After only two seasons, Joanie Schultz has resigned as artistic director of WaterTower Theatre. The Addison theater company announced on November 5 that she tendered her resignation to the board of directors on October 23, and will remain in her position through December 31, 2018.
Former longtime WaterTower Theatre artistic director Terry Martin, who resigned in 2016 to head up the fine arts department at Greenhill School, will help with the transition.
"In my two years as artistic director, we have developed award-winning world premieres, produced regional premieres, and presented work that highlights voices of women, people of color, and Texas natives," says Schultz in the release. "WaterTower is a theater with robust community support and is full of promise, and I have decided at this time it is best that I step aside so that the board can reorganize in a way that is best for WTT's future. I am incredibly proud of my leadership, which resulted in the support of diverse artists creating innovative work that speaks to our community. I am thankful for the time I've had here in Addison and I'm grateful to theater practitioners of DFW, as I have cherished my collaboration with the inspiring artists and theaters here in this community."
Schultz's departure is not without controversy. Some supporters found the two seasons that she planned for WaterTower to be too different from the theater's traditional programming.
She began by replacing Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George with Ike Holter's Hit the Wall, about the 1969 Stonewall Riots, at the end of the 2016-17 season. Her 2017-18 season included Robert Askins' Hand to God, which according to TheaterJones was the last straw for the Canterbury family, who were the named presenting sponsors of the main stage prior to Schultz's appointment. The theater was renamed the Terry Martin Main Stage at the beginning of October.
At the end of August, managing director Nicholas Even also resigned; he had begun his position shortly after Schultz took up hers. This followed the departure of longtime WaterTower employee Gregory Patterson, who had been the first to fill the newly created MD position after serving as director of development and marketing.
"We as a board have made a commitment to continue building on and protecting the theater's legacy, established in part by former producing artistic director Terry Martin," says board president Grace Daniels in the release. "Martin has graciously extended his willingness to offer guidance during the transition and to help us honor relationships with our long-standing supporters all while continuing to introduce the theater to new audience members. I would also like to thank the leadership of the town of Addison who continue to provide invaluable support and words of advice as we work through this time of transition."
Schultz's own adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, the first production of her 2018-19 season, closed on November 4.
On her Facebook wall, Schultz wrote, "Nothing is permanent, everything changes, that is the only constant. Every relationship has a lifespan. It turned out that the amount of time I was meant to be Artistic Director of WaterTower Theatre was two years. That doesn’t mean it was a failure, my friends. NOT AT ALL. I’m quite proud of the successes of my time at WTT. Not only did we develop world premieres, new works, regional premieres, we highlighted the work of women and people of color on the WaterTower stage. We developed a community engagement program and a new work festival.
"We created a supportive environment for theatre artists, and the work on our stage reflected that creative energy. And most importantly, I was introduced to the DFW Theatre Community, a well-kept secret of incredibly inspiring artists who are brave, dedicated, and people that I’m proud to call my collaborators and friends. Thank you to my old friends, my new friends, and everyone who have supported me through this journey from beginning to end. I’m grateful to be a theatre artist in this crazy world, to expand my theatre family, and for the adventures I am sure to encounter next!"
Up next at WaterTower Theatre is the return of The Great Distance Home, a movement-based, ensemble-devised work that premiered during the 2017 holiday season.