Connie Mahan: An Enthusiast, and Not Only for All Things British

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PlayMakers’ communications director had both particular tastes and a welcoming curiosity.

Connie Mahan, communications director 
for PlayMakers Repertory Company in 
Chapel Hill, N.C., died in a car 
accident on Aug. 25. She 
previously worked at Triad 
Stage in Greensboro, N.C. 
She was 62.

Connie Mahan was a force of nature. She was passionate, driven, and in possession of an unparalleled knowledge of British cinema and theatre. I met Connie during my first year with PlayMakers Repertory Company. In fact, I met her as we were both applying for the theatre’s director of marketing position. My path took a very different trajectory, but I had the great privilege of working closely with Connie over the eight years of my tenure there.

Connie was the kind of colleague who loved to find the funny in all things. She had a giggle and a laugh that was so distinctly her own. When, several years ago, we decided that we would tackle Noël Coward’s Private Lives, she was beside herself: This was the epitome of theatrical class and high comedy and would be helmed by two of her favorite PlayMakers company members, Julie Fishell and Jeff Cornell. She was simply in heaven. When she learned that director Sean Daniels was interested in seating patrons around the stage at café tables, it was clear she’d been handed something she knew she could sell with aplomb. When the opportunity to program Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest arose, Connie slyly whispered in artistic director Joe Haj’s ear the idea of casting Ray Dooley in the role of Lady Bracknell—a choice that became a company legend.

But her love for theatre wasn’t limited to British comedies. That was the best part of about working with Connie: She always found her way into a play even when the subject matter, the artists involved, or the style of theatre wasn’t in her “bailiwick” (as she liked to say). It didn’t matter to her—she would find her access point by understanding the play as deeply as possible. As my dear friend and longtime PlayMakers colleague Mike Wiley said, “She was always the first person to come up to you and say ‘Hi!’ To be curious about you and make you feel welcome.” She found her way into all of our projects through an authentic interest in those making the work, and a deep and unending love for the art.

Julie Fishell and Jeffrey Blair Cornell in PlayMakers Repertory Company's "Private Lives." (Photo by Jon Gardiner)
Julie Fishell and Jeffrey Blair Cornell in PlayMakers Repertory Company’s “Private Lives.” (Photo by Jon Gardiner)

Of course, her passion for theatre wasn’t her only love. She loved discovering new restaurants and adored the artistic culture of the Triangle. She maintained lifelong relationships with her colleagues at Triad Stage in Greensboro, where she would go to help celebrate an opening night or a special event, forever a member of that theatrical family. And she held a deep regard for service, having been a board member for the North Carolina Theater Conference in the years 2005-2011, which championed educational initiatives across the state.

Perhaps her greatest love of all was travel. The last time I saw her, she talked about how excited she was to make a trip to Prague, a place she’d never been. She loved exploring the cities of Europe, and, being the cultural omnivore she was, she spent every second of that time soaking in the vast history, art, and culture of each new city. Sitting on a solitary beach didn’t quite seem her style—she was a city girl at heart.

It’s so odd to think of PlayMakers without thinking about Connie. The two will always be linked in my mind. I am grateful to have had our eight years of laughs, squabbles, and celebrations. She loved that theatre, and the people who make up that organization, so deeply. She is missed.

Jeffrey Meanza currently serves as the Guthrie Theater’s associate artistic director. From 2007 to 2015 he worked at PlayMakers, overseeing the educational and outreach initiatives for the organization, before being named the theatre’s first associate artistic director in 2010.