Michael Maynez
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Michael Angel Maynez (1924 - 2001)

Michael Angel Maynez
Born in El Paso, El Paso, Texasmap
Son of [private father (unknown - unknown)] and [mother unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died at age 77 in Ojai, CAmap
Profile last modified | Created 24 Jul 2014 | Last significant change: 2 Dec 2022
04:27: Jeffrey Ward edited the First Name and Preferred Name for Michael Angel Maynez (1924-2001). (Fixing typos. ) [Thank Jeffrey for this]
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Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1924, he spoke Spanish at home and English at school. At age 12, Maynez, with mother, father, two brothers and a sister, moved to Pasadena, where he was exposed to the arts in school. Three years later, the family moved again, this time to Oxnard, where his parents set up a little Mexican restaurant that is now The Missile, a bar near the Navy base at Point Mugu. At high school graduation in 1942, Maynez joined the service and went to war in the hills of Italy with the 10th Mountain Division. At his return, he attended three years of acting school in Los Angeles, and moved back to Oxnard in 1948. He took night classes in drama at the high school. Maynez worked for the Navy at Port Hueneme, as a clerk who "shipped nuts and bolts" around the country. But, after 10 years, he decided he could either toil for the Navy or do theater, but not both. He quit the Navy in 1961.

Newspaper Writeups

PROFILE / MICHAEL ANGEL MAYNEZ : Plaza Players' Master Moves His Troupe November 30, 1989|JOANNA MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER Michael Angel Maynez was sitting one day in the courtyard of the San Buenaventura Mission. He was reflecting and praying, as he does daily, when an elderly lady recognized Ventura's most enduring--if enigmatic--local theater personality.

"Aren't you Michael Maynez?" asked the woman, gathering an offended air. "The director who does all those vulgar plays?"

"I said, 'Yes, I am,' " said Maynez, the founder and driving force behind Ventura's Plaza Players.

"Well, don't you think it's audacious to go every day for novena when you do those plays like that?"

At 65, with his pointed white beard and shaved head, his round torso and penchant for colorful scarfs, Maynez recounts the tale with delight. Audacious? Maybe. But vulgar? Well, that's not quite the right word.

He pushed his glasses to the top of his smooth head, and his gray-green eyes narrowed into a teasing smile.

"I do wicked theater," Maynez said.

Maynez can afford to smile and tease these days. He and the Plaza Players are part of arts history in the making in Ventura. Last July, they received the largest subsidy ever granted by the city to a single arts program.

The $200,000-plus grant is helping the troupe move from a tiny converted church on Santa Clara Street into the old Livery building on Palm Street, where a crew is racing to finish the theater for a New Year's Eve champagne opening.

This Sunday afternoon, Maynez plans a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate. His printed invitations welcome guests to the "wickedly wonderful world of Plaza Players, where you can be intimately involved or slightly detached, but never indifferent."

The line describes the director as well as his productions.

Maynez is a man who can be gentle and genteel, even courtly. Yet those whom Maynez has directed say he can also be playfully crude and even brutal, preying on actors' vulnerabilities to draw out the best performance.

Actress Terry Lynne, who starred in the Players' production of "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," sees Maynez as a wonderful friend and director, but said he can be rough on an unstudied actor.

"He has been known to throw his shoe at people," she said. "He's brilliant. You have to say he's brilliant." He also enjoys the sexuality in a play, she said. "He likes vulgarity. But he doesn't like it showy. He doesn't think that is sexual."

Actress and sometime director Sherry Resac called Maynez the most interesting person she would ever meet. "He is funny. He is aggravating. He is extremely intelligent. He is a very open person, but he's someone you never know completely."

She claims the vulgarity tag is a bad rap.

"It's a reputation he doesn't deserve," she said. "He doesn't do 'Mary Poppins' and 'South Pacific'; he does very exciting and innovative theater." Resac, who has known Maynez for 27 years, thinks of him as a father.

Miriam Mack, the city's redevelopment administrator who arranged for the grant to move Maynez into his new theater, calls him a shrewd businessman--who also brings her flowers. She, and the Redevelopment Agency board that approved the deal, believe that Maynez's long standing in Ventura entitled him to the unprecedented gift.

"First of all, they were in the redevelopment area," Mack said. "They have been in the community for 40 years. And we want to make sure that the arts stay downtown."

That sits just fine with Maynez.

"Art without subsidy--whether the symphony or anything else--is not going to work," he said.

He talks of the world's hypocrisy one minute, extols Freud for his correct assessment of the power of sex the next, then clowns for a news photographer. "Friends, Romans, countrymen," he bellowed one day during a photo shoot, hanging off a ladder set atop the new wooden stage. "Please take off your togas!"

It's been a long road that has led this local boy, a son of Mexican immigrant parents, to his own new theater, a house that will sport charcoal gray walls and "brilliant London-red seats."

Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1924, he spoke Spanish at home and English at school. At age 12, Maynez, with mother, father, two brothers and a sister, moved to Pasadena, where he was exposed to the arts in school.

"I fell in love with school," Maynez said. On one field trip, the class saw "Madame Butterfly." On another, they visited backstage at a radio theater.

"The biggest shock and disappointment of my life was when I saw that horses' hoofs were coconut halves going 'clop, clop, clop,' " Maynez said. That's the moment his interest in theater was solidified, he said.

Three years later, the family moved again, this time to Oxnard, where his parents set up a little Mexican restaurant that is now The Missile, a bar near the Navy base at Point Mugu.

"Talk about cultural shock!" Maynez said. No more field trips to the theater; no more jaunts to the symphony. But one good teacher at Oxnard High School helped him reduce his then-strong Spanish accent by teaching him to read poetry. At high school graduation in 1942, Maynez joined the service and went to war in the hills of Italy with the 10th Mountain Division.

"Don't look at this body now," Maynez said, pointing to his rotund abdomen. "But I was a ski trooper during the war." He suffered a head wound that nearly cost him his life. He still keeps the helmet he wore, pierced by two bullet holes.

At his return, he attended three years of acting school in Los Angeles, and moved back to Oxnard in 1948. He took night classes in drama at the high school. But when the administration told the class teacher that state law wouldn't allow the class to do any real productions, most of the class lost interest.

"We started meeting at my house," Maynez said. "And that's how Plaza Players got started."

The Players put on light opera and family theater at various locations in Oxnard and Ventura.

Meanwhile, Maynez worked for the Navy at Port Hueneme, as a clerk who "shipped nuts and bolts" around the country. But, after 10 years, he decided he could either toil for the Navy or do theater, but not both. He quit the Navy in 1961.

In 1979, the company moved into the Olivet Church on Santa Clara Street. That fortuitous move landed the Players in what became the city's planned Redevelopment Block No. F--an area the city ultimately would have to pay Maynez to vacate.

The city relocated the operation for $10,000 and paid Maynez an additional $20,000 for improvements he'd made to the rented former church. Redevelopment then added a special no-strings gift of $110,000. In addition, the Players will receive a $1,000 monthly rent subsidy for the next four years, and possibly the next 10, if they need it.

"Never in my wildest dreams was I expecting this," Maynez said.

Maynez has put on hundreds of productions that, in his earlier days, included old chestnuts such as "Kiss Me Kate" and "Mame!" But his repertoire over the years has expanded, with occasional forays into darkly comic pieces such as "Little Shop of Horrors," "Rocky Horror Picture Show," and "Women Behind Bars," a sex-spoof about prison life that prompted complaints from some theatergoers.

"That's just an outrageous B-movie lampoon," Maynez said. "If people can't laugh at that, they have big problems. Some people were very offended by "Inherit the Wind," so I never know what's going to offend a person."

His 40 years in the theater have consumed his life, Maynez said.

"I have turned all personal relationships aside," Maynez said of any romantic interests he may have had. He never married. But one afternoon, in his downtown apartment that is a study in antiques and art, with a view of the sun setting into the ocean from his living room window, Maynez talked of Victoria, the pianist he met in Italy while on leave. She was hired by a luxury hotel to entertain the troops, and that she did, Maynez said.

"She was beautiful," he said. "Of course everyone there was trying to make her and I felt, 'What chance have I got?' I was an ugly young man."

But the two met and talked, and eventually became lovers. Together they had Mirko, now a handsome man in his 40s who works as an engineer in Italy. Victoria would not marry, Maynez said. He sees his unmarried son on occasional trips when they meet in London.

"I feel he uses women," Maynez said. "I may have set a bad example for him."

But in Ventura, Maynez's friends and acquaintances admire the man and the example he sets for young actors and directors.

"He is exhilarating," said Pamela Pilkenton, who danced in the Players' most recent production, "Dark of the Moon."

"Everyone around him has such awe and admiration for him that they push themselves to do well," said Christopher Blackwell, the sculptor and builder in charge of constructing the new theater.

Maynez has started training young directors, so that, should his insulin-dependent diabetes worsen, Plaza Players will continue.

"It's not a question of my theater," he said. "It's a question of continuance. If I live to be 70 and haven't trained any new directors, it will be too bad, and too late."

John Michael Duggan, a man who came to him auditioning for an acting role seven years ago, will direct the New Year's Eve show, "Les Liaisons Dangereuse."

With the new theater, Michael Maynez has arrived. "I'm home," he said. "I'm not moving again."

Dean of County Theater Gives It Body and Soul Culture: Even surgeon's knife couldn't derail opening of Michael Angel Maynez's latest production, the 257th he has directed in 48 years. April 01, 1996|ERIC WAHLGREN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES VENTURA — Sometimes Michael Angel Maynez's devotion to the theater goes against better judgment.

Eleven days before the debut of his most recent production, the founder of Ventura's Plaza Players theater group checked into a hospital for a prostate operation.

But worried that actors might try to postpone the premiere of Paul Rudnick's comedy "I Hate Hamlet," Maynez, 71, kept his hospital stay a secret.

"I just didn't let the cast know," said Maynez, the Plaza Players' artistic director and a common sight in downtown Ventura with his white beard, shaved head and searing green eyes. "I kept on asking the doctor, 'When am I going to make it out of here because I have a rehearsal?' "

Now recovered, Maynez is leading the Plaza Players into its 48th season, making the group the oldest theater company in Ventura County.

The Plaza Players' longevity has surprised local theater observers, who began writing the group's obituary last July.

At the time, citing problems such as paying the rent and competing with loud music from nearby buildings, the company abandoned a prime downtown location at the Livery on North Palm Street. But the group resurfaced several months later--and just several blocks away--at the Senior Recreation Center with the Rudnick piece.

"It looked like we weren't going to have a '96 season," said Maynez during a recent interview in his antique-filled living room overlooking the waterfront Ventura Promenade. "Then I said, 'What difference does it make where I do the plays? As long as I have a venue, the audience will come.' "

Sure enough, Maynez and the Plaza Players have hopped from community centers to Elks Lodges to auditoriums for nearly 50 years, bringing new and sometimes daring theater to Ventura County.

"He is basically an institution in Ventura County as far as the arts go," said Hugh McManigal, a 33-year-old local actor who has worked with Maynez on and off for eight years. "For many years he has set the standards for quality theater in the area, with the types of theater he brings and the risks he takes with the choices of his work."

Although Maynez has put on scores of classics such as "My Fair Lady" and "The Sound of Music," he has long been known for producing controversial plays or pieces with strong sexual overtones, including "Bent" and "Women Behind Bars."

"Michael tends to play to the sexual tones of a piece," McManigal said. "Other people would shy away from those parts that a writer has put there for a purpose."

Even Maynez's answering machine welcomes callers to "the wickedly wonderful world of Plaza Players, where you can be intimately involved or slightly detached, but never indifferent."

Maynez, whose face often breaks into an impish smile, admits to a penchant for doing pieces that he calls "wicked theater."

"At the time that I did them, they shocked the community," Maynez said, naming plays by Tennessee Williams and other playwrights. "You can imagine 40 years ago 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' in Oxnard."

But Maynez said he shakes up audiences not to shock, but to force them to think in new ways.

One patron, enraged by a performance of the play "Bent" dealing with the Nazis' treatment of homosexuals, criticized Maynez during intermission for putting the play on in Ventura. But several weeks later, he told Maynez the piece had forced him to read up on the subject, giving him a better understanding of history.

"Theater can change people's lives," said Maynez with a triumphant pat on his knee.

Many local actors praise Maynez for giving them their first break and for teaching them the craft. But while many actors say he can be a brilliant director, many also say Maynez can be too tough on cast members, driving some away from the theater for good.

"Even though he is a bully director, he bullied me until I saw my potential," said Leila Perlmutter, a 48-year-old actress from Port Hueneme who performed with the Plaza Players for 33 years. "He taught me how to be an actress, how to be a real person."

But Perlmutter left the Plaza Players in 1992--after meeting her husband in the company--because she said Maynez had become too difficult to work with.

"I don't know what happened to him over the years. I won't ever go back," she said.

"He throws shoes at actors when he is upset with them," said John Larsen, a 38-year-old entertainment writer who worked as the Plaza Players' marketing director in the early 1990s. "That was the main complaint of actors. He has done some really great work. But he is just a prima donna type of person."

Maynez admits he can be demanding of actors. "I like commitment. I hate people who are tardy and I hate people who come unprepared and think they are going to learn lines on my own time."

Some actors say that despite Maynez's demanding style, he always treats his cast with respect.

"He is larger than life, but he is not arrogant," said Leslie Vitanza, a 28-year-old Ventura actress who played a real estate agent in the Rudnick piece. "While the production is his baby, he is very actor-oriented. With a lot of other directors, their ego is on the line and they don't care about what the actors think."

Born in 1924 to a Mexican immigrant family in El Paso, Texas, Maynez grew up speaking Spanish at home with his parents, two brothers and one sister.

It wasn't until he was 12, when the Maynez family moved to Pasadena, that he first discovered the arts in school--poetry, painting classes, field trips to the theater and museums.

"I thought, 'This is school?' " Maynez said. "I loved it."

The Maynez family moved again three years later--this time to Oxnard, where his parents opened a Mexican restaurant at 6th and Meta streets.

Maynez said he had good high school teachers, including one who helped him reduce his accent by teaching him to read poetry. But it was a backstage visit to CBS Radio studios in Los Angeles that sealed his interest in the theater.

There, he witnessed sound technicians pounding coconut halves on the floor to mimic the sound of horses' hooves. "All of a sudden, the incredible gossamer of the imagination was shredded to meat," Maynez said. "All of a sudden, I realized it was all in my mind."

Maynez acted in a few minor roles in high school productions, but World War II delayed his career in the theater. Maynez was drafted after graduation in 1942 and shipped out to Italy, where he joined a ski trooper unit.

"I didn't even know how to ski," Maynez said. "But I learned."

Despite his newfound skill, Maynez narrowly escaped death by an enemy bullet.

"I was shot in my head, which accounts for why I love the theater," Maynez said, displaying the faded Army-green helmet where the bullet blew a golf-ball size hole but just grazed his skull.

While on leave, Maynez met Victoria, a pianist who was hired to entertain the Allied troops in Bologna, Italy. The two eventually became lovers and had a son, Mirko.

Although Maynez and Victoria stayed together for less than a year, Maynez travels to Europe often and visits his son, now 49 and an engineer living near Naples.

"He has never come to the U.S.," said Maynez, who has never married. "But we have a very good relationship."

At the end of the war, Maynez returned to Southern California in 1945 and enrolled at the Ben Bard School of Drama in Los Angeles.

After three years of learning to act, direct and write scripts, Maynez returned to Oxnard to help his parents build a home.

But soon he again felt the theater's pull and enrolled in night classes in drama at Oxnard High School, where students encouraged him to lead their first attempt at producing a play.

"The students started hounding me and saying, 'Why don't you start a little group?' " Maynez said. "One day I just showed up with a bunch of plays and said, 'Here it is.' "

The group put on "The Philadelphia Story" and the Plaza Players were born.

While still directing, Maynez took a job in a supply office at the Port Hueneme Navy base, where he worked for 10 years. But in 1961, he realized he could no longer hold a full-time job and also do theater.

When he told his supervisors that he planned to quit, they urged him to just take a leave of absence.

"I said, 'No, I want to burn my bridges so I don't have any recourse but to go forward with theater,' " Maynez said.

Maynez has gone forward ever since.

By his own count, he now has at least 257 plays under his belt as a director.

On a recent weeknight, Maynez and the cast of "I Hate Hamlet" filed into the community room of Maynez's apartment complex for a run-through of the play.

With its beige walls and pastel carpet, the room looked more like a motel lobby than a funky theater space.

"He'll rehearse anywhere," said McManigal, who was preparing for his role as a fast-talking, nouveau riche television producer.

Some actors grumbled that the triangular-shaped space was less than ideal for rehearsals. And a neighbor came out on her balcony above the community room to gripe about the noise.

But Maynez, who has held many rehearsals in his apartment itself, called the community room a big improvement. The director held back on his critique for most of the 2 1/2-hour run-through and instead chuckled at lines in the script. "Only if the actors get really far away from the concept do I interfere," said Maynez, resting his clasped hands on his round belly.

Maynez, who had surgery in 1991 after suffering from an anginal attack, has no plans to stop directing. Although he has not selected his next production, Maynez said he is closing in on a play about a German psychiatrist.

"As long as there is some breath of life in me, I want to do theater," Maynez said. "I don't know what else to do. Sell furniture?"


Article written in the L.A. Times on June 26, 2001

"Theater Troupe Founder Dies at 77"

Michael Angel Maynez, the quirky yet venerable dean of Ventura theater and the first local director to stage plays about sex and sexual orientation, died Sunday at an Ojai convalescent hospital. He was 77.

Maynez, founder of the city's oldest theater troupe, Plaza Players, succumbed to complications from diabetes. He had been in ill health for about a year, according to close friends. "Theater can change people's lives", Maynez said in a 1996 interview with The Times. During the 53 years he ran Plaza Players, Maynez taught many local actors the craft--some of whom went on to become professional actors--and staged nearly 300 productions. "The hundreds of performers and theater denizens who constituted the community over which he, like some feudal lord,held court, were students, tradespeople, professionals and academics who reveled in the joy of sharing in Michael's theatrical vision," said Steven Z. Perren, an appellatecourt justice who performed in Maynez's 1970 productionof "Man of La Mancha". Another local actor, Ron Rezac, said Maynez was so passionate about his work that he once canceled a play that Rezac was set to star in because the actor wasn't ready to take the stage. "He told me I could go elsewhere where they could use me or I could stay here and start from the bottom," Rezac said. "I chose to stay, and it was to my benefit."

Maynez's troupe performed at many locations, including Oxnard's Elk Theater, in a warehouse at the old Wagon Wheel Junction and at the former Livery in downtown Ventura. Some of his more controversial productions, which he called "wicked theater," included "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "Women Behind Bars", a sex spoof about prison life; and "Bent", a play dealing with the Nazis' treatment of homosexuals. Maynez was born March 26, 1924, in El Paso, Texas. When he was 12 his family moved to Pasadena, where he first discovered the arts in school. Three years later, the family moved to Oxnard, where his parents opened a Mexican restaurant. He acted in a few high school productions before being drafted into the military in 1924 and shipped to Italy, where he joined a ski trooper unit. During his war service, Maynez was grazed in head by an enemy bullet, which he jokingly claimed accounted for his love of theater. Though never married, Maynez had on son Mirko, who lives in Italy. In addition to his son, Maynez is survived by his brothers, Guillermo Maynez of Oxnard and Raul Maynez of Colorado, and a niece, Pearl Thayer of Camarillo. A service is planned for 9am Saturday (june 30,2001) at the San Buenaventura Mission in downtown Ventura. Memorial contributions should be made to a favorite charity.


  • Obituary posted in the L.A. Times on June 26, 2001

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Categories: 10th Mountain Division, United States Army, World War II