Twice a year for 40-some years, the entire JCU community had the opportunity to gather and share, as an audience, the plays directed by Leone J. Marinello for the Little Theatre Society. The authors of those plays spanned the centuries, from Sophocles to Harold Pinter. They also included the literary giants F. Scott Fitzgerald and George Orwell in Leone’s adaptations of “The Great Gatsby” and “Animal Farm” for the intimate and mobile format of Readers Theatre. Thousands of student actors, designers, and technicians, as well as the thousands of audience members throughout the years, enjoyed the creative and sensitive genius of this resourceful and gentle man.
The impact of his art spiraled far and wide, well beyond campus, into the lives, visions, and ambitions of many generations of JCU students. Leone was quietly authoritative and infectiously humorous. He was enthusiastic about his teaching and directing, and he conveyed this passion with insight, understanding, and unvarying good will. He was organized, informed, and modest but was unafraid of challenging the folly or injustice in the world around him.
I was fortunate to have been one of his student actors and shared in the Little Theatre Society’s growth when it moved into the Student Activities Center in the spring of 1969. The theatre itself, designed by Leone to exacting detail, was his vision that came to life. But what endures will be the gift of artistic passion and the joy of discovery that thousands of student actors carry on in their lives, sparked by the enthusiasms and grace of our beloved Leone J. Marinello, the wonderful, incomparable “Mister M.”
- James I. O’Connor ’69