Behind the scenes with ‘Venus in Fur’ director Joanie Schultz

By Madelyn Olsen

joanie schultz (venus in fur) courtesy goodman theatre

“Venus in Fur,” written by David Ives and directed by Joanie Schultz, is a brand new production debuting in Chicago and playing at the Goodman Theatre until April 13.
“When Vanda arrives several hours late to her audition for a play based on a 19th century erotic novel, the director, Thomas, is less than impressed,” the Goodman’s plot synopsis states. “But Vanda’s masterful performance flips the script on Thomas’ expectations and turns the session into a tango for dominance between actress and director, woman and man. Hailed as ‘seriously smart and very funny’ by The New York Times, Venus in Fur is a laugh-out-loud study of the politics of sex and power that’s guaranteed to charm and mesmerize.”
Schultz, who has worked with Roosevelt University before, seemed excited to do an interview with the Torch. She answered questions about the play, herself and her time at the Roosevelt.

Q: What is your affiliation with Roosevelt University?
A: I have been working with the graduate program in opera since 2007, directing for all of the Operafests, the department’s festival of short operas, and directing or associate directing the annual mainstage opera for the program.

Q: How has your time at Roosevelt helped or affected you?
A: My time at Roosevelt has taught me so much. I had been a theater director for years, and when I began working with CCPA, I was just starting to direct opera. From working alongside the incredible musicians and other directing faculty, I have expanded my knowledge of opera from the challenge of staging to music, to languages, to working with singers, and beyond. This has developed my work as a director all around, not just in opera, but in theater, too. I see it everywhere. I also love the way we focus on the singer in Operafest, and how creative we need to be to direct the pieces without much technical or design support. That works the creative muscles out. I love the students in the program, they are really fun to work with, also.

Q: How do you apply what you do on set in your day-to-day life?
A: That’s a really interesting question. There are three major components to directing. One is that you have to be creative, inspired, have the artistic energy for it. One is that you have to inspire others around you, and the last is that you have to be very organized. As a freelance director, I have to keep my schedule, organize my finances, and make sure I have the creative energy for all of my work. This balancing act is particularly complicated, and yet, as my own boss, I need to keep my employee healthy, happy and working hard. It’s a big challenge.

Q: What goals do you hope to achieve in the future?
A: I’m a freelance director now, but what I really want is an artistic home. I long to find the right place to artistic direct, so that I can expand what I do to programming and community relationships. But I am pretty happy with what I am doing right now, too!

Q: How long have you been directing?
A: Well, I’ve been making plays in the backyard since I was a kid, and I directed a couple of things in high school. But when I moved to Chicago, I majored in musical theater performance at Columbia College for my first year, until I switched my major to directing. I am 36 now, so I say officially, I’ve been directing for about 18 years.

Q: Why did you decide to get into theater?
A: I auditioned for the Christmas Carol at my local community theater when I was six years old. I guess I liked it because 30 years later, here I am.

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