Expanding Horizons at the Playhouse


Johnson Henshaw Photo submitted

The Sharon Playhouse welcomed two new leaders in November 2016: Emily Soell became president of the board of directors, and George Quick was hired as managing director.

At the time, the duo had no plans to fill the artistic director position that was left vacant by the departure of John Simpkins,  and they were also considering “Guys and Dolls” and “The Fantasticks” for the Playhouse’s summer season.

Well, a lot has changed in three months.

“Sometimes you think you know exactly what you are doing and where you are going,” Soell said last week.  “Then ­­— out of the blue — another vision is presented which is so riveting and exciting.”

That new vision has presented itself with the help of Johnson Henshaw, the Playhouse’s new artistic director. He’s a New Yorker who has worked in the off-Broadway nonprofit scene, and he’s been a weekender in Sharon for about five years.

“The Playhouse board reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested,” Henshaw said. “I’ve always thought the Playhouse was a huge opportunity. There’s no reason we can’t get some of the cutting-edge directors and designers from the city. I have a real desire for the work to be a little more current, and I’m looking forward to bringing that work to Sharon.”

To fulfill that goal, Henshaw wanted to find “one of the hottest young directors in New York.” His search led him to Morgan Green, who created the show “Minor Character” with Milo Cramer and Madeline Wise. The trio’s Brooklyn theater company is called New Saloon.

“Minor Character” is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” that features six English-language translations of the classic play. It will open the Playhouse’s summer season June 9-25 under the direction of Green.

Henshaw saw “Minor Character” during the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival in January, and he said it was “incredible.” He invited Green to direct three shows at the Playhouse this summer, and she helped come up with the season’s schedule.

Green will direct “Far Away” July 7-23, followed by “The Music Man” Aug. 4-20. Sarah Combs will direct students of the Sharon Playhouse Youth Theater in “Footloose” July 14-16. 

Green’s shows will run for three weeks each, which is an increase from the Playhouse’s previous standard of two weeks.

“I’m very excited about the creative new storytelling we’ll be doing at the Playhouse this summer, with incredibly creative and talented people,” Quick said. “The Playhouse is fortunate to have Johnson as artistic director, a terrific board of directors and to be able to work with Morgan this summer.”

Soell echoed those sentiments.

“The thing that is most encouraging to me is the way George and Johnson have understood and respected what has made the Playhouse endearing to our community and are not only willing — in fact, are doggedly determined — to preserve what is wonderful about what we do, but they are just as determined to expand our horizons as well as our audiences, emphasize new (women!) directors, new works and plays that make us think!”

For more information, visit the Sharon Playhouse’s redesigned website at www.sharonplayhouse.org.