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Directed by Sheryl Stoodley,

Serious Play Theatre Ensemble

A virtuoso guitarist, a red Stratocaster, a life in sound.

Lead guitarist for Van Morrison at age 17, songwriter to James Taylor,

a chance encounter with Jimi Hendrix.

JOHN SHELDON shares his musical coming-of-age journey through Rock-and-Roll and the Sixties.


by Serious Play Theatre Ensemble

FIVE STARS! Storytelling and real guitar mastery across the musical spectrum.”


“FOUR STARS! John Sheldon’s candy apple-red Fender Stratocaster is emblematic of not just decades of popular music but of his life journey, mental health issues surmounted and of the healing potential of music. [A] heartfelt testament to the transformative power of music.”


“THE RED GUITAR, John Sheldon’s brilliant memoir-in-music, was a runaway hit at [the 2016] Edinburgh Festival Fringe.”


          In 2016, THE RED GUITAR struck the right chord in Scotland, earning a coveted 5-star review with The Herald’s highly respected music reviewer Rob Adams and has been invited to return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. His candy apple red Fender Stratocaster in hand, John takes us on a trip, careening through the rise of guitar music in the nuclear age, from Folk through Blues and Rock, to a vision of the future in which the past is vibrantly alive, a heartfelt yet unsentimental performance. Just when you think you are seeing a deconstruction of popular music, you sense something else taking place, a quickening, an awakening of senses long lost, a reclaiming of sounds you thought were consigned to history. Something unexpected is being made right in front of you, a sound loop sculpture plucking chords of your memory.

           John Sheldon, a master guitarist who played lead in Van Morrison's band at the age of 17, wrote songs for James Taylor, unknowingly drew praise from Jimi Hendrix, and whom Ed Ward, rock music historian for National Public Radio called, "One of the great guitarists of our time", uses a unique blend of storytelling, unearthly sounds, and wicked, layered guitar licks, to send us zipping through the folds of time and space, emerging into the light of a simple, transformative melody.

          John's ironclad belief in the power of sound pervades the whole performance, the conviction that music is not just entertainment, but a soul saving enterprise, worthy of the lifelong commitment he has made to it. His technical skill never overwhelms the story, the poignant, the humorous, the moments of connection, of illumination. The journey continues, setting a course to the center of who we truly are: vibration.

“I have collaborated with John on many Serious Play productions over the past 10 years. He does not use music, he is music. It is this rare sense of connection and assurance that drives his creative gift.”

— SHERYL STOODLEY, Artistic Director, Serious Play Theatre Ensemble

THE RED GUITAR through music and words, tells of my learning the guitar, from the first three chords taught by a summer camp guitar teacher, to my pestering James Taylor, a family friend, to show me everything he was learning, to an infatuation with blues and a stint in Van Morrison’s band at 17. There’s a chance meeting with Jimi Hendrix in a recording studio, and an encounter with an ephemeral being, not of this earth, who teaches me to write a melody. Through it all, my hands keep playing. After performing the piece in a few local venues, I was approached by Serious Play Theater ( to take the piece to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. We had full houses for our first run at the Fringe in 2016. We decided to return this year. I am excited to be coming back to share THE RED GUITAR again!”


For Bookings, Contact:

Robin Doty, Managing Director

Serious Play Theatre Ensemble

Northampton, MA (USA)

(413) 588-7439

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