Alum of the Year: This award is presented to a graduate of Charles Wright Academy and recognizes the individual’s accomplishments and/or service to community.
Charles “Chuck” Morey ’65 is a director, playwright, and former artistic director with more than 45 years’ experience in professional theater and extensive credits from coast to coast.
He started at Charles Wright in the eighth grade when the school was only four years old. “Those first years, the school was so small, everybody had to do everything or nobody got to do anything,” he recalls. “That meant most participated in multiple sports and activities.” As a Tarrier he competed on the football, baseball, basketball, and ski teams; served as the editor of the literary magazine; and was president of the student council.
During Chuck’s sophomore year, teacher Donn Laughlin said, “Hey, let’s do a play.” And so they did. The first production was a play by Milton Geiger about the great 19th century actor Edwin Booth. A small group of students founded the first drama club, the Charles Wright Players, and Chuck took the stage for the first time. “I played his crazy father—very badly, I am quite sure—but I loved it,” he says. “I was swept up in that most ancient adrenalin rush of telling a story at the lighted end of a darkened room.”
Chuck’s junior year a new teacher, Jack Coogan, joined the school. He taught English, but his passion was dramatic literature, so students read a lot of plays, from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller to Samuel Beckett. “It was Jack who began to really encourage me as a writer,” Chuck says. “And in emulating him, I too developed a passion for the theater, which I followed in to college, and then graduate school, and eventually into the professional theater in New York and around the country.”
In 1969 he graduated from Dartmouth and went on to Columbia, where he received his MFA and where his acting career began. “I was an actor, a stage manager, and a theater carpenter and electrician. I even worked as a bouncer,” Chuck remembers.
In 1977 he became the artistic director of New Hampshire’s Peterborough Players, where he more than tripled the size of the equity company and production staff, increased the budget five-fold, and more than doubled seasonal attendance.
In 1984 he became the artistic director at the Pioneer Theatre Company, where he led the conceptualization and implementation of a new mission that fully professionalized the theater. His vision transformed the landscape of theater in Utah and helped to advance the careers of hundreds of actors. During his 28 years at the Pioneer Theatre Company he directed more than 90 productions, including several world premieres.
In addition to his time at Peterborough Players and the Pioneer Theatre Company, Chuck also is the author of 11 produced plays, has served as a panelist and onsite evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts and on the Board of Trustees of the National Theatre Conference, been the recipient of the Bravo! Award, is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, and is a regular guest director at theaters around the country.
“I am told I created something of a controversy in my senior year at CWA when, after two years as a varsity basketball player, I dropped basketball so I could be in the play ‘Billy Budd,’ as the rehearsal schedule and basketball practice were in conflict,” Chuck recalls. “It is testament to Headmaster Ted Sanford and the faculty at that time that I never heard a whisper of ‘the controversy’ until years later. Whenever anyone asks, ‘How did you become a director and a playwright?’ I invariably answer, ‘Some amazing teachers at Charles Wright allowed me to think that I might someday become an artist.’”
We are thrilled to have Chuck join us on campus next week as we celebrate his accomplishments. He will be visiting Upper School theatre classes and speaking to all students at the Founders’ Day assembly.