Fresh from Broadway, where she served as associate director for Amelie, 27-year-old Morgan Green is leading a director-driven summer season at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Conn., where she’s in charge of a wide-ranging program ranging from the Chekhov-inspired Minor Character (June 9-15) to Caryl Churchill’s Far Away (July 14-16) and Meredith Willson’s The Music Man (Aug. 4-20). It’s a varied program, and each play demands an interpretation as unique as its cast; Sharon Playhouse’s unique gamble is to put a single director in charge of it all.
Whereas some companies, like New York’s Signature Theatre or Portland, Ore.’s Profile Theatre, dedicate discrete seasons to the work of individual playwrights, Sharon Playhouse artistic director Johnson Henshaw wanted to do something similar for rising directorial talent. Henshaw, who has background in directing, returned to the U.S. after a fellowship in London and noticed, “There is not a strong system in place for young and emerging directors to really be given productions to prove themselves in the way that British or European directors are supported in their theatres overseas.”
Hence the director-driven season idea, which Henshaw instituted when he took the helm of the company earlier this year. Not that he’s simply handing Green directing assignments. The first piece in the season, Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya, was created by New Saloon, a Brooklyn-based company of which Green is a member, along with Madeline Wise and Milo Cramer. This adaptation of Chekhov’s masterpiece combines six different English-language translations, from the 1916 edition to Google Translate’s approximate results.
Churchill’s Far Away, meanwhile, is a dystopian fable set in a world in which beauty and horror, plain talk and poetry, are fused. And the concluding show, The Music Man, celebrates the musical’s 60th anniversary and employs the largest cast of the season.
When Henshaw first had the idea for a director-driven season, he reached out to theatre contacts asking for recommendations of up-and-coming directors.
“The one name on everybody’s list was Morgan’s,” Henshaw said. After seeing her production of Minor Character at the Under the Radar festival in New York City in January, Henshaw knew he had found his first director.
Green and Henshaw have worked together non-stop since then in preparation for the summer season. During a rehearsal at BAM for Minor Character, Green said, “I have quickly realized that this is an unusual summer lineup, because it’s really tough to direct three shows in a row.” But, she added, it has been possible because of her “amazingly talented collaborators.”
Green also observed that director-driven seasons are “not something that’s happening in New York.” She added, “We’re really playwright-focused at New York theatre institutions, and we’ve really spent a lot of time working at theatres which quite intentionally put the playwright first.”
This creates room, and need, for a program like Sharon’s. Today’s young theatremakers, Henshaw said, are faced with the idea that “they have to wait their turn, that they’re not ready. Whereas you look at other theatre cultures, in Europe: When people are young and in their 20s, that is when they are doing their greatest work. They are building a career and a body of work that builds success into the future. And I think this is the perfect moment for Morgan to begin.”
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