Roger and Jan Johnson at the unveiling of the plaque honoring Roger’s vision, hard work and dedication to the Tin Shed Theater.  Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Supporters and friends of Roger Johnson gathered at the Tin Shed Theater on Sept. 13 for the unveiling of a plaque honoring the longtime theater volunteer, director, set builder, actor, and visionary. Patagonia Creative Arts Assn. (PCAA) Director Cassina Farley and Board President Martha Kelly pulled back the small curtains, made from material saved from the original theater curtains, to reveal the plaque on the door to the theater, which reads, “In honor of Roger Johnson and his dream that became the Tin Shed Theater.” Johnson, who, as a consultant and board member at the PCAA, was active in the development of the theater program and the creation of the Tin Shed Theater, spoke to the audience, recounting stories of building sets and working on plays. “It’s a phenomenal place,” he said. 

The theater was built in an old garage behind the Arts Center. His vision was that the space would be a black box theater, a performance space with black walls and a simple and flexible design. In a 2019 article in the PRT, Johnson recounted the renovation efforts: 

“The floor was still too messed up for actors to walk on it,” Johnson said, “so I went to Home Depot and happened to see two-foot-square interlocking rubber mats. I bought a few to try. I kept going back and buying more and more, finally covering a big enough area for the stage. Guess what, those mats are still there!” 

Curtains were another challenge. Most black box theaters have draped curtains around the perimeter. Too expensive, thought Johnson. His ingenious workaround? He made a wavy frame from which to hang the curtains to give the effect of draping. “Saved half the cost of the fabric,” he explained. “The Patagonia Women’s Club brought their sewing machines over. We formed a production line to cut, hem, and grommet the burgundy corduroy. Each section was then passed over to Lew Myers and me up on ladders to attach to the frames.” 

“Roger set the precedent that admission would always be affordable,” Farley said at the dedication. “The Tin Shed has always maintained Roger’s vision of affordable theater for everyone. So many doors have been opened because of the theater, including after-school programs, club theater and the creation of the movie house.” 

Saul Lieberman, who volunteered at the theater with Johnson, also spoke at the event, saying, “It brought a lot of unlikely people together. It was a community building experience.” 

“There have been a lot of great plays here,” Farley said. “I’m looking forward to a pandemic-free future so that we can get back to what the Tin Shed Theater does best – entertaining our community.”