Audrey Johnson was one of the most beloved theatre patrons Arizona has ever known. She grew up in Highland Park, IL and graduated in 1974. Audrey graduated from the University of Arizona in 1978. She settled in Arizona and married Van Johnson, a musician. Van and Audrey both loved the theatre and shared that love with their beautiful daughter, Haley. Haley became involved in local theatre at a very young age, beginning at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale. Audrey loved being part of the theater community and helping parents and children learn about how they could help become involved. In 1999, Audrey created the position of Parent Coordinator at Desert Stages Theatre. This was a volunteer position that she held in addition to working a full-time job.
Audrey was the #1 cheerleader for all of the children involved in the Arizona theater community. She would spend her days working at World At Work, and her evenings and weekends volunteering at Desert Stages or going to other theatres in town to cheer on “her kids’ who were involved in theaters all over Arizona.
The kids always knew when Audrey was in the audience because she had a very hearty and loud “whoo whoo!” that she used to shout when she was there to let them know she was there rooting them on. Audrey believed that exposing children to theater at a young age taught them a love for performing arts that would last throughout adulthood. She believed that performing in or being involved in shows would help foster self-esteem in children that would enable them to succeed in all areas of their lives. She believed that theater was magic- a safe place for every child, a place where they would hear singing and laughter and be able to take a bow and hear applause.
In November of 2010, Audrey lost her voice. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Audrey fought cancer with everything she had. In typical Audrey style, she would go to chemotherapy and radiation, and still go to a show because she wanted to see one of her “kids.” In the last week of her life, Audrey saw shows all over the Valley, even traveling to the University of Arizona in Tucson to see some of her “kids” in a college production. She was still able to “whoo whoo” with all of her might, even with very little of her voice left. Audrey passed away at the age of 56 on November 2, 2012. The next night, theatres throughout the Valley dimmed their lights in honor of their beloved theatre patron. She leaves behind her husband Van and daughter Haley and hundreds of “her kids” all over Arizona.
One of the children that was influenced by Audrey was Sam Primack. Sam met Audrey at the age of 5 when he did his first theatre production. Audrey was his biggest fan, and she made sure she was in the audience at every one of the 25 theatre productions Sam performed in throughout the Valley. At the age of 10, Sam landed the role of Puglsey Addams in The National Tour of the Broadway Musical “The Addams Family.” Shortly before he left for tour, Audrey passed away. While on tour with his mom, Allyson Primack, he saw foundations throughout the United States sponsoring seats for underprivileged children to see “The Addams Family.” This sparked an idea. When Sam and Allyson returned back to Arizona in September of 2013, they started “The Audrey Johnson Theatre Foundation” to honor the spirit of Audrey and her love of children and her belief in the power of theatre.