Commissioners and Staff

Mary D. Johnson

Term: 2015-2020, Congressional District 5

Mary Donnet Johnson was appointed to the Commission Board for a five-year term by Governor Bill Haslam in 2015 to represent District 5.

Originally from Vermont, Mary spent a decade in NYC working as a professional actress in movies, television, radio, opera, off-Broadway and on tour before making her way to TN. During that time she co-founded the theater workshop called “Life Adventures Onstage” with Kathleen Held and Willie Reale (now a MacArthur Fellow), to reach under-privileged inner-city children and give them a way to tell their stories and affect positive change in their lives.

Mary was also an avid collaborator with emerging playwrights and performed in readings and productions of many new plays during her tenure in New York. Her experience extends nationally in writing, directing and producing scripts for commercial radio and television spots, as well as corporate videos. Her fondest memories of acting include performing with Knoxville native John Cullum in The Magistrate in Boston, touring the country in The Impossible Years with Ted Knight, and playing opposite Dustin Hoffman (briefly!) in the film, Tootsie.

Mary now makes her home in Nashville with her husband and is the proud mother of two young adults, one typically developing and one with autism. She has served on many non-profit boards, including four terms on the Governor’s Advisory for the Education of Students with Disabilities. She has also written and published three books and speaks frequently on the subjects of autism, resiliency and teamwork. Mary started writing plays in 2012, and her work includes “Twinkle,” (O’Neill National Playwright’s Conference Semi-Finalist in 2014), “Coquettes and Consequences”(chosen for inclusion in New York City’s Venus/Adonis Festival in 2015), and several others which have been performed in Nashville, as well as her short play, “Sin Cycle,”  which was a finalist for the Kentucky Women Writer’s 2017 Biennial Prize for Playwriting (judged by Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok).