Arts & Culture

The man who made theater accessible at Boise’s Morrison Center is making his exit

Watch a clip of Brian Wilson performing at the Morrison Center

Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has overcome a number of obstacles in his life and remains a music legend. Idaho Statesman columnist Tim Woodward reported on "how effortless Wilson made it look to play music" at his Morrison Center performance in Ap
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Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has overcome a number of obstacles in his life and remains a music legend. Idaho Statesman columnist Tim Woodward reported on "how effortless Wilson made it look to play music" at his Morrison Center performance in Ap

Morrison Center executive director James Patrick announced this week that he is retiring, but he will stay on during the national job search to find his replacement, according a Boise State University news release.

Patrick, 51, came to BSU’s performing arts venue in 2011 from the Warner Theatre in Torrington, Connecticut.

During his tenure, the center was consistently ranked as one of the top university venues in the nation for its size for annual attendance, as well as one of the top 100 theaters overall for worldwide ticket sales, the release said.

Patrick brought a unique mix of experience as an administrator, performer and booking agent, which served him well as he worked to raise the profile of the center nationally and increase the number of performances throughout the year.

About 160,000 people walk through the Morrison Center doors each year to see a show.

Patrick developed a family series with lower-cost tickets and a series of free community concerts to make Idaho’s largest proscenium theater accessible to more people. He helped develop the Morrison Center Endowment Foundation grant program to offer Boise’s performing arts groups more affordable access to the hall, and installed a flexible curtain system that brings the 2,000-seat house down to 1,300, allowing for more diverse programming and affordability.

“In 2016, 30,000 people saw free performances (at the Morrison Center),” Patrick told the Statesman in 2017. “I don’t see any other performing arts venue in the country doing anything like this.”

He booked some of the largest national touring Broadway productions, including “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King,” and brought major Broadway touring companies to Boise to do one- to two-week technical rehearsals before going out on the road, including the massive “War Horse” in 2012.

The national tour of “The Lion King” is the largest show to play at the Morrison Center. It’s long-awaited appearance brings with it an actor who wants to explore his family’s roots in Nampa.

Patrick leaves the center in the best financial shape in its history, Morrison Center Endowment Foundation president Justin Wilkerson said in a statement. Wilkerson is the grandson of Velma V. Morrison, engineering magnate Harry Morrison’s widow, who spearheaded the project to build the center on BSU’s campus in the 1980s.

In 2017, the Morrison Center was named one of Boise’s Cultural Ambassadors, an honor it shared with Global Lounge.

“[Patrick’s] commitment to building up Boise’s cultural community was a key reason we named the Morrison Center as a City of Boise Cultural Ambassador. His vision and leadership will be missed,” Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said in a statement.

Patrick is the fourth Morrison Center director in its 34-year history. Fred Norman led the campaign to build the theater and served as its top executive briefly. Frank Heise held the post until 2003, and Jan Zarr served as executive director until 2010.

Patrick will continue as an adjunct professor in the BSU School of the Arts. He did not respond to emails or phone calls for this story on Thursday.

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Dana Oland is an experienced reporter covering a wide variety of topics in the Treasure Valley. A former member of Actors’ Equity, she covers arts, culture, food, wine, development and growth. She oversees the Statesman’s reader-driven Curious Idaho initiative and the production of Treasure magazine. If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.

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