Fort Worth — Jennifer Engler has appeared at Circle Theatre as an actor in productions of Hope and Gravity, Miracle on South Division Street, Marvin's Room, and Picasso at the Lapin Agile. As a Director at Circle Theatre, she worked on Application Pending by Greg Edwards & Andy Sandberg, and According to Goldman by Bruce Graham. Jennifer is an associate professor at Texas Christian University, where she teaches various levels of acting, auditioning, movement, and dance.
We chatted with her about her involvement in Circle Theatre’s latest production, Luna Gale by Rebecca Gilman. The production runs through April 14.
Who are you and what is your role in Circle Theatre's production of Luna Gale?
My name is Jennifer Engler and I am the director of Luna Gale, which is a co-production with Theatre TCU and Circle Theatre. I work professionally as a director, actor, and choreographer and I am currently in my 15th year on the faculty at Texas Christian University where I teach Acting, Directing, and Movement as well as regularly direct mainstage productions. Some past Theatre TCU productions include Brighton Beach Memoires, A Chorus Line, Assassins, and The Crowd You’re in With (also written by Rebecca Gilman).
What about Luna Gale speaks to you as a director?
I believe that a good play holds a mirror up to the world, a GREAT play asks us to evaluate the reflection. Gilman has written a great play that challenges us to view poignant social issues from a variety of perspectives. The characters and relationships are realistic in large part because she doesn’t hesitate to reveal their flaws. Luna Gale asks important questions rather than provide answers. The truth of this play is what I am drawn to and what allows it to stay in the hearts and minds of the audience members long after the lights have faded.
Why is Luna Gale an important show for audiences to see right now?
Regardless of your belief system, political affiliation, or background all human beings need to listen and be heard for true communication and growth to occur in our society. An ethical code is defined by the individual and it takes patience, persistence, and understanding to find compromise between two parties who believe their actions are justified by moral principles. In Luna Gale the future of a six month old baby is jeopardized because clashing perspectives can’t find a middle ground. The bureaucracy enveloping the DHS office presented in this play also reminds us that when people are assigned a number they are destined to become a statistic.
Luna Gale is set in Iowa, which isn't usually a place represented on stage. How do you think this " setting affects the way you are interpreting and telling the story?
I think the fact that Luna Gale is set in Iowa is a great reminder that this is happening everywhere. We have children slipping through the system in every part of our country. This is not an urban or rural issue, it is not about location or population. It is about children who need a loving home and a supportive figure in their lives to take the lead and model for them how to be contributing members of society. Luna Gale is a play about recovery and the backing needed to make that viable. It reminds us that recovery is a social endeavor, not something we simply hope an individual can accomplish.
The issue with female representation on the American stage is not a new topic. With Luna Gale, you have a female playwright, director, and protagonist. What are your thoughts on the issue of representation, and Circle Theatre's history of hiring female artists on both sides of the table?
Circle Theatre was co-founded by one of the strongest women I have encountered during my years in Texas and there is no doubt that Rose Pearson was not only a respected voice in the DFW theatre community but an advocate for female artists. The legacy she began of producing the work of female playwrights as well as finding strong roles for woman on stage and off seems to remain a high priority at Circle Theatre.