Bradley G. Morison traced his lineage to the first mayor of Minneapolis. His father was a prominent newspaperman. But Morison found his passion in the arts, building an international reputation for boosting audiences through volunteerism, education and promotion -- first as development director for the infant Guthrie Theater, then as an independent consultant. Morison died Sunday in his home city after a long illness. He was 83.
His father was Bradley L. Morison, a Minneapolis newspaperman and author of "Sunlight on Your Doorstep," a history of the first 100 years of the Minneapolis Tribune. Brad's great-great uncle was Dorilus Morrison, Minneapolis' first mayor and one of three founders of the Minneapolis Tribune.
Morison followed his father into journalism, working for the Tribune after serving in World War II. A police reporter, he was dispatched to a disturbance after stagehands picketed a performance by the North Star Drama Guild. He got to know some of the principals there, including his future wife, Barbara, and started working with them. In 1948, he appeared in a production of "The Front Page" at the Old Log Theater.
"It was an enormous hit," said the Old Log's Don Stolz, a longtime friend. "Brad loved theater, loved entertainment."
After several years in advertising and a hiatus when he studied music at Juilliard, Morison was hired in 1963 as the Guthrie's first public-relations director and head of audience development.
"Brad was a spark plug in many ways," said John Cowles, a longtime board member and former owner of the Star Tribune. "He organized the Stagehands, the volunteers group. There were 600 of them ... They sold 14,000 season tickets in the first 12 months, and that was unprecedented in American theater history."
Morison left the Guthrie in a 1967 upheaval and formed Morison Fliehr Associates. Their big break came when Mark Schubart, head of Lincoln Center's education department, commissioned a study that led to New York's Lincoln Center Institute.
Morison co-wrote two books on audience development. He designed the Edina house his family moved into in 1956.
"He also wrote a number of musicals that are in a trunk in the basement," said Buzz Morison. "He was never far from the keyboard."
Morison is survived by Buzz Morison and daughter Patricia Morison, of Arlington, Va. His ex-wife lives in Minneapolis.
No services are planned.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299