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    Updated June 3, 2014

Councillor Malcolm Ewen receives Merritt Awards’ inaugural Robert Christen Award

The Chicago-based Michael Merritt Awards have introduced, this year, the Robert Christen Award for Excellence in Technical Collaboration in honor of the late Robert Christen — Goodman Theatre’s master electrician and resident lighting designer and supervisor for 42 seasons. 

Malcolm Ewen accepting the first Robert Christen Award.

Credit: John Zich

The first recipient: Malcolm Ewen, Actors’ Equity Association Councillor and chair of the Central Region Stage Managers’ Committee — and longtime friend of Christen.

“I’m deeply humbled by being the first recipient of this award,” said Ewen. “Bob Christen gave me my first job in the professional theatre in Chicago...This award is a recognition of his almost unique position in Chicago theatre.”

The goal of this new award, according to John Boesche, Chair of the Merritt Awards Steering Committee, is to recognize outstanding, established technical professionals. This includes production managers, technical directors, costume shop managers, master electricians, sound supervisors and stage managers, among others. 

“Theatrical design cannot be realized without the contribution of these technical collaborators,” said Boesche.

The award had already been in planning and had received support from the Chicago Flyhouse; it was a unanimous decision in giving Robert Christen’s name to the new award.

Boesche noted that Ewen, who received the award on April 21, 2014, was chosen as the first recipient of the award due to his incredible professionalism and “full-hearted spirit of collaboration,” among other technical qualities.

Ewen has been one of the resident stage managers at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company since 1987. In addition, he was worked as a production stage manager on Broadway and across the globe, not to mention that he has been active with AEA since the mid-90s.

“The award committee is made up primarily of designers, so I feel that the Christen Award is their way of saying ‘thank you’ to the people in the backstage world,” Ewen said. “This award gives the chance for stage managers and the others who work backstage to be recognized and celebrated by their peers in the design community.”

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