A Stage Side Chat with Director Douglas Henderson
By Bobby Parker
Stage Crafters Community Theatre is currently in rehearsal for Joseph Heller’s CATCH-22. We recently sat down with the director, Army Veteran and Fort Walton Beach resident, Douglas Henderson, to learn a little more about the upcoming production.
DH: I’m originally from Indianapolis, Ind., and I have lived in several other states as well as Europe while in the U.S. Army. I finally found my true home when I moved here in 2013. My senior year of high school I decided I wanted to try my hand at theatre, and I subsequently got cast in every play they did that year. Afterward, I joined the Army, played in bands, went to college and didn’t think about theatre again until I happened to see an ad for auditions for Stage Crafters’ 2014 production of The Sound of Music. And, 20 Stage Crafters shows later, here I am directing CATCH-22, which will be the fourth show I’ve directed for them.
BP: Why did you choose Joseph Heller’s classic novel turned play, CATCH-22?
DH: CATCH-22 is a classic. It is such a well-known and acclaimed book that the title has since become a part of our lexicon. But, not many people know the author, Joseph Heller, also personally adapted his book for the stage. His play takes all the funniest parts of the book and crams them together into two hilarious one-hour acts. It’s nonstop, farcical mayhem at its finest.
BP: Who is this show meant for and what can audiences expect?
DH: This show is meant for anyone who has ever spent any time in the military, which makes it perfect for this area of the Florida panhandle. I believe everyone will enjoy “Catch-22” in their own way, but we do suggest parents take some of the adult themes into account before bringing young children to the show.
What sets the stage adaptation apart is Heller’s focus on the humor of the story. This is how I think Heller wanted his book to be represented. The movie had comedic moments, sure, but they were clouded by the serious tone and horrors of war. Heller adapted his book for the stage in 1971—a year after the movie released—and his play clearly focuses on the comedy. So, what can they expect? They can expect to laugh.
BP: What does the cast bring to the show and to their characters?
DH: We have a phenomenal cast, which is a healthy mix of newcomers and recent additions to Stage Crafters – with one veteran thrown in for good measure. I think, of the 11 cast members, only five have ever done anything with us. The other six, though having previous experience in high school and elsewhere, are fresh faces for our audience. But, everyone brings a welcomed level of professionalism and charm to this production, and I can’t wait for people to see all the different characters each actor plays.
BP: What is the most challenging part of directing?
DH: It’s funny that this is the follow-up question to ‘Tell us about the cast,’ because the most challenging part about directing a show is casting that show. Each show is different, obviously, but, because each show is different, and each director is different and each individual human is different, finding the right person to fulfill the director’s specific vision of the specific role in that specific show is extremely difficult. And when you simply don’t get enough people to audition, you inevitably have to find someone that might be able to be molded into a reasonable facsimile of your specific vision. On a show like CATCH-22, where you have 11 actors portraying 41 individual characters, that part of directing a show becomes very challenging—which makes my choosing to do shows like this so ironic.
BP: What is your vision for the show and where are you drawing inspiration?
DH: I want to bring our audience what I believe to be the author’s true intent of respectfully portraying the often absurd and comedic nature of the military at war, no matter how necessary that war or the military may be. Inevitably, human beings will be human beings. We make dumb decisions based on faulty information and often find ourselves in ridiculous situations all the time. I learned a lot about myself and the world around me when I was serving 15 straight months in Iraq from ‘03-’04. My military experience was invaluable, and I have always encouraged young people to serve, but I was also exposed to a lot of the same catch-22 type situations we see in the play. I’ve always found it best to not dwell on the negative, but learn from it and continue moving forward—wiser, a bit stronger, and hopefully having found a bit of humor in it all along the way.
BP: What would you like our readers to know about Stage Crafters Community Theatre?
DH: Stage Crafters is the oldest, consecutively running, all-volunteer community theatre in the state of Florida. Every show we do is intended to entertain, but also cover the cost of keeping live theatre alive in our area. One of the great hallmarks of a healthy civilization is the arts, but it can’t exist if the people don’t get involved and support it. CATCH-22 exists because 11 actors, over a dozen crew members, and an entire not-for-profit organization got together on their own time, without pay, and made it happen.