in other words…

“Her plays tend to say to an audience, ‘Hey there, buckle up, this ain’t going to be easy, but you’re not going to forget what we’ve got in store for you.’ Don’t be fooled by her charming veneer: Schultz is a hard-ass. She’s the Mr. Miyagi of Chicago theater.” - playwright Sarah Gubbins in TimeOut Chicago, 2010.

"I've never worked with a director who's been such a collaborator. She said on one of the first days, 'Whatever the best idea is in the room goes.' She's remarkably intelligent, but it's that rare, beautiful scenario where it is not coupled with an ego." -actor Liam Forde in Metroweekly, 2016.

“What I love about Joanie’s body of work is she can really understand, deconstruct and then reconstruct the human experience. She finds emotional resonance in the mundane. And that’s what this play is. There’s gonna be a lot of mundane business, from an outsider’s point of view, but for the people in there, it’s magical.” -playwright Isaac Gomez about Joanie developing his new play, WALLY WORLD, 2016.

"If every play you do is not life-changing, then you’re doing it wrong, I don’t know why you would do a play otherwise.” -Joanie Schultz in the Dallas Observer, 10 Most Fascinating People in Dallas, 2017.

“Schultz accomplished some of the most daring programming in WaterTower's history. She championed writers, directors and artists from under-represented communities and demographics. The 2018/19which opened with Schultz's adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll's House, had women directors for all of its shows—which may have been the first time that a local professional theater with a full roster of shows programmed a season to be completely women-directed.” -Mark Lowry in, 2018.

Authenticity. Curiosity. Connectivity.

These are the core values I hold dear as an artist, leader, thinker, and person.

Theater has the ability, or more specifically, the responsibility to make the invisible visible. We are an art-form that hinges on suspension of disbelief, and traffics far better in metaphor than realism. We can physicalize an emotion, ideal, state of being, dream—the potential for awe in the smallest of gestures is the essence of theatricality. The more we can distill and amplify the world around, the more successful our theatrical projects are at reaching the inner subconscious of our audience. We have the potential to create deep empathetic experiences for people in an era gravely in need of human connection.

I believe that we must use the platform of the stage to help the world see what they might not, to connect them to what is invisible to them in their daily lives. In particular, much of my work as a director focuses on the forgotten: not only the outcasts of society and people who go through life mostly invisible, but also the part of a person’s psyche or heart that has been cast aside, the consequences of an action that might not be apparent, or just a part of life that isn't usually discussed. By bringing to light the forgotten, we use the theatre to remember, rediscover, and realize.

We live in a world where we are inundated with information and entertainment in which it is easy to forget and overlook people, things, feelings, and possibilities. The theatre is a rare opportunity to unplug and share space with other live human beings in a room, breathing the same air, and focusing on the same moment. This is not only special, this is necessary. Without art to refocus us and call attention to the forgotten we might never remember. Things will be lost. People will be lost. And we won't know why.

I hope that people leave my productions with questions that stick with them. I hope they leave having discussions with other human beings and with themselves. I hope that they are inspired to think about or interact with the world a little bit differently. I hope they leave with hope. 

Much of the work I create resides in a genre I call mythic realism. That is, a world based in a reality that is recognizable to us in some way, but with events that transcend what we believe to be the limitations of this world.  Mostly, I am drawn to ordinary characters who exist in extraordinary circumstances, either by their own mind’s construction, or by the extreme state of the world they live in. These extraordinary circumstances are integral to creating theatrical metaphor, and therefore asking the audience to become co-creators in the reality of the play. This is imperative: that the audience can be drawn in by the truthfulness of the production, and yet are asked to engage fully to make the work complete, by solving the mystery, decoding the metaphor, involving themselves directly in creating meaning the production. My work can only point them towards thought and feeling, the audience must think and feel for themselves.


JOANIE SCHULTZ is an arts leader and director of theatre and opera. She calls home Chicago, where she lived for 21 years and came to age as a theatre artist.

In 2017 & 2018, Joanie served as Artistic Director of WaterTower Theatre in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where she oversaw two years of diverse, exciting, and award-winning work. From 2014-16, 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.

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 at least 30 other theatre and opera companies throughout Chicago and the country.

Select notable work has included directing the smash hit and long-extended Hand to God (Studio Theatre & WaterTower Theatre); her own new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (WaterTower 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 6-hour theatrical adaptation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (The Building Stage).

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 Fest; Associate Artistic Director of The Building Stage; and co-Founder/Artistic Director of Flush Puppy Productions.

She is an ensemble member at Steep Theatre; associate artist with Victory Gardens; and an artistic cabinet member at Studio Theatre in DC. She has been on 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.