Kate McDonald

For Sue Hennessy, theater and community have always been deeply connected. Born just three houses away from the community theater in Grand Marais, Sue’s youth was a blur of sets and curtains. She helped with community and school plays in her hometown before moving on to study theater at Concordia College in Moorhead.

Soon, Sue moved to New York City to pursue a professional theater career as a scenic carpenter and stage manager, but she eventually moved back to the Midwest to continue her work. As the lead carpenter at the Guthrie, Sue also moonlighted at Theatre De La June Lune and other theaters and union gigs.

Grand Marais called her back home to take care of her parents, where she once again reconnected with her community through theater as the Artistic Director / Technical Director of the Grand Marais Playhouse.

Throughout her journey, Sue’s belief in the power and value of theater in community never wavered. At the Grand Marais Playhouse, the focus is on both the production of the play and the process of bringing the show to life – a process that has the power to change community.

“We create an ensemble with people we see in the grocery store, at the post office, from a different school, in another grade, a different church. An ensemble of performers and crew members from all over the community working together,” Sue says.

And after the curtain drops on the final performance, the ensemble outlives the production. Running into one another outside of the theater, they are no longer strangers. No longer “neighbors” in the abstract sense, but true neighbors. The cast and crew now know each other differently, trust each other more, empathize with one another. They are connected. And they are supported.

And they support Sue and the Playhouse.

In 2010, Sue was named “Citizen of the Year.” The Grand Marais Lions Club received more than a dozen letters nominating her for the honor.

“Sue Hennessey has played a vital part in making our community well-rounded,” the Playhouse board wrote. “There is evidence everywhere of Sue’s golden touch … How lucky we are!”

Explore MN Theater is a series produced in partnership with Explore Minnesota, Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and The Minnesota Theater Alliance. More from Explore MN Theater here.

Discover additional stories about Minnesota theater.


This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.