New Forward Theater Managing Director Julie Swenson has been living in Madison and working with Forward for a few months now. Forward Board member Jolen Neumann asked her a few questions to see how the position is treating her so far, and what things she's particularly enjoying as a new Madisonian!
Jolen: Even with a strong, successful career in this industry, starting a new job can be tough...mixed emotions, butterflies, excitement, nerves, worries. Tell us what the night before and your first official day at Forward were like.
Julie: I was so excited to get started! It was like the first day of school- I laid out my clothes, I bought a new notebook and calendar and I couldn’t sleep. When I walked into the office, I was so warmly greeted that I knew this was exactly where I needed to be.
Jolen: It's a beautiful, warm, Spring day in Madison. You're not up to your elbows in Foward "stuff" (i.e., you have a day "off" ;-). Tell us what your day would look like from start to finish.
Julie: The very first thing I do on any day is make coffee. So after my coffee is done I would check the world news, maybe some Facebook and then look up events happening in Madison or pick a neighborhood to explore. I would try to get a friend to join me. Very few things make me as happy as a good meal so I would plan a place to eat and then walk and walk. I really do love to see plays and can often be found at the theater on my days off. In the evening I would try to see a play followed by more good food and then home to read a play or maybe a book. A day off is still filled with art!
Jolen: You were the producing director at Renaissance Theaterworks, in Milwaukee, for 16 years. What is your proudest accomplishment during your time there?
Julie: Renaissance Theaterworks was doing great work before I arrived, but I am most proud of it’s growth. After 25 years it is a respected, vibrant company that is essential to the Milwaukee community. It has remained true to it’s mission of gender parity and I’m proud that I’ve left it ready to embark on the next 25 years.
Jolen: You've been settled in Madison for a few months now. Have you started a Madison Bucket List yet? If so, what's on it?
Julie: Every day I hear of some long-standing event that’s a must-see in Madison. It’s such a vibrant town and I am so looking forward to becoming a true Madisonian. I’m really interested in seeing more work by the local theater community. And I plan to get a bike - I’ve never seen so many bike lanes!
Jolen: You'll know you've succeeded in your role as Managing Director when…
Julie: I don’t believe there’s an end point. I hope to have successes and continue the great art Forward is known for and contribute to the community. "Succeeded" sounds final and I think there are always opportunities to continue working and growing.
Jolen: If there's one thing you want Madison to know about you, it's...
Julie: ... It's that working in theatre is what I’ve always wanted to do and I am so blessed to be able work at Forward and be a part of the Madison community.