Christopher Henley

Christopher Henley is a founding ensemble member with WSC Avant Bard (formerly Washington Shakespeare Company, founded 1990) and was artistic director from 1996 until early 2013. For WSC, he directed several plays by Shakespeare (Hamlet, Lear, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, and Richard III) as well as The Grapes of Wrath by Frank Galati (from John Steinbeck), Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, 5th of July by Lanford Wilson, Miss Julie by August Strindberg, Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, Macbett by Eugene Ionesco, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore by Tennessee Williams, Hapgood by Tom Stoppard, Caligula by Albert Camus, Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen, The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, Camille: a tearjerker by Charles Ludlam, Lulu by Frank Wedekind, and, for the Capital Fringe Festival, Hotel Fuck by avant garde visionary Richard Foreman (also playing Tony Turbo in that production). Other directing credits include SCENA Theatre (The Firebugs by Max Frisch), Spheres Theatre Company (Gimme Shelter by Barrie Keefe and Auto-da-Fe by Tennessee Williams), and Source Theatre Company (at which his production of The Zoo Story by Edward Albee ran successfully and received three revivals during the 1980s). In Source's first Washington Theatre Festival in 1981, he directed Good Money, the debut play by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Will Rokos (Monster's Ball). In The Washington Post, chief theatre critic Lloyd Rose grouped him with Michael Kahn, Douglas C. Wager, and Joe Banno as directors that have made DC a wonderful town for Shakespearean production (June 9, 1995). He has accepted an unprecidented three Theatre Lobby Mary Goldwater awards: on behalf of WSC for his production of Uncle Vanya in 1993; again in 1997 on behalf of WSC for his first two shows as artistic director (including Travesties, in which he played James Joyce); and in 2003 as an actor for playing Julian in WSC’s Tiny Alice. He also was Master of Ceremonies for a fourth Goldwater awards ceremony. Two WSC performances brought him Helen Hayes nominations: Horst in Bent and Eddy in Entertaining Mr. Sloane. In addition, he has presented twice at the Hayes awards. For Helen Hayes (and its successor organization theatreWashington), he has served on a panel selecting Helen Hayes judges; twice served on the panel which choses DC artistic directors to participate in the Canadian-Washington Theatre Partnership; and was himself chosen earlier to participate in that program, through which he visited Canada, saw theatre there, and met with theatre professionals. For the past three years, he has served on the panel selecting artists to participate in the Source Festival. As an actor, at WSC, he has played numerous Shakespearean parts including Richard II, Falstaff, Henry IV, Lysander, Jacques, Horatio, Caska, Don John, Don Pedro, MacDuff, Son of MacDuff, Duncan, Donalbain, and two Antonios (The Tempest and The Two Gentleman of Verona). Other favorite roles at WSC include Spooner in No Man's Land, Joxer in Juno and the Paycock, the title role in Edward II, Quentin in Small Craft Warnings, The Pope in Red Noses, Franz Kafka in Kafka's Dick, Dysart in Equus, Martha in The Children’s Hour, Creon/Messenger in Medea, Didi in Waiting for Godot, LeFranc in Deathwatch, Sir Archibald Jumper in Jumpers, Shannon in The Night of the Iguana, Solange in The Maids, McCann in The Birthday Party, Wesley in Curse of the Starving Class, Polidori in Bloody Poetry, Marat in Marat/Sade, Cradeau in No Exit, Felix in The Normal Heart, Moon in The Real Inspector Hound, young Dr. Frankenstein in Playing with Fire, and He in Every Young Woman's Desire. He acted in the first Source Theatre Company production on 14th Street in 1980 (as Michael Williams in Bart Whiteman's production of Henry V) and played Michael Dara opposite Nancy Robinette in Whiteman's 10th anniversary production of In the Shadow of the Glen, the play with which Bart had begun Source in 1977. Also a founding company member with SCENA Theatre, he was in the inaugural SCENA production in 1987 (as Poet/Mr. Pigg/Wall Boy in Help Wanted) and he has appeared there frequently, including as the sole character in Wallace Shawn’s The Fever (which he played in DC in 2004, Berlin in 2003, and Maribor, Slovenia in 2002), Prince Philip in Ivona, Princess of Burgundia (in DC and at a festival in Lublin, Poland), Roderick in The Fall of the House of Usher (in DC, Berlin, and Vienna), Orestes in both Orestes (DC and Thessaloniki, Greece) and Iphigeneia in Tauris (DC), Eddy in Greek, Joseph K in The Trial, Clov in the 1999 Endgame, Nicolas in One for the Road, in two plays by Vaclav Havel (as Vanek in Audience and as Xiboy in Mistake), as Mark in Shopping and Fucking, as Master Jack in Tropical Madness,
and others. In NYC in the early '80s, he reprised two DC roles (Kid in Gimme Shelter and Karl in Michi's Blood), but the highlight of his short career there was playing the title role in The Ruffian on the Stair and receiving a rave review for it in The Village Voice. Other DC performances include Don John at Folger Theatre, Lenny in The Homecoming at Spheres Theatre, and Valmont in the hit, all-male Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Actors' Theatre of Washington; world premieres of Kathleen Akerley's adaptation of Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and her original play Something Past in Front of the Light at Longacre Lea; and DC premieres including Killer Joe (as Joe Cooper) for Cherry Red Productions, Orphans (as Philip) for Moving Target, and True West (as Austin) at Source. He studied theatre at The College of Wooster (in Wooster, Ohio), where he directed Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children and Strindberg's Creditors.