This evening (June 22) will be the opening night of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,” a musical production of the Watts Hall Community Players in Thomaston. St. George resident Lynna Henderson will be singing and dancing her heart out as a member of the chorus who also plays the wife of Joseph’s oldest brother, Reuben. This will be the group’s second production—last year the Players produced “The Music Man,” with Henderson in the role of Mrs. Paroo, the Irish mother of Marian (the librarian).
“The Players are a nice group,” Henderson says. “Last time I had a biggish role, now I’m in the chorus and I love it!”
Henderson has been performing in front of audiences since her childhood in Southern California. “I was in choirs from the time I was in first grade. When I was 11 the local community theater needed a child so they recruited me and I’ve been doing community theaters ever since. I have a degree in theater from the University of California Riverside—I was in the acting track there.”
College was where she met her husband, Peter, who was also in the theater program. “We played opposite each other in “You Can’t Take It With You”—he played Tony and I played Alice and that was that.”
After graduating, the couple packed up their Volkswagon van with everything they owned and headed to Boston. “Somebody said there was good theater in Boston, so that’s where we went. We got paying jobs and did community theater on the side.”
Eventually, Henderson says, Peter decided he’d like to get into radio. “So we moved up here in 1975 and moved into the loft over the garage [at Peter’s parent’s summer house on Eider Lane in Martinsville].” Peter’s parents, who had been coming to St. George in the summers throughout Peter’s childhood, had bought the house in 1969 from the progressive Southern journalist Hodding Carter II. Peter’s job hunt took the couple to every radio or television station they could find in this part of the country.
“We ended up in Bangor where Peter started with Channel 2 as a reporter. And that basically started the chain of his career moves. We had our first child in 1980 and moved to Portland when she was six months old. Then we moved to Providence, St. Petersburg, Fla., and then to Boston.” Ultimately Peter ended up working for CBS as a producer of the newsmagazine “48 Hours,” retiring from that work two years ago.
Henderson did a lot of community theater while the couple lived in Bangor, but raising young children made it difficult to continue until her daughter and son were older. When the Hendersons moved to Holliston, Mass., near Boston she got involved with a fundraiser production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”
“So that got my feet wet again. I became very active with Holliston’s Washington Street Players for the next 15 years. I directed, I acted, I moved sets, I ran the sound board if I had to. I was involved somehow with every show we did and we did three shows a year. It just worked. I was on the board and served as president for seven years.” Henderson was also working as a legal secretary, something she had begun doing while living in Florida.
When her mother-in-law died, leaving Peter’s 96-year-old father in their Quarry Hill residence by himself, the Hendersons decided it was time to make St. George their permanent home. The elder Hendersons had built a small year-round house down the driveway from their summer home at the edge of the water in 1975, which well suited the younger couple. “So I retired and moved up here to be available to Peter’s dad. We moved into this house on March 13, 2012. Peter had found out the day before that he was going to be working in Canada for three weeks. So we moved everything in and Peter left for Canada.”
Suddenly retired, without her theater life in Holliston and with a husband frequently on the road, Henderson began taking pictures of her new permanent surroundings—sunrises, wildlife, lobster boats. “At first I took them with my phone so Peter could see what he was missing. Then I got a real camera and my daughter made me a blog and the rest is history.”
That photo blog, StarStrukByLife.com, became, as Henderson says, “a hint of something creative” to do during those early days of retirement, and continues to occupy her nearly daily. She also began volunteering at the Jackson Memorial Library when it was still in its red bungalow at the edge of Main Street in Tenants Harbor. “I had put myself through college by working at the library at the university so the JML was a comfortable setting. And it was a perfect way to meet people.”
Now the library’s head cataloguer, Henderson works a two-hour shift twice a week, serves on a couple of committees and has begun helping out the Pre-K program by sitting with children who are receiving speech therapy through computer sessions.
After Peter’s father passed away at the age of 98, Henderson hoped to get back into community theater, but the Camden group had by then disbanded and the Maskers in Belfast was the only other option. “I didn’t want to drive in winter to Belfast so there was really no accessible theater group. Then I saw in Village Soup that there were auditions for ‘The Music Man’ in Thomaston.”
Henderson says she is pleased to have entered a new phase of her community theater life with the Watts Hall Community Players. Adding this to her daily photography blog and weekly library work makes for a “perfect life,” she says with satisfaction. “I will never live anywhere else,” she adds with certainty and a smile.—JW
PHOTO: Julie Wortman