Gene Morrill’s theatre roots began in Minnesota, where he performed throughout his academic career. In 1962, his love of drama and theatre led him to Washington, DC, when he received a fellowship to The Catholic University of America; he graduated in 1965 with a master’s degree in fine arts from the CUA Drama Department. At the time, St. John’s often had a graduate assistant from Catholic University direct its school productions. In January of 1965, Gene found himself assisting with the SJC production of West Side Story. As they say, the rest is history and the start of an acclaimed career.
In the fall of 1965, Bro. Michael Garry founded and moderated The Mask & Wig, now known as St. John’s Theatre. Gene soon became its moderator and was responsible for directing its two musicals each year. By the end of his tenure, Gene had presented more than 20 musicals for the school and served as the director of drama, drama instructor, football coach and assistant to the principal.
After St. John’s, Gene moved to Gallaudet University, where he developed drama courses for the high schools for the deaf throughout the country. He also produced and co-directed the school’s first musical, Oliver, which incorporated the voices of St. John’s students while the cast used sign language. Gene left the university to join the George Meany Labor Studies Center (later the National Labor College). He remained there for 27 years, serving as the Washington, DC, area liaison representative.
In 1986, Gene was appointed executive director of The Olney Theatre for the Performing Arts. His career also led him to other prestigious roles, including 30 years as a judge for the Helen Hayes Awards. Over the years, Gene returned to CUA as a guest director, most notably for the university’s centennial celebration. In 1998, he was elected international president of the CUA Alumni Association and currently serves on the board of governors.