Rochester native Misha Johnson wears a multitude of hats both on and off the stage. From actress to author to ukulele-player, Johnson has honed her crafts and made a space for herself in local and national art scenes.
Her most recent project - directing the Rochester Civic Theatre’s rendition of Shrek the Musical - has brought on new, exciting, and sometimes smelly challenges for Johnson.
Why did you agree to guest direct this production?
Shrek says, "fairytales need to be updated,” and they do! Agreeing to direct this musical meant the story I would get to tell would be one of encouraging uniqueness, embracing differences, and celebrating unlikely heroes. I couldn't say no to that!
What’s been your background in directing or performing in theatre?
Most recently, I directed The Addams Family at RCT, as well as Legally Blonde Jr. and Getting to Know Once Upon a Mattress for RCT’s summer theatre program.
Though native to Rochester, my theatre career resides in Colorado. In the 16 years I’ve spent in Denver, I’ve worked as a professional Equity Actress, in addition to performing and directing with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Curious Theatre, Stories on Stage, Aurora Fox, Theatreworks, The Wolf Theatre Academy, and Arvada Center.
I also founded a children's theatre company called Immersion Youth Repertory with which we produced Into the Woods in 2016 at the Rochester Repertory Theatre. Aside from theatre, I'm also a singer/songwriter, author, and professional voice-over actress.
What is your genre preference when it comes to theatre? Do you generally stick to that?
I love storytelling. Period. As a director, I desire to direct the stories that have a powerful message. I do lean towards comedy, but I love Shakespeare and I also enjoy crafting deeply powerful dramas.
How has directing Shrek the Musical been different from your last RCT production, The Addams Family?
Well, in The Addams Family there were no farts or puppets; only a disembodied hand. In all seriousness, Shrek the Musical is a "made-for-Broadway" musical. To take on a production of this nature is a huge feat and the Rochester Civic Theatre is rising to the occasion! They have provided me with all the tools to make this an incredible experience for Rochester audiences.
If we compare Addams Family to Shrek, a couple things have changed: the cast size has doubled, the choreography is more difficult, the costumes have quadrupled as has the production team. It's a massive undertaking!
Have you directed Shrek the Musical before?
No I have never directed Shrek before. Nor have I directed something so complex before with 31 cast members, professional tap dancers, high-end custom prosthetics, a 20-foot dragon puppet from California, puppeteers, and special effects galore. It’s just amazing to watch it all come together!
What makes this production of Shrek special?
Audiences will be in for a treat as our "set" (designed by Kevin Dobbee) is groundbreaking in the world of live theater. 4-D projections set the stage for us as Shrek travels through the forest, over lava and into the Kingdom of Duloc.
Who should come see Shrek?
Though the storyline and music are different from the the movie, the humor, the music and the love story will appeal to adults. Students will be in awe of the puppetry and dance. It's great fun for the whole family!
See the wondrous fairytale adventure come to life! Claim your tickets today!