After 20 Years, Technical Director Rusty Conway Leaves The MACC

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Today is Rusty Conway’s last day as the Maui Arts and Cultural Center‘s technical director. For two decades, he’s been in charge of the lighting, sound and the rest of the tech of the MACC’s shows and productions. Here are his thoughts on why he’s retiring, where he’s heading and what it was like to meet the Dalai Lama in 2007:

I gave notice back in March. I’ve been here long enough, it’s time for a change. The MACC has been a great place, and I may help out now and then with special projects. I’m leaving on great terms, leaving a happy guy.

The MACC brought me to the MACC. I started here a few months before it opened. I had been touring with Fleetwood Mac. I toured with a lot of musicians–Jackson Browne for a number of years, Bonnie Raitt for a number of years–but when I was finished with the Fleetwood Mac tour I came to Maui. The place was under construction. I found their office–back then it was located in the old Railroad Building across from Whole Foods. I met the president and express my interest. Fooled them!

A few months ago I started Maui Production Group. I’ll probably pay attention to that, see if it floats. It’s for corporate entertainment–groups that come to the Grand and buy it out. I’ve done that under the umbrella of the MACC for the last 15 years, so I thought I’d do it under my own umbrella now. Other than that I’m basically unemployed.

I have a hard time saying what I’d miss most. The MACC is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. We do an awful lot of different things. Clearly the staff, but I’m not leaving. I live in Makawao, and don’t have any intentions of going anywhere. I won’t miss my friends because I’m not really going anywhere.

I can’t really call this a career. Really, I got paid to do this? I don’t think I’m changing careers. I expect I’ll be doing much the same thing, and with the same people. Just not at the MACC.

Before I worked here I toured and got to see a lot of the world. But I got more culture here than I ever did traveling the world. Having a lot of different cultures from around the world come to the MACC–that’s been cool.

Meeting the Dalai Lama was a very unique experience, for sure. But it was just like meeting any other guy. Though the guy has an aura, no question. I put my hand up his robe to hook a microphone on him, and couldn’t help but sense his energy. But I was walking across Memorial Field, and saw half a dozen snipers [for security]. It was fascinating to watch a guy based on peace, and see all these machine guns. It seemed the opposite of what he is.

The MACC does something like 1,400 events a year. We’ve done so many things here the variety of stuff is just amazing. Maybe most are like any other day at the office. But they’re all challenging. That’s what makes them fun. I did come flying in on a crane one day like I was parachuting–I was the auctioneer for Maui Calls.

Seeing Bert and Ernie dry humping is something most people don’t get to see.

Did you ever see Slava’s Snow Show? It was a European clown show. Towards the end they dropped truckloads of paper snow on the stage, and then there was a big airplane propeller on the stage that blew it onto the audience.

I will remember sitting on the side of the stage and watching Braddah Iz. I think it was his last concert here or second to the last concert. You could tell there was some mana there. His arm was bigger than the instrument! I remember shaking his hand–it was like hitting a slab of ham–and yet he was so gentle with the ukulele.

When I first came here, Maui chewed me up, spit me out. I was from LA, and had an attitude. Maui taught me patience. People have things to say. Whatever I’ve learned in the last 20 years, I’ve learned here, because this is all I’ve done in the last 20 years.