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Joe Stollenwerk is a playwright, director, educator, actor, cabaret performer, and he used to be a stage manager until he finally realized that he simply is not organized enough.


His approach to all areas of theatre focus on 1) creating more and better roles for women and promoting the work of women and LGBTQ+ directors and playwrights, 2) a feminist and queer aesthetic, 3) playful metatheatricality, and 4) humor, even in the tragic.


He received a B.A. in Drama from Kenyon College, an M.A. in English and M.Ed. from Xavier University, and a Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama with a minor in Gender Studies from Indiana University.


Since 2016, Joe has been an Assistant Professor at the University of South Dakota, where he oversees the MFA Directing program. He primarily teaches directing, playwriting, and acting, in addition to theatre history, film studies, gender studies, and working in the profession.


Joe’s directing projects are eclectic, often using feminist and LGBTQ+ deployment of Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre techniques. At USD he directed SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR and CABARET, casting women as the Director and Emcee, respectively and using playful and pointed commentary about patriarchy, gender stereotypes and the male gaze. 


He recently directed The 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE for the Black Hills Playhouse and four short plays for the inaugural Voices of the Earth New Play Festival in Bemidji, MN. Previously, He spent nine years as Artistic Director of Ovation Theatre Company in Cincinnati where he ensured gender parity in the playwrights produced and the roles offered. There he directed such diverse shows as Bill C. Davis’ marriage equality play AVOW, Elinor Jones’ feminist play with music A VOICE OF MY OWN, the Stephen Sondheim revue YOU'RE GONNA LOVE TOMORROW, and Edward Albee’s WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?


Joe’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID'S TALE was professionally produced at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Know Theatre in Cincinnati, The World’s Stage in Milwaukee, and Curio Theatre in Philadelphia, prior to temporary withdrawal of the rights due to the Hulu series. He directed his original plays CATALINA and NINE SHORT PLAYS for the Theatre at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. He is currently revising his new adaptations of the work of Euripides with THESE WOMEN OF TROY and Molière with THE SWEEPSTAKES GENTLEMEN. Some of his plays can be read at the New Play Exchange. He also wrote the book TODAY IN HISTORY: MUSICALS


Favorite acting roles include Victor Frankenstein and The Hermit in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Black Hills Playhouse), Gabriel York in WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING (Indiana University), Belle Rosen in POSEIDON: AN UPSIDE-DOWN MUSICAL ADVENTURE (Falcon Theatre), and Georg in SHE LOVES ME (Cincinnati Music Theatre). He is also a frequent cabaret performer with solo and small group shows like SONGS OF LIFE, SONGS OF DEATH...BUT MOSTLY SONGS OF LIFE (Varsity Pub, Vermillion SD), LEONARD BERNSTEIN: ART SONGS AND SHOW TUNES (IU, Bloomington), and THE NEXT WHISKEY BAR: SONGS OF BRECHT AND WEILL (Below Zero Lounge, Cincinnati).


Joe’s scholarship focuses on gender and sexuality in musical theatre. He has presented numerous papers across the country at the Mid-America Theatre Conference, Comparative Drama Conference, Pacific Ancient and Modern Languages Conference, and elsewhere. Among his favorite presentations are the performance/lecture hybrids SONGS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE at USD and ALL ABOUT EVE: THE CREATION MYTH IN MUSICAL THEATRE and WOMEN AND WORK ON THE MUSICAL: THE LYRICS OF DOROTHY FIELDS, both at IU.

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