×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

George Morrison, Acting Teacher to Gene Hackman, Edie Falco, Dies at 86

George Morrison, an acting teacher and director who trained, worked with, and inspired great actors including Gene Hackman, Edie Falco, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Klugman, Sandy Dennis, Judy Collins, Susan Dey, Jane Alexander, Jill Clayburgh, Joel Grey, Stanley Tucci, Scott Glenn and Ving Rhames, has died. He was 86.

Hackman thanked Morrison in his acceptance speech after winning the best actor Oscar for “The French Connection” in 1972.

Morrison was a founding faculty member of the acting program at SUNY Purchase, and he co-founded the New Actors Workshop with Mike Nichols and Paul Sills.

He became close friends with Nichols and Sills while attending the University of Chicago and would continue to work with them throughout his life. He was involved as a director with the Compass Players in Chicago before it became the Second City, and he studied directing at Yale Drama School.

After coming to New York in the 1950s, he directed several Off Broadway productions, including Dustin Hoffman and Joel Grey in “Harry, Noon, and Night” at the American Place Theater and “Epitaph for George Dillon.” He directed improvisation-based revues Off Broadway at the Premise with a company that included Gene Hackman, George Furth, Cynthia Harris and Ron Leibman, and, at Upstairs at the Downstairs, a cabaret revue that included Mary Louise Wilson and Jane Alexander. He also directed a long-running production of Pinter’s “The Caretaker” in Chicago and several television shows.

On Broadway, he directed Jack Klugman and Jill Clayburgh (in her Broadway debut) in “The Sudden & Accidental Re-Education of Horse Johnson.” He directed Gene Hackman and Sandy Dennis in “Any Wednesday,” and in one of the most painful moments of his career was fired by the producers one week before it opened to rave reviews and a long run.

But in teaching that Morrison truly found his calling and made his mark on the theater world. He taught acting in New York for more than 50 years, training several generations of actors, directors, playwrights, producers and teachers. He ran an independent studio (the George Morrison Studio) for many years before becoming a founder of the theater arts department at SUNY Purchase – one of the premier acting conservatories at a public college in the United States – and served as a senior professor there for 18 years. He then co-founded – with Nichols and Sills – the New Actors Workshop, an independent conservatory for professional actor training, serving as president for 22 years before his retirement in 2009. He was known for mentoring “actor’s actors” and for his innovative, ever-evolving teaching.

Morrison’s most illustrious alumni were Gene Hackman and Edie Falco, both of whom studied with him from a young age. Hundreds of other working actors studied with him and credit his teaching as being foundational to their work. Hackman and Falco have been particularly vocal about Morrison’s contributions. Ms. Falco said that “George nurtured my talents in unique and crucial ways.” Hackman said in an interview that he had “the most influence on me of anybody in the business. He saw something in me that others didn’t. I am eternally grateful to him.”

George Morrison was the son of a self-taught tinkerer who invented one of the first color copiers, the Brightype. As a child he performed magic shows for extra money around his hometown of Evanston, Ill. He served in the Army.

 

More Legit

  • Kiss Me Kate review

    Broadway Review: 'Kiss Me, Kate'

    No, Kate doesn’t get spanked. And for those wondering how the dicey ending of “Kiss Me, Kate” — that musical mashup of “The Taming of the Shrew” and backstage battling exes — would come across in these more sensitive times, well, that’s also been reconsidered for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of the Cole [...]

  • Betrayal review Tom Hiddleston

    West End Review: Tom Hiddleston in 'Betrayal'

    It takes three to tango, and Jamie Lloyd’s “Betrayal” completely grasps that. Having made it his mission to modernize the way we stage Harold Pinter’s plays, his chic, stripped-down staging starring Tom Hiddleston as a cuckolded husband might be his best attempt yet. Pared back and played out on an empty stage, this masterful play [...]

  • Johnny Thompson

    Magician Johnny 'The Great Tomsoni' Thompson Dies at 84

    Johnny Thompson, also known as “The Great Tomsoni,” died in Las Vegas on March 9. He was 84. The showman was a versatile performer of music, magic, comedy, and drama throughout his decades long career. Thompson was born to Polish ancestry in Chicago in 1934. He began his career as a musician and musical arranger. [...]

  • The Devil Wears Prada

    'The Devil Wears Prada' Musical Taps Anna D. Shapiro to Direct

    Miranda Priestly can’t call all the shots. The upcoming musical adaptation of “The Devil Wears Prada” has tapped Anna D. Shapiro to direct the show, which is eyeing an eventual Broadway run. The story of an aspiring writer who works for the magazine editor from hell has previously been a best-selling book and a hit [...]

  • Hugh JackmanBrit Awards 2019 Arrivals, London,

    Hugh Jackman Starring in 'The Music Man' Revival on Broadway

    Hugh Jackman will return to Broadway in an upcoming revival of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.” It marks Jackman’s first musical role in more than a decade, which should make it a hot ticket. His last one, “The Boy From Oz,” resulted in a Tony Award for best actor. Jackman will play con man Harold [...]

  • Gareth Owen sound design

    Listen: The Secrets of Broadway Sound Design

    Sound design might be the most thankless job on Broadway — because when you get it right, nobody notices. Besides, a lot of theatergoers — and more than a few Tony voters — don’t quite know what it is. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Broadway and West End sound designer Gareth Owen (“Come From [...]

  • britney Spears Las Vegas Residency Planet

    Britney Spears-Themed Musical Coming to Broadway

    The songs of Britney Spears will be featured in “Once Upon a One More Time,” a musical comedy featuring 23 titles from the singer’s catalog, theater owner James L. Nederlander announced today. The show will have its premiere in fall at Broadway In Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre before heading to Broadway. Previews begin  October 29, with an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content