Monday, October 15, 2012

Michelle Hensley, Art Hero

There are a lot of great things about living in Minnesota, and it's easy to take them for granted. MPR (one of those great things) this afternoon reminded me of another one when it named Michelle Hensley, artistic director of Ten Thousand Things theater, an art hero.

Michelle Hensley, seated on couch in background, observes an actor in a play she has directed
Photo by Jennifer Simonson, Minnesota Public Radio

Hensley moved to the Twin Cities almost 20 years ago because of the area's reputation for supporting the arts. She had an idea to start a theater company that would perform in front of prison and jail populations, or at homeless shelters and other locations where people don't have much experience of live theater, but a lot of experience with life.

TTT's productions are sparsely decorated and always in the round...or, more accurately, in a square at the center of four sets of chairs, with aisles radiating from the corners of the square. The actors work in the entire space, even moving the sets, which are often a few simple pieces of metalwork used to create doorframes or other spacial suggestions.

I've seen TTT's productions of several Shakespeare plays, My Fair Lady, and Little Shop of Horrors (in which the alien plant was amazingly dramatized by the the arm of the actor playing Seymour). At least one of their shows is among the most-lauded by local theater critics each year.

Hensley will probably be embarrassed to be named an art hero, at the same time she will know she must use it to promote the company and its work. But the mission of the group is so clearly grounded that any amount of notice cannot destroy its quality or beauty.

MPR story

Also available from MPR: A nice series of photos from TTT's current production of Measure for Measure.

Ten Thousand Things website

No comments: