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 has been a freelance director of theatre and opera based out of Chicago, IL, 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 around 30 other theatres and opera companies throughout Chicago.

Select notable work has included 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 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.

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.

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.


Notable writing by Joanie:

Interviews with Joanie: