Founder Michelle Hensley

Michelle Hensley founded Ten Thousand Things Theater, where she directed and produced more than 60 tours of award-winning drama to audiences in prisons, shelters and housing projects, as well as to the general public. Many of her productions made the local critics’ Top Ten lists. A McKnight Theater Fellow, in 2005 she received the Francesca Primus Prize from the American Theater Critics Association for outstanding contribution to the American Theater.

TTT’s touring model has been adopted by at least a dozen theaters around the country including The Public Theater in New York City, California Shakespeare Theater, Baltimore’s Center Stage and The Old Globe Theater in San Diego.

In 2015 she published the groundbreaking book All the Lights On: Reimagining Theater with Ten Thousand Things. In 2017, Michelle won the Twin Cities’ Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2018 Theatre Communications Group gave her its Visionary Leadership Award.

Lear de Bessonet — founder Public Works,the Public Theater

“Michelle is a true visionary, and this book is a must read. It illuminates so many new possibilities for the ways theater can bring joy and healing to the world.”

Buy a Book

Interested in the fascinating history of TTT and its unique performance style? Buy a copy of Michelle Hensley’s All the Lights On, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Michelle shares more than 20 years of her company’s nationally unique work to bring professional theater to those in prisons, homeless shelters, adult education centers, and rural areas, as well as to the general public.

Much more than a chronological history, All the Lights On is an articulate, compelling story about the radiant power of theater. Hensley distills what nontraditional audiences have taught her about Brecht, the Greeks, Shakespeare, musicals, and the essence of what is necessary to make vibrant and essential theater. She also explores the conditions her artists must perform under to reach these diverse audiences. Her experiences lead her to conclude that theater artists become better, and the art form itself much richer, when everyone is included in the audience.

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