Sharon Playhouse Plans A Director-Driven Season
By CB Wismar
The barn red buildings of Sharon Playhouse in winter are a stark reminder that cold weather and snow have replaced the drama that inhabits the campus from June to September. Opening night at the Sharon, Conn. Equity theater seems many months away.
But recently, in the warm confines of the intimate Bok Theater, a collection of energetic, imaginative and amazingly dedicated theater professionals began planning for their first show. June will be here soon enough, and the new management and creative teams at Sharon Playhouse are not wasting a moment.
To set the stage, the first announcement came in late fall. The new president of the Playhouse organization, Emily Soell, announced that George Quick had been named the new managing director of the Playhouse. Quick left a successful run as executive director of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre to move north.
Johnson Henshaw and George Quick
Enter, stage right, the holidays. There were rumors of plays to be staged and changes to come. News, however, was hard to get. Then, in mid-January, a new name appeared on the Sharon Playhouse website. Johnson Henshaw, a talented young producer and director with both theater and TV credits had been named artistic director.
But, the big questions — what plays would be staged, and who would direct — remained. What was going to push us through winter and mud season?
On February 1, without fanfare, the lights came up: Sharon Playhouse was going to take its place amid the regional powerhouse theaters — Berkshire Theater Festival, Shakespeare & Company, Williamstown Theater Festival and Barrington Stage. Like its regional colleagues, the Playhouse’s 2017 season wouldn’t be a rehash of “straw hat” favorites, but a real theatrical experience.
Downstage right, back in the pre-production meeting, the critical cast of technical and creative artists gather as the low-angled winter sun played across a table strewn with books and papers. At the head of this group is a highly regarded young director who has captured the imagination of New York theatergoers and who will, at the invitation of Johnson Henshaw, direct the three major works that will anchor the 2017 Sharon Playhouse season.
Morgan Green is a rising star, a co-artistic director of the company New Saloon Theater Co., a Brooklyn-based, Bard College-born theater. Her staging of “Minor Character,” which is a sometimes raucous presentation of six simultaneous translations of Chekov’s “Uncle Vanya,” has been widely applauded in New York. New York Theatre Review said “Morgan Green’s direction is superb… hysterical, inventive and brilliant.” On June 8, Green and her production partner, actor/playwright Milo Cramer, will bring that enchantment to the Bok stage for a two-week run.
Thanks to a new Sharon Playhouse dedication to showcasing emerging directors, Morgan’s first play will not be her last. Her staging of British playwright Caryl Churchill’s “Far Away” will occupy the Bok from July 6–23, And, for an encore, Morgan will turn to a great American musical, Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man,” which will run from August 3–20. (On the main stage, the Youth Theater will find new life in a production of “Footloose!” directed by Sarah Combs the weekend of July 14–16.)
It’ll be an interesting change for Morgan. “New York theater is very playwright driven, which is fine,” she says. “Sharon is doing something so refreshing — giving new directors the chance to present their work in a great setting to an eager audience.”
Across the table, George Quick and Johnson Henshaw nod in agreement. “We can only be as vibrant as our relationship will be to the community,” says Henshaw. “We’re going to be true to the community and eagerly invite new audiences to join in the experience.”