An Impressionistic View of My First Season

Joanie Schultz's An Artistic Director Prepares column returns. This month she looks at her first full season at WaterTower Theatre.

published Friday, September 7, 2018



Addison — The day we closed Hand to God, August 26, marked the closing of the final show of my first season as Artistic Director of WaterTower Theatre. I wasn’t expecting to be so moved by this milestone. That morning I received a text from Kelsey Ervi, Associate Artistic Director, saying “Congratulations on your first season!” and realized in a wave of gratitude what an amazing year it has been.

One of the challenges of working in the theatre (or maybe of being human) is that we don’t often zoom out and look at the big picture. We look at the tasks of the day, the needs of this show, the small victories and upsets, and those things become our world. I love moments like birthdays, anniversaries, New Year’s Eve, because they encourage us to step back and take a wider look at what we have done and what we want to do next.

This year has been a year of firsts for me and for WaterTower. I’m so proud of everyone who has worked on and off our stages. Of our tireless and passionate staff and board. Of the art that we have created. Of the community that we have cultivated at WaterTower Theatre. Transitions are not always easy, and they don’t happen quickly, but the work that we have done this year has made a big mark at our little theatre here in Addison.

There’s lots of ways to measure success. I’ve spent this year measuring us against our mission, our values, our artistic goals, our impact goals, our financial goals. Instead of sharing all that, I’d like to share my first season in a series of impressions that I will never forget:

• A teenage girl who was shaking with excitement at the discussion after the student matinee of Pride and Prejudice. She had so many questions, so much passion, I thought she was going to explode.

• Looking around the Studio Theatre to see almost everyone wiping their tears away at the end of The Great Distance Home, unified by how that story moved us.

• Seeing the veterans stand to be acknowledged at the beginning of every performance of Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue, and then knowing we were watching the story of that military family unfold with people who served next to us.

• Working with playwright Isaac Gomez on his exciting new work, Wally World, at the Detour Festival as he collaborated with Texas actors on his play about Texas people and how that alchemy created magic in the reading that opened our inaugural festival.

• Sitting in the theatre after the final performance of the world premiere of Bread while 90 people spoke passionately for over an hour about gentrification, this community, and race. 

• Talking to a woman in her 60s after a post-show discussion of The Last Five Years about her separation and impending divorce and how this play resonated with her.

• Working on a short play about Robert Mayer, Jr., a longtime board member who passed away this year, and sharing that slice of his life with our community at the Gala.

• The joyful creation of an original telling of the Pinocchio story by the students at our PlayMakers theatre camp that highlighted the creativity of every person in the group.

• Having playwright Robert Askins with us for the opening of Hand to God, and his love for the production we created at WaterTower Theatre.

• The passionate students in my ensemble scene study and directing classes, who created creative and thrilling work in our rehearsal room.

• The deep discussions I’ve had with people in this arts community about the work we are doing, what we want to do, and how we want to do it.

• Every audience member who told us a play deeply impacted them.

• Every time someone from outside of DFW came to work with us or see one of our shows and to hear how impressed they were with the talented artists in our community.

• Every artist who told us that something we are doing at WTT was meaningful to them.

• The joy the staff has been taking in creatively telling our story to the world with our marketing campaigns.

• Every time audience members who had never met before connected at WaterTower Theatre in laughs, tears, or sock puppet supplies.

Those are just some of a collection of moments that create a mosaic of an incredible year of connecting with people in all sorts of ways through the stories we are telling, how we are telling them, and the common humanity that resonates through and moves people in a way only theatre can provide.

Thanks to all of you for contributing to my first year. I am forever grateful.


» An Artistic Director Prepares now runs on the first Friday of the month in TheaterJones.






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An Impressionistic View of My First Season
Joanie Schultz's An Artistic Director Prepares column returns. This month she looks at her first full season at WaterTower Theatre.
by Joanie Schultz

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