Song and Dance
By France Griggs Sloat
Master of Education, 2002; Master of Arts in English, 2004
PhD candidate, Indiana University
Life Is a Cabaret | Joe Stollenwerk has a one- or two-person cabaret show he creatively calls The Next Whiskey Bar. The name comes from the 1920s German hit “Alabama Song,” but it’s more than just a clever title.
History Lesson | The Next Whiskey Bar is all music by German songwriters Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. “They started in the days before Hitler came to power, and they had to flee to America. They wrote interesting political music, anti-fascist, anti-Nazi music, but they also wrote a lot of music about the foibles of humanity. They were very ahead of their time. It’s music that really speaks to me.”
Energy Outlet | The cabaret is one of Stollenwerk’s many creative energy outlets. After earning a bachelor’s degree in drama from Kenyon College, he founded The Ovation Theatre Company in Cincinnati in 1997. He served as its artistic director for nine years while earning his Master of Education in 2002 and Master of English in 2004 from Xavier.
Starving Artist | He left Ovation in 2006 and began teaching English composition at local colleges. He also worked for Writers Digest magazine as a writer and teacher.
Sassy Guy | One assignment was to contribute sassy sayings for an arts and crafts book about how to make personal greeting cards. “Get Real Greetings: Cards for Sassy Sentiments” includes a few of his contributions, such as, “Sorry about your divorce. I guess your husband is available for me to date.”
Professor Joe | He’s now enrolled at Indiana University, studying for a PhD in theater. “My plan is to become a professor of theater. My primary focus is the academic side—reading plays, the history of theater, theory and criticism.”
Actor, Director, Producer | He still seeks the spotlights, though, by trying out for plays and writing his own material. Last year he was in a production of Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw. He also wrote an acclaimed adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for stage that was performed in April by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
Broadway Hits | His most recent performance was in July when he presented a cabaret production of the songs of Leonard Bernstein at IU’s theater. Art Songs and Show Tunes: The Music of Leonard Bernstein was 80 minutes of Bernstein’s hits.
Hammy Guy | “I like theater because it pulls in so many different aspects of arts and culture. To do theater, you have to understand its history, dissect the script, understand the theory. Theater doesn’t exist only in the classroom, and since I’m a hammy performer anyway, performing allows me to put this all together. Then I can apply my knowledge of acting to scholarship and research. If you can act a little bit, it makes you a better teacher.”