Directors Note With Carolyn Johnson

The Department of Theatre & Dance welcomes Carolyn Johnson, an Equity actress, singer, director, and dialect/voice & acting coach, back to the Studio Theatre to direct our season opener – Luna Gale. Luna Gale is the third production she’s worked on for Lamar University, having previously directed The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time and Mauritius.

Carolyn earned the 2017 Houston Press Best Actress Award for her role as Caroline in Stages Repertory Theatre’s production of Luna Gale. We are honored to be able to speak with her on her process and the scope of this ‘complex’ production.

Carolyn, what can a person expect when they go to see Luna Gale? What is the vision?

Luna Gale is the complex story of Caroline, a social worker in child protective services, who is put in charge of a particular case -- that of Luna Gale, a baby who has fallen into the care of the social welfare system. The case brings into question what is right and wrong when it comes to a human life, and how those lines can shift and blur from moment to moment. It illustrates the impossible job given to those in casework. Although it’s often heartbreaking, the play still manages to have a sense of humor and there are unexpected twists and turns to the story that promise to keep the audience on the edge of their seat.

How has your previous experience with this production influenced your process and vision?

Well, the production of Luna Gale that I was in previously was a really positive experience. The whole team was very strong, so we were able to dig deep into the complex issues of the play. I feel like I’ve been able to bring all that previous groundwork to the table here and, with the benefit of a little time and distance on the subject, I’ve been able to re-examine my previous conclusions. This play is incredibly well written. I’m reminded of that every day. I’m finding a whole new depth of perspective on the play by working through it with this cast. Some of my previous conclusions have shifted, and some are confirmed. It’s not often that you get to revisit a piece that you love, so it’s been a real gift.

With this being your 3rd production as a guest director with Lamar University, how has this process differed from those of the past beyond the work itself?

Ha! Well, it seems we’ve had a slightly different set of challenges each year: The first year was right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, last year’s production was incredibly complex with technical elements which pushed us outside our comfort zone, and this year we’re reeling from Tropical Storm Imelda, which has thrown a wrench in our production schedule – but, everyone’s been very game and is rolling with the punches! 

Luna Gale has been described as a mature work, what were the key elements of focus in transcribing this work to the Lamar University students?

I don’t know that I’ve done anything to transcribe or adapt the piece to the students. The subject matter is mature, but the issues are those that we all encounter, to greater or lesser degrees, in life, so I don’t think it’s beyond college students. Part of what I see as the advantage of doing a piece like Luna Gale is that it is asking the student actors to step up and embody characters that are extremely complex – that you may or may not agree with. It doesn't pull any punches. We humans often hold opposing ideas and beliefs simultaneously, but portraying that onstage is a really high-level acting skill. The play sets a very high bar and I’m asking the students to jump for it.

What is it that keeps you coming back for more?

Well, I love working with the Lamar students. They tend to be passionate and hungry to learn about the craft, which is what every teacher/director hopes for. I’m also at a stage in my career where I’m really enjoying passing along whatever I’ve picked up along the way – and, hopefully, I’m able to give the students a fresh perspective on the work that’s beneficial, as they find who they are as artists. “More tools for their toolbox”, as I like to say.

The last word is yours. Anything you want to say to interested parties, the cast and crew, curious stander by’s, critics and fans?

 I just hope people take the leap and come out to see this piece!  I think the subject matter may sound heavy – and it can be a hard sell, but I assure you that the writing is surprisingly compelling and entertaining. This one will definitely leave you thinking and, quite possibly, re-examining what you think you know and understand….

A special THANK YOU to Carolyn Johnson for taking the time to give us a sneak peek behind the curtain for the upcoming production of Luna Gale. Tickets are on sale now at or you may reserve seats by calling the box office at 409.880.2250. Performances will be held in the Lamar University Studio Theatre on October 3, 4, 5 at 7:30p and October 6 at 2p.


Luna Gale


Luna Gale

Images by Noah Dawlearn, University Press