Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Q&A: Alum Heidi Stillman discusses her success in theater, upcoming projects

Courtesy of Heidi Stillman
Heidi Stillman studied theater at NU and now works as a writer and director.

The Children’s Theatre Company’s production of “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress”  will open its doors in Minneapolis on Oct. 10. The production follows the story of a young boy named Morris who goes on a mission into space to answer his question: “Do astronauts wear dresses?”

The production’s director is Heidi Stillman (Communication ’89). She is currently the artistic director of the Lookingglass Theatre Company, which was founded by a group of Northwestern alumni. The Daily sat down with Stillman to discuss her most recent project and the impact her time at NU had on her career.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

The Daily: How did what you learned at NU help you in your career? 

Stillman: I’ve spent most of my career at the Lookingglass Theatre Company that we all (NU alumni) started. (NU) had a huge, huge impact on my life. A lot of us had the same acting teacher, David Downs, who we all love. His point of view was to try to understand the intention of the playwright and figure out what kind of actor you needed to be to meet the playwright’s vision. That was one thing that was very influential to us. We’re always thinking about what style is going to best represent the intention of the playwright. 

The Daily: What is exciting about your most recent project, “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress”? 

Stillman: It’s been so cool to work with the student actors on it. During the workshops, we had all these conversations about gender, about gender expression, about bullying, what it is like in schools right now, what kind of pressures teachers are under or not. It’s just great to talk to these young people aged 11 to 14 about their experiences, and it definitely influenced the plays of the playwright. It’s just been really satisfying and exciting.

The Daily: How does working on this project differ for you, as it is aimed at young audiences? 

Stillman: It’s definitely about imagination and a child’s imagination. That has been really interesting to me. The designers and I have thought about how something simple can transform into magic through the imagination. I just remember my son making these extravagant dioramas with his toy animals, blocks and stuff like that. To us, it looks a little bit like a mess on the floor. And to him, it’s this amazing adventure that he’s on. I just love that about kids’ imaginations. I love that about this book, because the book is really about a super imaginative child who’s not bound by all the rules.

The Daily: If there is one thing you wish people would take away from “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress,” what would it be? 

 Stillman: Folks should be free to express themselves how they want. It adds something to the conversations that are going on around in the country right now … I think this play is a really interesting gateway into that conversation. 

The Daily: You’ve done a lot of work on a lot of different projects in a lot of different roles such as writing and directing. What is challenging or exciting about working on a variety of projects? 

Stillman: What keeps me interested in the art form is the puzzles I have to solve. I really like putting my mind to different kinds of projects and different roles. It keeps it all interesting. 

The Daily: If you could go back and give advice to your NU student self, what would you say? 

Stillman: That it all works out. I had my dramas, like we all do. There were times when things were stressful, or I didn’t know what I was going to do after I graduated. But it all just fell into place. I just got really, really lucky. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @emilymlichty


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