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INTERVIEW: Theatre Unbound’s New Executive Director Jenny Moeller on Taking the Wheel

A wordcloud generated from an interview with Theatre Unbound’s incoming Executive Director, Jenny Moeller.

This fall, Theatre Unbound will celebrate its 20th season of making live theatre created and conceived by women. A 20th birthday is counted as a crown year; for its 20th, Theatre Unbound is crowning a new Executive Director: Jenny Moeller. Moeller succeeds Anne Bertram, who has led the company in this role since 2003.

Moeller spoke with Basil Considine from the Arts Reader about her work past, present, and future with Theatre Unbound.

Jenny Moeller, the incoming Executive Director of Theatre Unbound.

How long have you been associated with Theatre Unbound?

I’ve worked on various productions with Theatre Unbound as a props designer, light designer, and scenic assistant since 2013. My other company Raw Sugar was part of Girl Shorts in 2015. And last year, Raw Sugar partnered with Theatre Unbound to put on the WTF play festival, producing three brand new works by female playwrights.

Ah, yes, the WTF play festival. Do you have any regrets about giving Minneapolis syphilis (and war and sex)?

I am so proud of all the work done by the artists who participated in the WTF festival. I, personally, learned a lot from the festival, and am grateful for everyone that put up with me. I have no regrets around helping spread awareness of sexual health dilemmas in WWI.

Jenny Moeller (right) at work with outgoing Executive Director Anne Bertram (left) and board member Ashley Wheeler (center).

Executive Director can be a very expansive title. What doesn’t fall under your new purvey?

That’s a tough question! Theatre Unbound’s company does a ton of work and decision making as a group, so as part of the company, I’m part of most of everything. I don’t see my position as taskmaster for productions, but I’m there to life up others to do their best, and watch out for the stability of the organization.

As Theatre Unbound approaches its 20th season, do you feel that the gendering of the theatre landscape has changed significantly in terms of who is produced and featured?

Even five to ten years ago, most of the theater that I was seeing, women were the love interest or a side character. Now, the Twin Cities is full of amazing theater companies, big and small, established and new, led by smart and fierce women and gender nonconforming people. That is badass and amazing. There is amazing power in both putting different voices on stage and putting women in leadership positions. And I love seeing women, especially younger women, to do it themselves. People’s aren’t waiting around for permission. It’s exciting time in Twin Cities theater, and I hope everyone is seeing as much as possible.

I don’t think this shift could have happened in the cities without Theatre Unbound. Theatre Unbound has made sure to give opportunities to artists who are starting out, jumping back in, or trying something new. I’m honored to be a part of a company that not only puts interesting and engaging work on stage, but does it in a way that helps artists grow as artists. I can’t wait to see, and be a part of, how Theatre Unbound continues to grow as part of this community.

What are some of your professional priorities in upcoming seasons?

We have an amazing board and company. Everyone is excited to help Theatre Unbound grow. We have many new(er) people on the board. I’m most excited to find new and additional ways that the board can be engaged and bring that excitement with them.

We also have organizational growth opportunities, and I’m looking at how to grow in a sustainable way, find new ways to connect with the community as a whole, and how to help our core company continue to grown as artists. It’s really an exhilarating time.

Are there any people that you especially credit as important professional mentors?

Jenny Moeller & son.

I’ve had the privilege of working with many smart, driven artists, who I can only try to emulate. I stage-managed for Workhaus Collective many years ago. Their passion and drive to hone their craft has stuck with me. I am constantly amazed by Hannah Holman of Umbrella Collective and her never-ending compassion for the people who make art. Artists that I always want to get drink with, see their work, and be inspired by include: Akiko, Katie Kaufman, Rachel Petrie, Keely Wolter, Liz Neerland, and many many others.

Any thoughts about how you’ll compartmentalize your work with Raw Sugar and Theatre Unbound? It sounds like there’s been some blurring of boundaries already…

I’ve done a lot of thinking on this. There is no clear answer other than what’s in my heart. Since I wasn’t officially part of TU during WTF, it was a true collaboration, and no blurred lines.

I’ve been freelancing for so long; I’m almost always working on multiple productions. Keeping both going will be a new challenge for me, but I don’t foresee an issue of boundaries, since. we don’t have any collaborations planned right now.

What are 2-3 favorite productions that you’ve seen recently?

I went to see A Squid Has Three Hearts workshop with Umbrella Collective recently and I’ve been thinking about it since. As a new parent and an environmentalist, I connected to it so hard. I can’t wait to see what Mark does with it.

I enjoyed Transatlantic Love Affair’s The Devout. I always enjoy their world creation, but it was nice to see a group of women highlight the complexity and individuality of the characters.

Can I say Iphigenia and Other Daughters? I didn’t have anything to do with the art for the show. I think Amber Bjork is an amazing director, who guides with compassion and a depth of thought that really enhances the heart of the show.

Basil Considine