….The effect of this commonplaceness is that the decision to specify, curate, or attend to the audience’s experience has become an indicator of a play’s experimental, even genre-defying, nature. Unusual scenic, literary, or spatial choices might be met with praise or resistance; regardless, they are set apart as something different. This distinction between typical plays and work that engages audience is a disservice to the theatre. Regardless of genre, theatre artists must contemplate and make choices about the audience inside their work. This goes beyond pedagogy or preference: theatremakers have a political obligation to engage and focus the audience’s gaze. If spectatorship is not considered, if this artificial binary is left unchallenged, audiences are allowed to remain passive, both during and after the play.
Activating the Audience: How Directors Can Intentionally Craft Spectatorship
HowlRounD Theatre Commons
A Haven for directors, and a stepping stone
American Theatre Magazine
The director’s path from school to the rehearsal room can be a winding, nebulous journey. And while actors and playwrights have some well established channels to develop their careers, Josh Sobel, artistic director of Haven Theatre in Chicago, saw the need for a showcase that might give directors a bit of, well, direction.
The Director’s Haven, now in its fourth year, provides early-career directors the opportunity to work with a mentor and showcase a short play at Chicago’s Den Theatre. This year’s showcase, running through Oct. 31, features works helmed by Charlotte Drover, Airos Sung-En Medill, and Dani Wieder.
Wieder’s directorial style of constant adapting and risk-taking was also evident in our conversation about, oddly enough, bread. In one scene, the set pieces shifted to reveal the back of the bar counter, which contained shelves of bread loaves. It was random and hilarious but, unquestionably, relevant to the play. How? Even Wieder could not answer, but she insisted her gut could. She said, “I knew there had to be bread in the play,”—in fact, bread was one of the first things she was sure about in her vision, though it was one of the last things she found a purpose for in the play. The bread acted as a backdrop to the alcoholic professor’s drunken “lecture”—the arbitrariness of it all made the scene disorienting and yet endearing. Giggling, she showed me a picture of her purchasing all the loaves used for the show and said, “The play wants what it wants, and I run its errands!” Though grocery errands are not usually considered under a director’s job description, it was Wieder’s ability to stay grounded in her artistic instincts that allowed her to infuse a playful energy into her play.
A Conversation with Alumna Theatre Director Dani Wieder
The chicago Maroon
Josephine the Mouse Singer
Dani Wieder and Itzel Blancas put Kafka’s singing mouse on trial in their imaginative rendition of his last short story, “Josephine the Mouse Singer,” with puppets designed by Jurrell Daly. As Josephine, Ariana Silvan-Grau is both a conjuror and a charismatic fraud. More the marvel, Gabriel Levine single-handedly animates the rest of the village. As a consideration of both aesthetics and the life and value of art, this gem of a production charms as much as it challenges.
Making New Stories From Old Ones: A Profile of Director and Writer Dani Wieder
"I think I can center different narratives inside of these classic plays,” Wieder explained. “We don’t have to throw away this canon that exists for a good reason. These plays are great. And I’m really interested in figuring out how we can make these plays for more people than they were initially intended.”
Wieder’s desire to recenter narratives around voices that haven’t been heard doesn’t just extend to her directing work. On her recently-launched blog Direct Address, she interviews members of Chicago’s theater scene that are in the early stages of their careers, and have yet to be covered by a larger publication.
Women in captivity: TAPS B.A. project explores Andromeda myth
Fourth-year Dani Wieder’s Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) B.A. performance, All choiceless She, premiered at the Logan Center this past Thursday. The half-hour performance was based on the Greek myth of Andromeda and featured an interactive experience with harrowing feminist imagery.
The myth of Andromeda explores the constrictions of stereotypical standards of female beauty and the female dependence on men. A beautiful princess, Andromeda is offered as a sacrifice by her parents and saved by a hero. Wieder’s Andromeda, however, doesn’t seem the type to care for her looks or to submit to a man.
In the midst of tours for prospective students and parents, a group of expectant students stood still by the East Theater. We were advised to wait for Andromeda (first-year Sophie Hoyt) in order to enter the theater with her and follow her lead throughout the play. When she finally appeared, she guided us to three separate girls: the first, played by first-year Livia Reiner, became increasingly agitated as she cut up her paper dolls with a pair of scissors, eventually cutting her own flesh; the second, played by second-year Julia Hanson, wrestled with and eventually accepted her captivity in a bathtub to which she is bound; the third, played by third-year Eloise Hyman, stood on a box and shouted at her reflection, cast in three mirrors....
To Hanson, All choiceless She and Miss Julie both “regard femininity and object theory.” These themes, which appeared in Miss Julie “appear again in this piece, so it kind of in some ways is a continuation of that project.” Hoyt agrees, in that the play was about “taking the story of Andromeda and reworking it to show her as a person:” All choiceless She is a powerful expression of the prison of female objectification, as evidenced by its title.
From the wrestling with lipstick to the emancipation from the wedding dress, the message of the play is clear: there are expectations of femininity for women to fulfill, and outright rejection of them is not a simple task.