How a 27-Year Old Is Directing an Entire Season at Sharon Playhouse

Interview   How a 27-Year Old Is Directing an Entire Season at Sharon Playhouse A chat with Morgan Green, who is having a career-defining summer in Connecticut.
Morgan Green
Morgan Green Eileen Meny

Since graduating from Bard College in 2012—where she studied theatre and human rights—Morgan Green hasn’t wasted any time getting her directing career stared. The 27-year-old co-founded her own theatre company New Saloon, has worked as an associate director with Tony winner Pam MacKinnon on the Broadway musical Amélie, and is about to kick off a chamber adaptation of The Music Man at the Sharon Playhouse. The show, in fact, marks Green’s third production at the Connecticut theatre. Under the guidance of the Playhouse’s new artistic director Johnson Henshaw, the young theatre artist has been at the helm of three shows this summer, beginning with an adaptation of Uncle Vanya titled Minor Character (June 9–25) and Caryl Churchill’s Far Away (July 7–23). We spoke to Green about what it takes to direct an entire season at this stage in her career.

Morgan Green
Morgan Green Eileen Meny

Talk to me about your schedule this summer.
It's just been nonstop. Far Away was still in tech when Music Man rehearsals started, so I was going from rehearsals for one show during the day to tech for another show at night. I felt like my brain was falling out through my ears. It was a really bizarre experience.

Did it make you to think about time and productivity differently?
It’s forced me to be very present and in the moment. I use the crisp morning hours for focused, planning work, and the evening hours for more aloof creative thinking. I've been working all the time.

How did this job at the Playhouse come about?
Johnson Henshaw had come to see Minor Character at Under the Radar Festival in January, a show which I directed and co-created with New Saloon. A few days later we had a coffee and he invited me to do three shows during the summer. He said I could choose whichever productions I wanted. I thought it was a dream. I'd never had an opportunity like this or heard of one for a young director.

Had the two of you met before?
No, but I was told that he’d heard of me through other people I’d worked with in New York—I’d done a lot of assisting work, internships, and apprenticeships. I spent a lot of that time feeling frustrated because I did not have a voice as an artist, but despite that I was able to make positive working relationships with people.

What has the support of an artistic director meant to you?
His confidence in me has been unwavering, and it’s lifted me up as I’ve worked through this season. That’s probably the area where I’ve grown the most—I've done a lot of self-producing and a lot of assistant or associate directing in the past, but I haven't had this kind of institutional support or a relationship with an artistic director before. That's been a big new component to learn how to work with.

Did you feel any pressure being at the helm of three shows?
It’s been a lot of pressure. It's also a huge change for this theatre under Johnson's artistic direction [Johnson arrived in January 2017]. Everything about this season is new: the concept of a director-driven season and most of the staff are all new—it’s under close scrutiny as to whether or not it will succeed and continue.

How has the audience reception been so far?
My understanding is that the Playhouse’s audience values a more traditional experience of going to the theatre, and that’s something I'm trying to push up against. We had talkbacks after every performance of Far Away and I learned a lot from the audience responses. We received some complaints from people about the dark outlook of the play—it’s not a musical, and it made some people angry. We also received a lot of insightful comments connecting the play to what’s happening today in the world, as well as what the audiences found exciting and interesting.

As a director, do you have to develop a thick skin pretty early on?
I'm very sensitive; I don't think I have a thick skin but I do take comfort in people engaging with the work and the components that I'm trying to bring into it. Even if they don’t like it, but they're recognizing what we're trying to do and they're engaging, I feel really excited. It makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile if there are reactions in that way.

Performances of The Music Man will run August 4–20 at the Sharon Playhouse, located at 49 Amenia Road, Connecticut. For more information visit SharonPlayhouse.org/.

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