Joanne in Guatemala City, Guatemala
(Festival Internacional de Teatro, 1991)
Joanne on Lake Como, Italy (2004)
Joanne Pottlitzer, writer, theater director, translator, has produced many Latin American plays in New York and is the winner of two Obie Awards, two Senior Fulbright Awards, two NEA translation grants, and multiple producing and writing awards. She has directed plays in New York, Los Angeles, Tucson, and Santiago de Chile. Her English translations of Latin American plays and screenplays have been produced, published, and distributed in New York and throughout the U.S. Among them are José Triana’s Common Words; Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Chunga, The Young Lady from Tacna, Kathie and the Hippopotamus; Daedalus in the Belly of the Beast by Marco Antonio de la Parra; Nelson 2 Rodrigues by Antunes Filho; Striptease and Saying Yes by Griselda Gámbaro; The Toothbrush by Jorge Díaz; and Mythweavers by Arturo Uslar Pietri. She also translated the dubbed version of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film The Holy Mountain.
Joanne’s history with Latin America and its cultures goes back to the early sixties, when she spent a year studying Chilean theatre on a Rotary International Fellowship at the University of Chile in Santiago and a year and a half working on a Purdue University-sponsored project in Minas Gerais, Brazil. After completing her Master’s degree with a Fulbright Fellowship from Middlebury College in Madrid in 1964, Joanne has made New York City her home.
In 1967 she founded Theatre of Latin America, Inc. (TOLA), a New York-based nonprofit arts organization that pioneered artistic exchange between the U.S. and Latin America. During her 14 years as TOLA’s artistic director, Joanne traveled frequently to Latin America to develop exchange programs and build a Latin American theatre library of more than 3,000 volumes. In 2002, the TOLA Collection was acquired by the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts.
At TOLA Joanne produced more than thirty plays Off Broadway, fifteen concerts in major New York concert halls, including Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall, and ten national tours. In 1968, she brought the Chilean theatre company ITUCH to a Broadway house with a program of scenes from its repertory and its production of La Remolienda by Alejandro Sieveking, directed by Victor Jara. The following year, she introduced Augusto Boal’s Arena Theatre of São Paulo, with Boal’s musical, Arena Conta Zumbi, at St. Clement’s Church in New York. She presented Boal’s group again in 1970 with a new musical, Arena Conta Bolivar at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theatre. In 1971, she introduced the Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil to New York in concert and in 1970, filmmaker/theatre director Alejandro Jodorowsky, both at St. Clement’s. She arranged for the U.S. distribution of Jodorowsky’s first two films, Fando and Lis and El Topo.
In 1979 TOLA produced the first Theatre in the Americas Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., La Mama in New York, and the O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. The award-winning festival brought together 200 theatre people from Latin America, the U.S. and Canada. Joanne’s Obies awards were for A Latin American Fair of Opinion (1972), an evening of Latin American short plays, music and visual arts directed by Augusto Boal, and Chile, Chile! (1976), a collective theatre piece directed by Joseph Chaikin that documented events in Chile from Salvador Allende’s presidential campaign in 1970 until the military coup of 1973 and its aftermath. In 2001 she was recognized by the Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations with an award “acknowledging and in appreciation of contributions toward restoring democracy in Chile.”
Joanne has written widely on aspects of Latin American theatre and art. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Drama Review (TDR), American Theatre, Yale University’s Theater magazine, PAJ (A Journal of Performance and Art), Theatre Journal, Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, and several programs for the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival in Scotland.. Her most recent articles include three articles commissioned and published by the Edinburgh International Festival, “A Serious Man of the Theatre,” “Forgetting Filled with Memory,” and “Infinite Shades of Grey,” in 2010, 2012 and 2013, respectively. Her piece, “Forgetting Filled with Memory,” about the play Villa+Discurso by Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón, was published by Theater in February 2013. Both were republished by the Polish theatre magazine, Dialog, in 2014.
Joanne’s NEA translation grants were for Mario Vargas Llosa’s Kathie and the Hippopotamus in 1985 and for José Triana’s Common Words in 2009, which was published in December 2013 by The Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review, Volume 4, Number 1. Her senior Fulbrights to Chile were in 1988 to direct Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune and in 1994 to begin researching her book, Symbols of Resistance: The Legacy of Artists under Pinochet, about the influence of artists on the political process. That grant was followed by a Visiting Faculty Fellowship from Notre Dame University’s Kellogg Institute of International Studies to continue research on her book.
In 2004 Joanne was awarded a four-week writing residency by the Rockefeller Foundation to continue her work on Symbols of Resistance in Bellagio, Italy. Since that time she has received support for the project from the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute. In March 2013 she was in residency for four weeks at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts (VCCA) to work on Symbols of Resistance and to develop a theatre piece, Between Hope and Freedom, based on the book. In September 2013 she was in residence at Brown University’s Dept. of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies with a month-long Fitt Artist-in-Residence Grant to continue that work. And in April and May 2014 she was in residence at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire for five weeks to work on the play.
Her teaching credits include courses on Latin American theatre at the Yale University School of Drama, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and CCNY’s Hunter and Brooklyn Colleges; and playwriting at the Theatre School at Ohio University and the University of Chile. She continues to lecture at universities across the country on her book and on aspects of Latin American theatre.
Among her consultancies: New Dramatists, 1994, Theatre Communications Group (TCG) as special consultant to TCG’s Translation Project, 1985-1987, and the Ford Foundation as consultant to its Education and Culture division, 1984-1991. The Foundation published her study, Hispanic Theatre in the United States and Puerto Rico, as a paperback book in 1988.
In 1988, Joanne received a playwriting commission from the New York State Council on the Arts to develop her play Paper Wings, about the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, which has been developed at New Dramatists, The Women’s Project and at Yellow Springs Institute in Pennsylvania. It was produced in 1992 at Barnard College in New York, with Mexican director Juan José Gurrola as guest designer and consultant. Another play, Kate’s Place, was directed by Estelle Parsons in the 1988 Festival of Short Plays in New York, where Joanne directed a musical adaptation of Saki’s short story, An Open Window.
Professional affiliations: The Dramatists Guild, Society of Directors and Choreographers, League of Professional Theatre Women (served on its Board of Directors for eight years), Pen American Center, Theatre Without Borders, IFP Independent Filmmakers Project.
Joanne holds a BS degree in Theatre (With Distinction) from Purdue University, whose School of Liberal Arts honored her with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006; her MA degree in Spanish is from Middlebury College (in Vermont and Madrid). She has lived and studied in Chile, Mexico, Brazil, and Spain, and has traveled extensively throughout Latin America. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and can communicate in French. She continues to reside in New York City.