Sharon Playhouse launches season with ‘Minor Character’: An interview with Artistic Director Johnson Henshaw

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By Tuesday, Jun 13 Arts & Entertainment

Johnson Henshaw, artistic director of The Sharon Playhouse.

Johnson Henshaw, Artistic Director of The Sharon Playhouse.

Johnson Henshaw is amazingly calm. The new Artistic Director of The Sharon Playhouse is days away from the opening of MINOR CHARACTER, the first play of the 2017 season … and the first play of Johnson’s new tenure at the theater. All around the theater campus, activity is in full swing as the young company prepares for the launch of an ambitious season … a season of firsts.

“We’ve built a season around a brilliant director … Morgan Green … who brings a freshness to three plays that should be truly entertaining” offers Henshaw. Behind him, carpenters piece together the platform that will be the stage set in the middle of 88 seats in the Bok Gallery. The lighting director is atop a tall ladder, hanging lights on pipes that run the length of the space. In another building, Ms. Green is rehearsing her cast, now in their second week of discovering the humor and irony of this adaptation of Chekov’s UNCLE VANYA.

“As we went through the first readings and the beginning of blocking,” Henshaw muses, “it dawned on us that the 120-year-old play that is the basis of MINOR CHARACTER is filled with contemporary relevance.”

One cannot miss the fact that the play is Russian, which offers a momentary reflection on contemporary politics. “It’s about the struggles between those with grotesque wealth and the poor who are expected to work hard to keep them in the style to which they’ve become accustomed.”

Johnson finds another parallel in the view of the land portrayed in Chekov’s piece. “If you look around us, we are in the middle of an area that’s populated by those who live here year-round and those who visit on weekends and for vacations. The play struggles with what those inter-relationships mean.”

Morgan Green, the young director celebrated for her staging of MINOR CHARACTER as part of the Under the Radar Festival in New York is joined by playwright/actor Milo Cramer and production partner/actor Madeline Wise who created the play in their New Saloon production enterprise. Green’s directing philosophy? “I want the audience to have a good time. That’s what MINOR CHARACTER is all about.”

With great expectations for an engaging production run that extends from June 9th to June 24th in the Bok Gallery Theater, this production … this season … is an attempt to offer something new, something different to the Tri-state audience.

“I get asked often if I’m anxious about how the audiences will react to a different approach … a different offering,” offers Johnson Henshaw with calm assurance. “There have been those who greet the schedule with quizzical looks and a tentative ‘Well, I don’t know …’ We believe they’ll not only be surprised but pleased and truly entertained.”

It is, after all, the audience that will provide the real reviews in conversations that begin with the final curtain call and extend through the days and weeks that follow. “I’m excited to be proved right,” offers Henshaw with a smile that can be nothing but sincere. “We’re presenting a truly imaginative play created and performed by young, gifted, energized performers. This is going to be great fun.”

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“MINOR CHARACTER, Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time” opens at Sharon Playhouse, 49 Amenia Road, Sharon, Conn., on Friday, June 9th. The play runs through June 25th. For information consult The Berkshire Edge calendar, or get information and tickets at 860-364-7469, www.sharonplayhouse.org.


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