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Meet Joanie Schultz of WaterTower Theatre in Addison

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joanie Schultz.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I moved to Dallas a little over a year ago, after accepting the position of Artistic Director of WaterTower Theatre in Addison, Texas.

I moved here from Chicago, where I was a freelance director, educator, and producer for over 20 years. I had gone to Chicago to attend Columbia College, where I found my calling as a director with the help of a formative mentor.

I started my first theatre company upon graduation, Flush Puppy Productions. I think Flush Puppy expressed everything I loved about creating theatre, we were a risky, multimedia based, cross-disciplinary, culturally diverse, collective of artists who made things from experimental performance art to full-length plays. During that time I also worked in the office of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where my education continued as an artist and artistic leader, being mentored by incredible artists on a daily basis. This led me to Northwestern, where I got my MFA in theatre directing under the mentorship of Anna D. Shapiro, who is now the Artistic Director of Steppenwolf.

Since finishing graduate school in 2006, my theater career has taken so many unexpected twists and turns and has led me to do things I never imagined: observing the processes of incredible and famous directors, directing opera, working in Italy, directing at amazing regional theatres, and so much more. The journey of being a stage director has been one of constant learning. I find that to do it well, my curiosity must always be in the forefront and my present-tense attention must be heightened.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to take on a leadership positon. I wanted to push our art-form forward by making a more supportive and equitable world for artists, and having a deep conversation with a community through the arts. I received a fellowship through TCG to train as an arts leader, and worked at Victory Gardens Theatre during that time as Associate Artistic Producer, being mentored by the visionary Artistic Director, Chay Yew.

Soon that brought me here, to Dallas, to Addison, to WaterTower. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first met with the board of WaterTower Theatre, but sometimes intuition kicks in and you know you’re supposed to go somewhere. Being an arts leader in the DFW area is exciting: it’s a place that is seeing a lot of growth and new people coming in, it’s in a cultural shift, and I think there’s a lot that the arts can do to serve this large and growing community. Since I arrived at WaterTower we’ve refocused our mission and our vision to create community through empathy and dialogue, and our theatre itself to be focused on creating a supportive environment for artists to do their best work. Each play we do is a special event, one that is completely unique to our theatre, and gives our audience a new experience. Those experiences come from diverse voices, are told in innovative ways, and are working to reflect our entire community. We’ve also launched Intersections, a community engagement program and Detour: a festival of new work, both of which provide new opportunities for us to engage the world around us and our artists in different ways.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Moving to an entirely new place and creating culture for that community has definitely been challenging. I’ve been here a year and a half and continue to learn new things about this diverse and rich community. Transitions can be hard on an organization and everyone who has a stake in that organization, and I’m trying to be strategic about the steps we’re taking towards growth and change. I try to focus on the good that’s happening like the incredible response we’ve had from community members and supporters of WaterTower, and the positive impact we’ve had on artists in DFW. And, as we try new things, I put my focus on the parts of the theatre that are flourishing and make sure those things are strong and continued until I have the time and energy to put towards something else. Running a mid-sized theatre definitely has a lot of challenges every day, and I’m thankful to the teamwork of our staff and board, which makes this theatre thrive!

WaterTower Theatre – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our mission is to create innovative, diverse theatre that builds community through fostering empathy and dialogue.

Founded in 1996, WaterTower Theatre is one of Texas’ leading professional theatre companies and a flagship arts institution in North Texas, having played an important role as a leader in developing new talent, new work, and encouraging the growth of the DFW artistic community through its commitment to hiring local artists. We currently produce a five-play main stage subscription, plus other special theatrical events including a holiday show, additional performances in our studio theatre and main stage space, and a new work festival. Our mission is to create innovative, diverse theatre that builds community through fostering empathy and dialogue.

WTT’s vision is to connect the world to Addison and Addison to the world through developing and presenting innovative theatre that is artistically vital to our community locally and beyond.

We are a development center and laboratory for theatre creation that pushes the boundaries of our art-form to find new, essential expressions of theatre. Our creative laboratory will develop art and artists, and incubate new productions that will excite and engage theatergoers while maintaining the highest quality of professional level theatrical work, making WaterTower a sought-after and relevant artistic voice to DFW and the national theatre community.

WTT is committed to being a supportive home for diverse artists. We will cross-pollinate our spaces with artists who: work in different styles, forms and genres; range from emerging to experienced; are from DFW and around the world; and that speak from different backgrounds, genders, sexualities, abilities, and countries of origin.

We also connect with theatres locally, nationally, and internationally, exchanging work and ideas that will resonate not only in our artistic forms, but in the conversations we have within and around our work.

WTT is a place where audiences can trust that each show at our theatre will bring something different to our audience: a new point of view, genre of theatre, or experience. WTT’s productions will take our audiences on a journey in their imagination and hearts without leaving our Addison home.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
At WaterTower Theatre we define success by whether or not we are living our mission, vision, and values on every level of the organization. In fact, we measure ourselves up to our mission, vision and values after every show closes. Did we create community? Did we create innovative work? Were we a supportive home for artists? Did we act with integrity in every step? Are we impacting our audience? We have found that the most valuable tool to measure ourselves are the ones we’ve made ourselves.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photos by Jason Anderson and Evan Michael Woods (in order they are showing up for me: 1) Jason Anderson 2&3) Evan Michael Woods 4,5,6) Jason Anderson 7) Evan Michael Woods (pic of Joanie by Evan Michael Woods)

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