Stephen McKinley Henderson on ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’

When Stephen McKinley Henderson talks about playwrights, he talks about music.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

“August Wilson is, of course, the blues,” he said on the new episode of Stagecraft, WmLeader‘s theater podcast. “But Stephen is rock to me.”

The actor was talking about Stephen Adly Guirgis, whose play “Between Riverside and Crazy” has brought Henderson back to Broadway in a production that also stars Common. “Stephen has some jazz threads inside, but the thought groups and the breath groups and the phrasing, it’s got some classic rock,” he continued. “That’s my approach. Stephen has some Coltrane-type, long, long phrases, but then he’s got some really catchy things like Dylan, stuff that you just hear it and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, there’s that wisdom.’”

Movies and poetry played a role in Henderson’s origins as a stage actor. On the new Stagecraft, he recalled going to the movies with his brother, who was Deaf, and then afterwards acting out for him the parts his sibling didn’t catch. As a child, too, Henderson discovered poetry, and on Stagecraft recited a line from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” that really turned him on to the power of storytelling.

“I saw the nature of relating stories that people needed to know, at the moment they needed to know it, and how that could change their path,” he said.

Advertisement

One of the foremost interpreters of Wilson’s work (“Jitney,” “Fences”), Henderson has lately been showing up in film and TV projects including “Dune,” “Devs” and “Causeway.” On Stagecraft, he revealed what little he can about his buzzy upcoming projects, including the “Dune” sequel and “Beau Is Afraid,” and also explained how he first met frequent stage collaborators like Wilson and Guirgis — and why working on new plays was what he has wanted to since he first appeared in a school production of “A Raisin in the Sun.”

“When I picked up that play ‘Raisin in the Sun’ and I saw, on the first page, all those actors who had been in that play originally? I wanted to be on one of those pages of those books,” he said. “When they pick it up and it says ‘Original Cast.’ That was where I wanted to be.”

Advertisement

To hear the full conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and the Broadway Podcast NetworkNew episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

Advertisement