Although Susan and Lenny Johnson were not born and raised in Newport, the love they have for the community and the people is undeniable. I arrived at their home for a brief interview for this I Choose Newport! article and was met by Susan, a beautiful red-head with a smile that lights up the room. Her enthusiasm for all things Newport warms my heart and motivates me to be more, and participate more, in community events. Often, communities need fresh perspective on the potential of the people and a willingness to revive the old with the new.
Susan and Lenny Johnson moved to Newport to begin their semi-retirement. Although they still own the Weiner Pharmacy, Lenny spends most days on the Newport Country Club golf course. “Lenny has played golf in Newport for decades and when we decided to retire, we knew Newport was an option. The course is one of his favorites.” States Susan.
It did not take long for Susan to jump headfirst into all things Newport. As the niece of one of my favorite people, Vera Brann, it was easy to love her and appreciate her love of the arts. Susan graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in Music Education. The couple moved to Crossett in 1981 when Lenny took a pharmacist position. With a focus on piano and voice, the number of education positions were limited, so Susan decided to join the church choir and soon learned of the grassroots community theater in town. She participated in a production of Fiddler on the Roof while attending ASU, so she accepted an invitation to audition for the theater production of Oklahoma. During the time she was involved in the community theater as both actor and director, she met community people from all walks of life, including executives, doctors, mill workers, stay at home moms and others.
After three years in Crossett, the couple returned to Jonesboro, but the love of theater continued. When the couple moved to Newport, Susan became involved with the MOST Group and was shocked that the local high school did not have a drama department. With no idea how to start a community theater, Susan reached out to friends in theater. She found another ally in Cindy Sides. As the ladies talked more, they decided to give it a try. “I’m not afraid to try anything, ” states Susan with a smile. Soon, the idea of a Jackson County Community Theater was born with much support. The next step was to contact a few companies in New York City. “Beginning a community theater is much more complicated than I imagined, but the local support is amazing, ” states Susan. “Thanks to Karen Cathy, Tim Watson, and Mike Turner, the paperwork and legalities were taken care of. I was in awe.”
“Everyone is so excited!” The main concern is the need for funding. Theater productions are expensive, costing close to $ 3,000 or more. Now that the Jackson County Community Theater is formed as a 501c3 and an agent acquired, the group is ready to set a date for auditions. The inaugural season production of The Music Man is set for this summer. Anyone willing to donate to the organization, it would be greatly appreciated. A $76 dollar contributor is a Trombone Sponsor. Since the Jackson County Community Theater is a 501c3/non-profit organization, contributions are tax deductible. You can mail checks to: Jackson County Community Theater, 8 Holmes Street, Newport, AR 72112.