Mary W. John
Theatrical Producer and Educator
Mary Widrig John Sullivan Born December 6th, 1925 in Green Bay Wisconsin
Born to Read E. and Thelma (Melville) Widrig
Moved to Milwaukee in 1929
Brother Walter Melville Widrig B 1929
Married Richard Curtis John June 27th, 1947 (Divorced 1958)
1 Son Richard Curtis born 1950, Married Carolyn Finn, 1973
Married Robert A. Sullivan September 6th, 2002
3 Grandchildren Catherine John Dietrich, Meredith John Cooper and Yuri John
3 Great Grandchildren
2 Step Daughters, Amanda Bernstein and Susan Neubauer
6 Step Grand Children
Moved to New York City 1959
Permanent Residence Florida 2017
B.S. Northwestern University 1947
M.S. University of Wisconsin 1948, Dissertation-Arena Theater
Ph.D. New York University 1965, Dissertation -A History of ANTA (American National Theater and Academy)
Ph.D. Humanities Northwood University 2010 – Honorary
1944 Freshman Theatre Achievement Award, Northwestern University.
1944 Undergraduate Theatre Assistantship, Northwestern University,
1946 Play Directing Award, Northwestern University,
1943 Northwestern University Alpha Phi, Beta Chapter
1947-48 Graduate Assistantship, University of Wisconsin.
1948 University Teaching Fellowship University of Wisconsin
1955 Community Service Award, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Theta Sigma Phi.
1958 Modern Spirit Award, by Milwaukee Newspaper Guild.
1960-63 New York University Teaching Fellowship
1966-67 Who’s Who of American Women
1969 Who’s Who in the East 12thEdition Who’s Who in the Mid-West Vol.6
1973 Northwood University Distinguished Women Award
2001 Northwood University Lifetime Achievement In The Arts Award
Honorary Societies: Zeta Phi Eta, National Collegiate Players, Alpha Kappa Delta,
Junior League Milwaukee 1942
Life and Career Work Experience
Dr. John has dedicated her life to the arts and education. She began her career by founding the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, originally the Fred Miller Theater I954-1958 and served as President and Chairman of the Board of the theatre corporation (Drama Inc.). As its managing director, she produced the theatre's first thirty-seven plays with stars such as Geraldine Page, EvaLe Gallienneand Edward Everett Horton. She also founded the School of Professional Arts which operated in conjunction with the theatre. As part of its own professional program, the school operated the accredited speech and theatre program for the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Mary was Director, Ballard School, Central Branch, YWCA, New York City, From 1961 through 1965. Ballard School was an adult education school. Her responsibilities included full administration of approximately 140 different class groups, seventy-five part-time teachers, a full-time staff of eight, with a student enrollment of approximately 10,000.After Ballard School, Mary worked for the US Government under the G.S.A. Program teaching secretaries to be administrators and public speaking to government executives and military officers.From 1965-67 Mary was Producing Director for the Institute for Advanced Studies in Theatre Arts (IASTA) founded by John Mitchell and Mimi Pitcairn Mitchell. The organization was chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. It was founded in the belief that American actors and directors could benefit their own stage art by practical study of the theatre of other countries. To this end a program was launched whereby every year master theatre directors from different countries were brought to IASTA for a period of six to ten weeks to work with American professional actors who were enrolled in IASTA. Each foreign director directed a play indigenous to the country of their origin and these plays were presented in IASTA’s theater. As Managing Director, she participated in all aspects of program planning and execution, including both business and artistic activities. She was responsible for auditioning hundreds of actors, casting, hiring such personnel as scenery and costume designers, stage managers and she helped prepare operational and specific project budgets. She also worked with the University of Denver onproductions and academic programs for their Theatre Arts Department. Here she directed several of IASTA’s productions
From 1967-70 Mary was Managing Director, Center for the Arts at Ithaca, Inc. (Ithaca Festival Theatre). The theater was organized to build and operate a 1,700-seat theatre which was to house a professional repertory company of the highest quality headed by Alan Schneider. 1973 -Dr. Mary John joined Northwood University. She served as Vice President - Texas and National Director of Arts Programs for the University’s three campuses. In this capacity, she has developed Northwood's arts programs and arts funding plan. These programs were conducted for the student body, special professional interest groups, and also included community-oriented activities. Here she founded the Arts Makes Good Business Partners Program, Creativity and Arts in the Classroom, and The Musical Theater Studio. The object of the Studio was to teach professional performing artists the business of their profession. They also performed in new musicals This program involved such luminaries as George Abbott, Yip Harburg, Sheldon Harnick and others. The program often worked in conjunction with ASCAP. Another aspect of this program was to produce new musicals, 3 of which she took to an Off-Broadway theater in New York. Mary retired from Northwood in 1995 the year after she met her soon to be husband, Robert Sullivan
Milwaukee, Downer College, 1949-50.
Drama Inc, School of Professional Arts, 1954-58.
New York University Dramatic Art Department, 1959-61.
Visiting professor at New York University in the Department of Theatre Education, 1965-67.
Summer Director of Professional Theatre Training Program operated in conjunction with Theatre Company of Boston at the University of Rhode Island, 1967. This included teaching acting classes and advanced seminars.
Director, Radio and Television, Loise Mark & Associates, Advertising Agency, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1948. Freelance producer, WTMJ-TV, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Conceived and wrote a six-show series, 1948-49.
PUBLICATIONS AND PLAYWRITING
Established and administered Fred Miller Theatre Annual Playwriting Contest. One of the winning full-length plays was "A Hold on Heaven,” by Emily Sprague Wurl. Theatre Arts Magazine, "Barn Raising Spirit Produces Arena Type Theatre," March 1955.
"The ANTA Spotlight," prepared and edited this publication for The American National Theatre and Academy, 1960-61,
NY Producing Experience
Mary continued her professional career in 1953 as an assistant to Bretaigne Windust for the Broadway Musical “Carnival in Flanders” starring John Raitt and Dolores Gray. Off- Broadway she worked as Associate Producer with Cheryl Crawford on ''Collette," starring Zoe Caldwell and Mildred Dunnock. Also, Off-Broadway, she produced IASTA’s production, "Phaedra, “starring Beatrice Straight and Mildred Dunnock and The Butterfly Dream. She produced with IASTAand Northwood the original cast production of "Your 0wn Thing” presented at the Monaco Arts Festival at the invitation of Princess Grace. She also produced "Dear-Oscar," a musical version of the life of Oscar Wilde, with Richard Kneeland and Russ Thacker at a Broadway Middle Theatre. Dr. John also produced a limited Off-Broadway run of “Dear Edwina” by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich.
Mary John at her desk in the 1940s. (Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Repertory Theater)
Mary. her husband Bob, brother Walter, son and daughter-in-law Rick and Carolyn, and granddaughters Merry and Cassie with their husbands.