Mary John

Founder of Milwaukee Rep
December 6, 1925 – February 26, 2022

Dr. Mary John dedicated her life to the arts and education. After obtaining a Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and a Master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she married her first husband, Richard C. John, Sr. and settled in Milwaukee, WI.

She began her career by founding Milwaukee’s first professional theater company, Drama Incorporated, now Milwaukee Repertory Theater, which had it inaugural production January 25, 1955 at the Fred Miller Theatre. Drama Inc. produced a standard repertoire of Broadway hits featuring well-known performers to draw initial audiences. Dr. John served as the President and Chairman of the Board of the Theatre Corporation. As its Managing Director, she produced the theatre’s first thirty-seven plays with stars such as Geraldine Page, Eva Le Gallienne and Edward Everett Horton. She also founded the School of Professional Arts which operated in conjunction with the theatre and provided the accredited speech and theatre program for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Dr. John relocated to New York City in 1959 where she continued to be involved in theater and education.

We invite you to learn more about Dr. John and her remarkable life and legacy.

New York Times Obituary

American Theatre Magazine Article – The Theatre Mary John Built

Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Press Release on Mary John’s Passing

A video interview with Mary John on her final visit back to Milwaukee Rep in the Spring of 2015

Mary John at her desk in the 1940s.
Marshall Migatz, James B. McKenzie, Charles McCallum, and Mary John review plans for the Fred Miller Theater in the 1950s.
Opening of the Fred Miller Theater
Opening of the Fred Miller Theater
Opening of the Fred Miller Theater