By PAM JOHNSON
Special to the H&T
Over the past two years, “Hamilton’s” reigning King George III, Euan Morton, developed a soft spot in his generous heart for the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.
After forming several friendships through the JRT, he offered to perform a benefit concert to raise support for the small local theatre that, along with so many art venues, lost revenue due to COVID.
His relationship with JRT started in New York City when several of the theatre’s staff, performers and teachers participated in the Broadway Teachers Workshop. The annual workshop features classes, interviews, and performances by Broadway artists. Morton was one of those artists in 2019.
JRT board member and performer, Krista Wharton, was very moved by what Morton said during his seminar.
“Euan spoke of how he loved our country and how he wanted to give back, about how he wanted to be a good citizen. It made me realize what a genuine person he was and inspired me to see him perform.”
When she told him after class that she had purchased tickets to “Hamilton,” he invited her, and whomever attended the show with her, for a backstage tour. She was joined by Jennifer Ross-Bernhardt, Lorianne Carver and Beverly Ferguson. And the friendships began.
“The five of us went for dinner after the show, “Morton said,” and we talked about life and the universe and the theatre, and all the subjects you’re supposed to talk about at dinner, as well as all the subjects you’re not supposed to talk about at dinner. We became fast friends and swapped numbers and kept in touch.”
Morton has been involved with theatre most of his life. As a teenager, he left his homeland of Scotland to attend Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London. After a decade in England, he moved to New York.
His most well-known role on Broadway, for which he received a Tony nomination, was Boy George in “Taboo.” He also played the title role of Hedwig in the national tour of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
While touring with “Hedwig,” he received a call about auditioning for the role of King George in “Hamilton.” He then portrayed King George for 2 ½ years before Broadway went dark during
the pandemic. Fortunately, the show resumes rehearsals in mid-August and will re-open Sept.14, which gives him just enough time to come to Johnson City to give a benefit concert.
“I guess I am passionate about helping people,” Morton said when questioned about his generosity. “I don’t think about it when I’m doing it. I don’t think about ‘Who can I help today?’ It just falls out of my mouth sometimes, ‘Oh, let me help.’ It’s not always a conscious thought, but more of an emotional drive.”
The JRT community was thankful he felt that emotional drive during his trip last year through Jonesborough. He came for a visit to reconnect with his old friends, see the theatre, and get to know more of the people involved.
Then one evening, during a conversation about the theatre and its community, out of his mouth fell, “Oh, let me help.”
“It was because of the passion of women like Krista and Lorianne,” he said, “for whom art and theatre may not be the first thing they’re doing with their lives. It’s not their career; it’s the thing
they genuinely enjoy. Here’s a theatre giving people of all types a place to enjoy their art and to discover their artistic side. And that’s what the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre does. It’s not just about the perfect lines and all the prizes…it’s art for the sake of people.”
Morton is obviously passionate about theatre, but it is not his only interest. He has an active life off the stage and is currently studying for dual bachelor’s degrees in sociology and history.
“I’m very interested in the World Wars periods, always have been since I was a child. I’m also interested in American military history, and I’m equally interested in the history of women’s liberation and the women’s movement.
“We (our society) focus a lot on civil rights and human rights and the rights for this and that, but we very rarely focus on why women aren’t paid equally in the workplace. That’s a pretty fair and progressive question. For me, that’s an historical problem and it continues to be one today. This is a conversation no one is bothering to have.”
After a pause, he added, “And I’d appreciate you putting that in the article.”
He hopes one day, post “Hamilton,” to be a teacher; but for now, he’ll just take one day at a time.
“I’ve stopped guessing the future. Whilst I’m going to school to be educated to teach, I’m also fully aware if an amazing job came along with the theatre, I’d probably say ‘yes.’”
In the meantime, Morton is thrilled to perform the benefit concert to help support the JRT. It will feature an eclectic combination of his favorite songs including “Let’s Love” by Peggy Lee, jazz music by Noël Coward, songs by the Carpenters and Neil Sedaka, and more.
His accompanist is famed composer and pianist Bryan Reeder.
The concert will be held Sunday, Aug. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the D.P. Culp Center at East Tennessee State University. General tickets are $35. Premium tickets are $50, which includes a 30-minute talk-back (when Mr. Morton will respond to questions from audience members).
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit jonesboroughtheatre.com or call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010.
Everyone who purchases a ticket will be entered in a drawing to win two tickets to “Hamilton,” which must be used between Thanksgiving 2022 and New Year’s Day.