Marblehead Little Theatre gathers to remember Ginny Morton

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In her life, Marblehead resident Ginny Morton excelled at recruiting people and delegating tasks for the various Marblehead Little Theatre productions and projects that she led or got herself involved in over the years. Her passion and dedication behind each was contagious, giving others the feeling that their contributions were valued and meaningful to the larger mission.

Such were the revisited attributes and traits that surfaced when friends and family members offered remarks during Mortion’s celebration of life in MLT on Saturday afternoon. Laughs and friendly banter filled the School Street theatre house for about two hours as folks dropped in, enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres, swapped “Ginny stories” and looked over a slide show looping pictures of Morton throughout her life.

‘Do you know where Wakefield Middle School is?’

“She created space where I felt that my participation was important,” Erik Hayden told the 75 people who attended the celebration.

Hayden met Morton through his involvement in theatre as a young man both at MLT and Arts at Tower summer school. He recalled always showing up early for rehearsals and stage productions “sometimes before Ginny, sometimes after Ginny.”

“I was always greeted with, ‘Erik, I’m glad you’re here,’ – which was usually followed by a task,” he said to widespread laughter. “Some of it was helping her find something. Sometimes it was just a little task.”

Marblehead Little Theatre opened its School Street theatre for a celebration of Ginny Morton’s life on Saturday afternoon.

But he found himself carrying out duties for Morton that many adults would probably not entrust in a young man of his age then.

“Oftentimes, it was, ‘Erik, I’m glad you’re here,'” Hayden recalled. “‘There’s a truck out back. Do you know where Wakefield Middle School is? There is a guy there who’s loaning me some theatre stuff. Can you go get it.’”

That she enlisted him for such important duties instilled in his teenage-self a sense of purpose and responsibility, he said.

“She made people feel like their participation was important – not just welcomed, not just being included,” Hayden said. “I felt like if I didn’t show up something important was not getting done. “

Morton was involved in community theatre since her arrival in Marblehead in the early 1970s. Marblehead co-founded and served as the director of the Arts at Tower summer camp. She was instrumental in MLT’s acquisition of the School Street firehouse.

“If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be in this beautiful building,” said MLT president Julie Menard. “I wish I had the opportunity to know her even longer.”

‘Perfection has eluded me again’

At 79, Morton lost her battle with multiple sclerosis and dementia on July 3.

“She was grateful for what she considered to be a very blessed existence,” said Morton’s daughter, Christine, during the celebration of life. “She worked hard, and she was a dreamer. She loved her life.”

Ginny Morton cultivated community in the local arts for sure. However, her theatre involvement was not exclusive to Marblehead: For a period, Morton served as producer and production manager for The Revels in Cambridge.

From the celebration of life’s stories emerged a portrait of a gregarious woman who emanated a zest for life, a wit and a playfulness. She saw the fun in playing pretend and creating imaginary worlds, and as she went about it all, she didn’t mind a bit of self-deprecation, too.

“When she wasn’t entirely successful in creating something,” said Patrick Swanson, the artistic director at Revels, “she had that one phrase: ‘Perfection has eluded me again.'”

Erik Rodenhiser performed and worked on many shows with Morton – the first being “Once Upon a Mattress.”

“I remember being cast in the show at 18 as the wizard,” he said. ” Ginny was the queen.”

He expressed appreciation for Morton’s support when he displayed trepidation over a singing part. It was the start of a long friendship; she would subsequently get him involved in Arts at Tower.

“I mean so many relationships in my life started with ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ and because of Ginny,” he said.

Doug Hill, a former MLT president, said Morton carried “a can do” attitude and steadfastness when theatre challenges or seemingly impossible ambitions presented themselves.

“I would say to Ginny, ‘Can we do that?’” Hill recalled. “She would reply, ‘Oh yeah, we can do that – no big deal. I don’t know how we’re going to get done – but we are going to do it.'”

Christine Morton echoed shared sentiments that her mother was proficient in task-giving, but Ginny Morton did not sit back and put her feet up. She put in equal, if not more, sweat equity into MLT projects and creations.

“Whether it was prepping or stuffing envelopes at the kitchen table or whatever needed to get done,” said Morton. “I can’t remember a time when MLT was not in our lives.”

She added, “MLT is family.”

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