Class of 1976
Hall of Honor 2004
John Sorensen was born and raised in a Grand Island, Nebraska family that encouraged two vital qualities: curiosity and cooperation. When he was small, the family traveled together to California, Canada, and Washington, D.C. -- and John saw that the world was more than just his small hometown.
John wrote his first story when he was 4 years old ("Foxy Did It!"). When he was 12, he was given his first guitar (electric), and when he was 14, he worked on his first political campaign (McGovern). After another dozen difficult years of school and local jobs (mostly in movie theaters), John left Grand Island at the age of 26 and went to study film-making at the California Institute of the Arts with the director Alexander Mackendrick. While with Mackendrick, John first published works of fiction and essay.
Next, John moved to New York City, where he served an apprenticeship with the writer Jay Presson Allen. While working for Ms. Allen, he acted in a TV series for ABC and, in 1987, organized a production company (the Jumble Shop Theater) -- writing and directing a series of radio plays for New York University, and producing plays for the New York Coalition for the Homeless and the New York Public Library.
Ms. Allen kept John on as her assistant director on the Tony-winning play, TRU, and on another Broadway show, THE BIG LOVE. In this period, he published the book OUR SHOW HOUSES (a history of movie theaters in Grand Island), and made the film MIDSUMMER, while continuing to direct stage works by Shakespeare, Chekhov, and others for the Jumble Shop.
In 1992, John established the Abbott Sisters Project, in association with the Edith Abbott Memorial Library and the University of Chicago, and in 2000 he inaugurated the "Four Corners" world culture series for the New York Public Library, with tributes to the cultures of Brazil, China, Greece, and West Africa.
John continues to write, direct, and act in shows with the Jumble Shop (including programs for Chicago Public Radio, the Carnegie Museum, and the Chicago Humanities Festival) -- and to work as director for both the Abbott Sisters Project and the "Four Corners" series (the 2004 events of which celebrated the arts of Romania). John has also continued his freelance film and TV work over the years, including jobs with directors Jonathan Demme, Joseph Strick, Shirley MacLaine, and Kevin Brownlow.
At present, John is preparing a radio series concerning the composer George Enescu (for the WFMT Radio Network), a new performance piece (INVISIBLE) featuring original stories and songs, and is hoping soon to start shooting a video profile of Grace Abbott, to be called THE CHILDREN'S CHAMPION.
After all these years, John still considers himself a rather curious person, and is more interested than ever in finding new ways to cooperate.