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Remembering Morse Johnson's Legacy

Morse Johnson

Morse Johnson served as the first Chairman of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

The Playhouse in the Park has developed a strong legacy of artistic excellence since our founding in 1960. Now in our 59th season, the Playhouse's future shines bright indeed—thanks to the foresight and generosity of a very special individual.

Morse Johnson was the first Chairman of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, a position he held from 1960 to 1975. From his years as a tank commander during World War II and as a Civil Rights attorney throughout the civil rights movement, Johnson knew firsthand the power of hard work and perseverance and how to succeed against incredible odds.

He oversaw the transformation of the original 88-year-old Eden Park Shelterhouse storage building into a working theatre. With volunteers contributing countless hours of work, and seats scavenged from an old movie theatre slated for demolition, the Playhouse officially opened its doors on October 10, 1960. As subscriptions increased in the early years and it became apparent that the Playhouse needed to expand, Johnson oversaw the funding, design and construction of the Marx Theatre, which opened on July 18, 1968.

Johnson stepped down as chairman in February 1975, having presided over five artistic directors and multiple capital campaigns.

Perhaps more than any other person, Morse Johnson took Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park from being the dream of a small group of volunteers and artists, to the great theatre it is today. Johnson is remembered at the Playhouse through the Morse Johnson Society, a group of generous and forward-looking individuals and families who have made a future commitment to the Playhouse through their estate plans or established planned gifts.

Each year, members of the Morse Johnson Society:

  • Gather with other members for a special dinner featuring guest artists
  • Receive invitations to attend special, exclusive events for Playhouse donors
  • Have their names listed on our Morse Johnson Society Donor Wall, located in the Otto M. Budig Lobby, and in our playbills throughout the season ( we are also happy to honor requests for those who wish to remain anonymous)

For more information on making an investment in the long-term future of the Playhouse and becoming a member of the Morse Johnson Society, contact Rachel Kirley at or 513-977-2084.

Header image of Bill Doyle (Lieutenant Roberts) and Joneal Joplin (Doc) in Mister Roberts. Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.