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The Kahilu Theatre staff is comprised of both full and part time employees as well as independent contractors, all who generously share their passion and expertise in support of our organization's mission and vision. Mahalo! 

Sara Nealy – Executive Director

Sara brings arts leadership from two San Francisco arts organizations where she implemented critical financial management, expanded engagement with diverse cultural communities, developed strategic artistic collaborations and partnerships, and introduced an increasingly ambitious program of productions.

Sara was selected by Musical America for their “MA:30 Profiles in Courage” roster for her cogent leadership.

Before moving to San Francisco, Sara resided with her family in North Kohala, where her children attended Parker School, and Sara danced with Halau ‘o Ha’alelea under the direction of the late beloved kumu hula, Raylene Ha’alelea Kawaiae’a Lancaster.

Sara’s work in Hawai’i included marketing communications and film production for a variety of cultural organizations and corporate clients, particularly for the Earl and Doris Bakken Foundation, North Hawaii Community Hospital, Nā Kālai Wa’a, the Kohala Center, Friends of the Future, Five Mountains Hawai’i, and Cyanotech. In 2009, she was the Director of Sales and Marketing at Kona Village Resort.
Chuck Gessert – Artistic Director

Chuck has been our Artistic Director since January 1, 2017. Responsible for several successful seasons of programming, every year since, we have presented diverse, live performing arts programming to our community. Then the pandemic hit and since March, 2020, Chuck has led the team at Kahilu Theatre into the world of Kahilu.TV. Due to the strong support of the board of directors, Chuck's vision for an on-line, streaming platform to bring Hawaiian music and culture to the world has become a reality today. 
Chuck currently serves as the Vice President of the Performing Arts Presenters of Hawaii.
Eric Kwan – Box Office Manager and
                    Director of Operations


Born and raised in Asia and Australia, Eric has lived on the Island of Hawaiʻi for more than a decade. He has spent over 30 years in the hospitality industry in sales and marketing with Hyatt Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Mandarin Oriental Hotels.

This is Eric’s second go-around with Kahilu Theatre where he oversaw the Box Office before its ‘intermission’. Prior to rejoining the Theatre, he worked with Louis Vuitton and was a travel consultant arranging customized itineraries for travels around the globe.

Eric’s hospitality industry experience includes opening hotels and resorts in the U.S. and international destinations, regional/international sales responsibilities, sales training, coaching, customer relations development, and feasibility studies for new hotel/resort projects.

Food and travel are two of Eric’s passions. Education is a third – Eric strongly believes that a well-rounded education is important to every child. 
Patty Bird – Digital Content & Marketing Manager

Patty hails from Valparaiso, Indiana, and has spent the majority of her life in the Midwest. She has her B.A. in Acting with a concentration in Education, and has been acting, teaching, directing, and providing marketing/publicity for professional theatres in Chicagoland, for the past 30 years. Patty is excited to bring her talents to Kahilu and looks forward to sharing her theatrical passions with the community. 

Fun Fact: One of Pattyʻs life goals is to go in a shark cage and take pictures of a great white shark up close and personal!
Adam Palya – Video Producer

Originally from Southwestern Pennsylvania, Adam spent the last 12 years in Los Angeles working in television production. Starting as a production assistant on Hannah Montana and working his way up to Associate Producer on Disney, plus original programming and various projects in between, Adam is excited and grateful to bring his experience and skill set to help expand the reach and content creation of Kahilu Theatre and Kahilu.TV.

Fun Fact: Adamʻs personal record on a pogo stick is 2,222 bounces.
Ashley Jones – Events & Volunteer Coordinator

Ashley was raised in North Carolina where she earned a degree in Psychology from the UNC Charlotte. After working at a medical billing office for 2 years, the pull of the islands took her to Oahu and there she met her husband in 2012. In 2014 they moved to the Big Island and Ashley became a volunteer at the theatre. Her husband’s job temporarily took them back to the mainland which enabled Ashley to care for their two children while completing an MBA. The family returned to the Big Island late in 2017, and Ashley is very happy and grateful to be back in one of her favorite towns in the world. She is passionate about music and the performing arts and is very excited to return to the Kahilu theatre.

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