Lights, Camera, ACTION!

Tom Holowach brings big-time experience to Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College.

There’s a fairytale element that marks the life of Kailua resident Tom Holowach. With his height, robust physique and prominent jawline, he might belong at King Arthur’s Round Table. And he’s found his match in Holly, a tall damsel with red tresses. Both actors, they celebrated their silver (25th) wedding anniversary onstage 10 years ago, during tom’s appearance in “Camelot”―as “Sir dinadan”―at army Community Theater, and cut the cake with Excalibur.

His pride and joy, his castle, his domain, is Paliku Theatre, a gem of a venue on the airy grounds of Windward Community College, under the stunning backdrop of the skyward-jutti ng Ko‘olau cliff s. theater manager at paliku for the past 12 years, Holowach has been responsible for instant sellout shows like “Les Miserables” and “phantom of the opera”―elaborate producti ons comprising major logisti cal feats.

“Everything I’ve learned in every job I’ve had is helping me do this job at Paliku,” he points out. “I’ve been a disc jockey on the radio, been a reporter for television, been the studio manager of an adverti sing agency, worked in marketi ng, worked at disneyland, produced world-class events, worked with six presidents and secret service, traveled all over.”

Originally from upstate New York, Holowach showed marked public presentati on skills in high school. Guided by one of those priceless teachers who spots and nurtures a prize student’s potenti al, Holowach honed his theatrical talents, including singing and dancing, eventually double-majoring in speech and theater.

Take a moment with this Renaissance man, and there’s plenty of raise-your-eyebrows excitement in between those early theater days and his current work. At Disneyland, his duties included managing the “Fantasmic!” show and directing the first stage production of “Beauty and the Beast” after the film was released. Then, there’s his 15 years of professional photography experience that includes working with Ansel Adams, someone he now calls a friend.

Every so often as Holowach speaks, there’s a need to virtually click pause, rewind and ask, “What?” “I’ve been responsible for two Guinness records,” he repeats nonchalantly.

Holowach coordinated the world’s largest balloon release in Cleveland, Ohio in 1986 with nearly 1.5 million balloons, blown by 2,000 high school band students, taking up an entire city block. His second record was set in St. Louis, where he engineered the largest balloon drop.

“I’m a problem solver. I like challenges,” notes the man who is also an avid techie. “When I’m faced with an obstacle that somebody says can’t be done, that gets me going even more.”

Hence, taking on management of Paliku and setting up the venue for some of Broadway’s finest shows is when Holowach is at his best, even if it means rerouting the plumbing for the tactical demands of launching a full-scale helicopter during the theater’s run of “Miss Saigon.”

Living in Kailua since the couple arrived on O‘ahu’s shores in 1998, Holly now manages a homeless shelter in Waimanalo, and in addition to Tom’s daily duties at Paliku, he’s appeared in “Lost,” “The Descendants,” the Lifetime movie “Deadly Honeymoon,” and he has a role in the upcoming film “Under the Blood Red Sun.”

In September he’ll be pulling off another theatrical spectacle at Paliku. Since there’s no way to top “Les Miz,” says Holowach, he’s going to fill the stage with lively song, dance, color and wigs to the tune of, drumroll… “Hairspray!”

From the theater’s inception, Holowach took the reins. He named it, marketed it, filled the seats, and he has it booked solidly through the year by community groups. Curiously, when he chose the name Paliku, meaning “steep cliff,” it coincidentally turned out to be the original name of that part of the Kane‘ohe ahupua‘a.

When Holowach first signed on, he told the college chancellor: “I’ll help you get the theater going, and then I’ll move on.”

“But here I am 12-and-half years later,” laughs Holowach, adding, “I’ve basically been maintaining the theater, all these years, waiting for this moment.”

The stellar shows have brought in the funds needed to make Paliku a coveted, professional facility.

“Students are coming to this school specifically because they want to do theater,” notes Holowach. “Some of these students started 10 years ago in a show one of the local groups did; and now they’re six-feet tall, going to school here and performing on the same stage they performed on as a kid, and they’re getting really good. The students coming here remind me of me when I was in college―that’s exciting.”

Photos By: Lawrence Tabudlo & Courtesy Tom Hollowach

Paliku Theatre
45-720 Keaahala Road