Michelle Hensley is the founder and artistic director of Ten Thousand Things Theater, which she started 27 years ago in LA. She moved to Minneapolis to reach a different audience and raise her daughter. With her recent announcement of retirement, it’s little wonder why her favorite moments are with friends, family and creation. Her groundbreaking work will continue to happen, both by the company and anyone who takes her book All The Lights On to heart.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Being able to tune into the wonder of any moment, whether I’m alone, with my daughter, with my partner or with my friends.
What is your greatest fear? That we won’t be able to stop corporate America from completely destroying our democracy and our climate.
Which level of government is most pertinent in your occupation? Right now most of the distress in my life is coming from the Federal Government, which really means the Koch Brothers and other right wing corporate billionaires who control the government.
What living person do you most admire? Barack Obama
What historical figure do you most admire? I admire every single person in America these past 400 years who has suffered under white patriarchal culture — that is seriously how I am feeling right now.
What is your greatest extravagance? Travel
What is your greatest achievement? Creating a theater company that figured out how to include everyone in the audience, not just wealthy white people, and helping others to understand the very positive changes that happen to the art form as a result.
What is the most overrated virtue? Not swearing.
What quality do you most like in a man? Kindness.
What quality do you most like in a woman? Humor.
What words or phrases do you overuse? Awesome.
What or who was the greatest love of your life? My partner of 13 years, musician and composer Bill Simenson, a deep, quiet, peaceful love.
When or where were/are you happiest? When I am alone by myself reading a delicious book, or having great conversation and riotous laughter with good friends over good food and drink.
What talent would you most like to have? I’d love to be able to draw and illustrate.
What is your most marked characteristic? Outspoken integrity.
Where would you most like to live? Minneapolis is a great home base for me. I really love it here, to travel from and to come back to here.
What do you most value in your friends? Humor, thoughtfulness and kindness, emotional insight — and I also have a few friends who can also come up with great metaphors, an added plus!
What profession other than your own would you like to try? Making videos and maybe podcasts
Who are you currently following in (pick any or all):
Books: Jane Meyer (Dark Money), George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo), Louise Erdrich (La Rose), Mary Gaitskill (The Mare), Emma Donoghue (The Wonder, Frog Music), Thomas Frank (Listen Liberal), Michael Lewis (The Big Short and everything else), Zadie Smith (Swing Time, White Teeth), Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow), Isabelle Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns), Paulette Jiles (News of the World). Theater: Emma Rice. Other: TV series I love right now — Getting On, Better Call Saul, Big Little Lies, The Detectorists, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Documentary Now — oh, so much good TV!
Who is your hero/heroine in fiction? It has always been Harriet the Spy. Pippi Longstocking is also very awesome.
What is your greatest regret? That I didn’t have the tools to make my divorce, though many years ago, less tumultuous.
What excites you in your own creative practice? To start gathering together all the things that are exciting my curiosity into a big simmering pot and see what comes out next!
What is your motto? Not exactly a motto, but I keep trying to remember that there is wonder in every single moment of life, if you just know how and where to look. Wonder is my favorite lens with which to see the world: it doesn’t always mean happy — just astonishment, humility, appreciation of all the mystery.