tribute to those in the community who continue to help it thrive, namely Dorothy “Dot” Mason and Dr. Mark Mugiishi, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Mānoa Marquee honoree, respectively.

“We looked at who, outside of our organization, has had a significant impact on Mānoa Valley Theatre in the recent past and over many years,” says executive director Kip Wilborn. “Both of this year’s honorees have spent a lifetime giving to our community and have had a direct impact on Mānoa Valley Theatre.”

So, without further ado, allow both Mason and Mugiishi to take the stage.

Dorothy “Dot” Mason

Dorothy “Dot” Mason

Mason will tell you that she doesn’t do anything for Mānoa Valley Theatre except regularly attend shows and make donations — but that, says Wilborn, has proven priceless.

“(She) is a valuable supporter of Mānoa Valley Theatre and numerous other organizations in Hawai‘i,” he says.

Indeed, through the George Mason Fund, administered by Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Mason honors the memory of her late husband by doing what she can to help all of Hawai‘i, Mānoa Valley Theatre included.

“He wanted to be sure that the money was being used to help people who needed it,” says Mason, adding that George was a longtime supporter of Mānoa Valley Theatre, having served on its board of directors for a number of years. “I tried to maintain his standard.”

Aside from a giving spirit, George — who appeared on MidWeek‘s Aug. 14, 1985, cover — perhaps is best known in the islands as the founder of Pacific Business News. In fact, it was because of his ties to the local business community that he and Mason, a former realtor and onetime president of Honolulu Board of REALTORS, eventually ended up on each other’s radars.

Mason can’t quite recall when or how they met, but their relationship reached a turning point after she came upon Waikīkī condos that were being sold at a much higher price to Japanese investors than to local buyers. Her research, as Mason remembers it, got George three front-page editions.

Afterward, he asked her to accompany him on what would prove to be quite the memorable outing.

“He knew I had a grandson and he had a granddaughter, and he said, ‘Why don’t we take our grandchildren to Sea Life Park?'” recalls Mason. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is a pretty neat guy; he wants to go on a date with our grandchildren. I kind of like that.

“I was never, ever, ever going to ever get married again — but somehow he grew on me,” she adds with a laugh.

Since George’s death in 2008, Mason has carried on his legacy by helping him continue “to give back to the people that had given him so much.” To that end, the George Mason Fund backs everything from PBS Hawai‘i’s HIKI NŌ learning initiative and the youth program at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church to Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children, and Navian Hawai‘i’s (formerly Hospice Hawai‘i) pediatric hospice care.

All of it, says Mason, continues to keep her close to George.

“I’m thinking, well, what would he say about them? What questions would he be asking?” says Mason.

It also allows her to pay it forward to a community that immediately felt like home after she arrived to the islands in 1962.

“Hawai‘i is a very special place, and I think there are people here who need kindness and, sometimes, financial help,” she says. “I just feel that I must be here for some reason, and maybe that’s part of the reason why I’m here.”

Dr. Mark Mugiishi

Dr. Mark Mugiishi

As president and CEO of Hawai‘i Medical Service Association, the arts hardly are what make up Dr. Mark Mugiishi’s day to day — and yet it’s just one of a handful of side passions he’s made a priority. So much so that he took on the role of producer of Allegiance right from the start.

Exploring the time period of Japanese

American internment during World War II, the musical starred the likes of George Takei and Lea Salonga, opening in San Diego before running on Broadway for several months back in 2015-16 — aided along the way primarily by a “Hawai‘i hui” of investors who believed in the message of a story that hit close to home for many.

Thanks to Mugiishi’s involvement, local audiences had the chance to see it for themselves last year when Mānoa Valley Theatre premiered it at Hawai‘i Theatre.

“That, by the way, was just an amazing performance,” he says. “It was a beautiful mix of a couple of mainland talents with a whole bunch of Hawai‘i local talents that just made a wonderful performance.”

Having grown up in Hawai‘i — first in Kāne‘ohe and then in ‘Ālewa Heights — exposure to the theater world came later in life while Mugiishi attended school in Chicago and completed a rotation in New York. Even now, many of his vacation locales are in big cities, where he sees every show possible. So to have been able to share this particular love of his with Hawai‘i, he says, has been more than rewarding.

“We don’t have Broadway here, so the more we can expose people to great theater, the better,” says Mugiishi. “For Mānoa Valley Theatre to recognize me, I’ve done only a small part. They’ve done a tremendous amount to keep theater in our community.”

No follow-up collaborations are on the horizon, though Mugiishi says that could all change if something intriguing comes along. For now, he’s focusing on leading HMSA as it seeks to build a team of stake-holders — comprised of employers, providers, the government and the community — to ensure health care truly is affordable for everyone.

“Hawai‘i already is a hard-to-afford state,” he says. “If we want people to grow and live and stay here, we need to make sure it’s affordable.

“We all have to work together to make that happen,” adds Mugiishi, who has practiced and taught surgery, and also co-founded Endoscopy Institute of Hawai‘i and Eye Surgery Center of Hawai‘i.

To do this, Mugiishi has been drawing from experience both as a former medical practitioner and, interestingly enough, as the former varsity basketball coach at his alma mater ‘Iolani School, where he led the team to 11 league championships and seven state championships — making him the winningest high school basketball coach in Hawai‘i history.

“The value toward those years of coaching basketball was understanding the value of building a team … You build coordinated movement, which is the secret to all success, actually,” says Mugiishi, who no longer coaches but continues to serve as chairman of the ‘Iolani School Board of Governors. “That’s the thing I’m trying to bring to everything I do now, whether it’s a Broadway show, whether it’s running a big health organization like HMSA, whether it’s transforming the health care delivery system.”

In many ways, Mugiishi’s professional path has helped to fulfill not only an interest in science but also, and more importantly, a desire to help others — one that, aside from better weather, eventually drew him back to the islands.

“The way we live here is the way I like to live my life,” he says. “It’s a relationship-based community, where everybody is a part of your ‘ohana. You’re taking care of the whole community as if it’s your own family. All those things are kind of like who I am.”

Party With MVT

Mānoa Valley Theatre has got a lot to celebrate when it presents its Mānoa Marquee Sapphire Ball from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at Wai‘alae Country Club.

In addition to marking the organization’s 51st anniversary, the evening also will honor Dorothy “Dot” Mason and Dr. Mark Mugiishi.

Emceeing the festivities will be Keoki Kerr and Jodi Leong, with entertainment by Kristian Lei, Shari Lynn and Kip Wilborn. Attendees also can look forward to a medley of songs that’ll help to introduce Mānoa Valley Theatre’s 2020-21 season.

For tickets and more information, visit manoavalleytheatre.com/manoamarquee.