JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
JOY ZINOMAN: began in the theatre as a professional child actress in Chicago sixty-one years ago at the age of nine. I knew what I wanted to do at an early age and never wavered. I was inspired by my teacher, Alvina Krause at Northwestern University where I went on an acting scholarship at age sixteen.
JL: How long did you serve as Founding Artistic Director of Studio Theatre? What drew you to working to this position? What kept you there?
JZ: The Studio Theatre was founded in 1979 and I served as Artistic Director from its beginning until stepping down in September 2010. So over thirty years. I stayed because I loved the work.
JL: What was the most valuable lesson you learned in your tenure? Also, what traits do you feel a successful Founding Artistic Director should have to support the health and growth of an organization?
JZ: It's harder to make art with strangers.You never know which shows will sell.You learn the most by teaching.It's not where you get to but how you get there. The big fish do not eat the small fish.
JL: What excited you most about being an Founding Artistic Director? What do you feel your greatest challenge was?
JZ: The greatest responsibility of an Artistic Director is choosing the work, choosing the artists and inspiring an organization. Most exciting is releasing the creativity of everyone toward common goals. Those are also the greatest challenges. Personally, the greatest challenge is having a career as a theatre artist and having a family.
JL: Did your work as Founding Artistic Director pay the bills? If not, what else did you do? How do you balance your role leading an organization with your work as a director? Are you ever able to direct outside of your company?
JZ: I was fortunate in the early years that my family sacrificed so I could work in the theatre. I did teach acting and directing to many devoted students before, during and after my life as an Artistic Director. I believe my work as a director satisfied me artistically and gave me the impetus to build and lead an organization. Because of my family, I made a decision to only direct at The Studio Theatre until I retired.
JL: Looking at your body of work as Founding Artistic Director and now a director in the community, how conscious were you of selecting plays by women or people of color when deciding your season? Also, when it comes to hiring administrators, designers and other directors do you take race and gender into consideration?
JZ: Yes, I was always conscious of selecting plays and colleagues with regard to race and gender.
JL: DC audiences are . . .
JZ: Sophisticated, very bright, aware of the bigger world and willing to be challenged.
JL: DC actors and designers are . . .
JZ: Has many parts: Superb experienced players of the first generation who began as the Theaters in DC grew and thrived, young actors drawn here by the theatre scene and it's opportunities, student actors coming out of local universities and Washington training programs. I have worked with the same very few wonderful designers for my whole career and continue to do so.
JL: DC playwrights are …
JZ: Have as tough a time getting their work seen here as everywhere.
JL: DC critics are . . .
JZ: Part of the essential artist- audience- critic ecosystem necessary to create a great theatre atmosphere. They are challenged by the rapidly changing media landscape.
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming theatre artists who have just moved to D.C.?
JZ: Don't give up easily. Make sure you keep training. Embrace permanent space. Love the audience.
JL: What's next for you as a director and your company?
JZ: Next up for me is a production of a beautiful play by Amy Herzog called 4000 Miles. It will open in March in the Mead Theatre at the Studio Theatre designed by Russell Metheny and starring legendary actress Tana Hicken. I can't wait for rehearsals to begin.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!