Addison — After a six-month national search and fielding more than 100 candidates, the board of directors at WaterTower Theatre has selected Chicago-based Joanie Schultz as Artistic Director. The search began after longtime Artistic Director Terry Martin resigned in 2016 to take a new post at the Greenhill School in Addison. Schultz will begin her post on Jan. 1, 2017.
Schultz, 38, a native of Colorado, has been a freelance director and theater-maker in Chicago for 20 years, with a recent stint as an Associate Artistic Producer working under Chay Yew at Victory Gardens Theater as part of the Leadership U One-on-One Fellowship funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation administered through Theatre Communications Group (TCG). As a freelance director, she has had recent productions at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Studio Theatre, The Cleveland Play House, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Victory Gardens Theater. (You can read more of her bio in the WTT news release, posted below.)
She has focused on new work of various styles, including physical theater, devised theater and opera. She received her B.A. in Theatre/Directing at Columbia College and her M.F.A. in Theatre Directing from Northwestern University, and is currently on adjunct faculty in directing at Columbia College and University of Chicago. She has also taught opera and her husband, Francesco Milioto, is a conductor who recently served as assistant conductor for the Dallas Opera’s production of Moby-Dick, working under Music Director Emmanuel Villaume. Milioto frequently works at Lyric Opera of Chicago and other opera companies across the country.
The job begins Jan. 1; she will spend the first few months between Texas and Chicago, and will move here in April after she directs Madhuri Shekar's Queen at Victory Gardens Theater. She will select WaterTower's 2017-18 season, which will be announced in May.
The WaterTower post will be Schultz's first permanent leadership position at a mid-sized theater. It’s a long way from the first theater company she started in Chicago in her early 20s, Flush Puppy Productions, she mentions with a laugh.
“I laugh because we were so 22,” Schultz says. “We were one of the only theater companies that had a mission that was about being multi-cultural and diverse.”
She had planned on being an actor, but found her way into directing at Columbia college.
“It didn’t occur to me that I could be a director, and I’m not sure why it wasn’t engendered in me,” she says. “A professor said ‘you thought about being a director’ and I immediately thought ‘you mean I’m a bad actor?’ I guess all that bossing around of my friends and doing backyard plays paid off.”
She had been looking for permanent positions, and when the WaterTower job arose, she started research. She visited Dallas when her husband worked with the Dallas Opera, and has toured the Dallas Arts District and the Wyly Theatre. She also knew of Kitchen Dog Theater through the National New Play Network.
With WaterTower, an Actor’s Equity Association Small Professional Theatre with an annual budget of about $2 million, she sees a place where she can grow as an artist and arts leader.
“The [WaterTower] board was so energetic, they are excited about the future, and they’re excited about the idea that we’re going to build off the foundation—but there will be some innovative changes,” she says, adding the caveat “I don’t know what those are going to be yet.”
One of her senses about the DFW area is that it is an area with collaboration and friendly competition between theater companies and arts organizations.
“I’ve always liked that about Chicago,” she says. “It is competitive but it’s not like New York. In Chicago, people are supportive of each other’s work. I’m involved with several theaters, and there’s a lot of sharing and collaboration.”
She is impressed that WaterTower has produced the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival for 15 years. That event is taking a break in 2017 because of the leadership transition, but she says it’s something she wants to look at and possibly continue in some form.
“I do feel like WaterTower has the opportunity, and space and resources to be doing something like that, and to work with younger companies,” she says.
As for the move to unfamiliar territory, she’s excited to get to know North Texas.
“I’m ready to ask questions about everything. I have no assumptions,” she says. “There are advantages to hiring an ‘outsider’ for this job. I’ll be looking at the talent pool in a different way. I will have connections from across the country, and maybe bring in a director from another place, and see how that shakes things up. I suspect that some people will look at me [as] this outsider.”
“But I come in peace, even if I will be kind of like an alien.”
Here is the complete press release from WaterTower Theatre:
Paul Shultz, President of the WaterTower Theatre Board of Directors, and Derek Blount, Chairman of the WaterTower Theatre Artistic Director Search Committee, today announced the appointment of Joanie Schultz as Artistic Director. Ms. Schultz will assume her new position on January 1, 2017 and will immediately begin planning the Company's 2017-2018 Season with the intent to announce it in May 2017.
When WaterTower Theatre's longtime Producing Artistic Director Terry Martin resigned last May, the Board of Directors took the opportunity to evaluate the Company and make significant changes in organizational structure – specifically, creating a bifurcated management model with a Managing Director to head the Company’s business and operations, and a parallel Artistic Director to serve as WaterTower Theatre’s artistic visionary and manage the productions of the Company. Longtime Director of Development Gregory Patterson was elevated into the position of Managing Director, and a Search Committee was formed to begin the process of identifying the future Artistic Director.
The Search Committee, chaired by Derek Blount, consisted of WaterTower Theatre Board members Rose Colarossi, Stan Graner, Paul Shultz, and Managing Director Gregory Patterson. The executive search consulting firm of Genovese, Vanderhoof & Associates was engaged to lead the process. Margaret Genovese acted as lead consultant in the national search that ultimately garnered more than one hundred candidates from across North America. Following an extensive interview process, Joanie Schultz was unanimously recommended by the Search Committee to the Board of Directors for this important leadership position.
Joanie Schultz is a director of theatre and opera based out of Chicago, where she has lived for the last 20 years. Ms. Schultz’s work includes directing for The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, The Cleveland Play House, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Studio Theatre in Washington DC, and 30 other theater and opera companies throughout Chicago. Joanie holds an MFA in directing from Northwestern University and a BA in directing from Columbia College Chicago. She was a Drama League Fellow, The Goodman Theatre's Michael Maggio Directing Fellow, the SDCF Denham Fellow, a Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab participant, and was 2013 Co-Artistic Curator for Theater on the Lake. Joanie was co-Artistic Director of Estrogen Fes, Associate Artistic Director of The Building Stage and co-Founder/Artistic Director of Flush Puppy Productions. Most recently, Joanie served as Associate Artistic Producer at Victory Gardens Theater, as part of the Leadership U One-on-One Fellowship funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by TCG. She is an ensemble member at Steep Theatre; associate artist with Victory Gardens; and an artistic cabinet member at Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. She has been on the theater faculty of Columbia College Chicago and University of Chicago, the opera faculty of Roosevelt University, and has taught for the School at Steppenwolf, the Audition Studio, and Italian Operatic Experience.
Her extensive directing credits include world premieres, regional premieres, and re-envisioning of classic work. Select credits include directing the smash hit and long-extended Hand to God (Studio Theatre); Venus in Fur (Goodman Theatre); the world premieres of Sarah Gubbins’ Cocked (Victory Gardens Theater), fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life (Steppenwolf Theatre), and The Kid Thing (About Face Theatre/Chicago Dramatists); the critically lauded The Whale and Rest by Samuel D. Hunter (Victory Gardens Theater); the Jeff Award-winning productions of In Arabia We’d All be Kings and The Brief History of Helen of Troy (Steep Theatre), site-specific performances of the operas Acis and Galatea (Chicago Cultural Center) and Bluebeard’s Castle (New Millennium Orchestra), and co-creating and directing a six-hour theatrical adaptation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (The Building Stage).
"Joanie is a phenomenal choice to lead WaterTower Theatre's artistic vision into a new era," said WaterTower Theatre Board President Paul Shultz. “She has the unique combination of being a successful director of both new works and classics in the worlds of theatre and opera.”
"We set out on a lengthy search to find the ideal candidate, someone who has both a passion for theatre as well as an understanding of the business side of arts management," said Derek Blount, Chairman of the Search Committee. "We also sought a leader who would bring new vision, new focus, and new creative energy to WaterTower Theatre, someone with a track record of developing transformative theatre, and someone who is in sync with ideas and events that are shaping people's consciousness across the country. Joanie meets and exceeds all these requirements and is the perfect choice to lead WaterTower Theatre into a new chapter in its history."
"Joanie is one of the most gifted young directors working in our business today and I very much look forward to partnering with her," said Managing Director Gregory Patterson. "She will bring a daring new perspective to the work we produce on our stage while respecting the work we’ve done in the past and the incredible community which has supported us for 20 years. She is passionate, creative, genuine, insightful, and intuitive, possessing an artistic maturity that will fuse beautifully with the culture here at WaterTower Theatre that makes us unique in our community."
"I am so excited by the opportunity to lead WaterTower Theatre's artistic contributions to a new level in an already dynamic cultural landscape in the DFW Metroplex," said Joanie Schultz, Artistic Director-designate. "WaterTower Theatre has a rich history and deep roots in the community and I'm looking forward to building on the solid foundation established by former Producing Artistic Director Terry Martin.”
"It is my belief that creating plays that express our contemporary moment is the greatest contribution we can give to the world as theatre artists," said Schultz. "By our attempt to articulate our unique experiences in this place now, we are fostering desperately needed conversation in the most needed human way, through the live experience of other people. The consciousness created in the empathy of the shared experience an audience has with the actors on stage is irreplaceable by anything on a screen. And it is my passion for this expression and what it fosters that drives my work as a director and producer of theatre."
"I look forward to getting to know the Addison community and its leaders," said Schultz. "The Town of Addison is so generous in its support of the arts, in particular WaterTower Theatre. I look forward to partnering with them on our collective desire to produce an exceptional theatrical experience that is unique, innovative, and entertaining, opening doors to bring greater understanding to the many challenges that face our community."
About Joanie Schultz
Joanie Schultz has been serving as Associate Artistic Producer at Victory Gardens Theater, as part of the Leadership U One-on-One Fellowship funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation administered through TCG, the national non-profit regional theatre service organization. She is also a freelance director, with recent productions at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Studio Theatre, The Cleveland Play House, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Victory Gardens Theater.
She was a Drama League Fellow, The Goodman Theatre Michael Maggio Director Fellow; the SDSF Denham Fellow; and Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab participant. She is an ensemble member at Steep Theatre, Artistic Associate at Victory Gardens Theater, and artistic cabinet member at Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. She is currently on adjunct faculty in directing at Columbia College and University of Chicago. She received her B.A. in Theatre/Directing at Columbia College and her M.F.A. in Theatre Directing from Northwestern University.
About WaterTower Theatre
WaterTower Theatre is one of the leading regional theatres in North Dallas and Texas. The company celebrates its 20th anniversary during the 2016-2017 Season. The Company has consistently been recognized for its artistic excellence by the Dallas Theatre League, Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum, The Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Observer, D Magazine, and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, among others. WaterTower Theatre has a subscription base of more than 2,000 subscribers and serves an audience of over 28,000 patrons annually.
WaterTower Theatre is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization as designated by the IRS. Like all arts organizations, WaterTower Theatre relies on both ticket income and donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, organizations, and government to produce live professional theatre and offer community outreach and arts education programs. WaterTower Theatre is grateful for the support provided from The Town of Addison, TACA, The National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Shubert Foundation, and the hundreds of individuals, corporations and foundations whose annual donations allow WaterTower Theatre to consistently produce world-class live professional theatre.