Meet the Award-Winning Director and Cast of “Oleanna”

Meet the Director

Director Julie Janson (center) with cast members Christopher Crockett and Amanda Ranowsky

Julie Janson, Director

I wanted to do this show because the discourse in this country has become very black and white: I’m right, you’re wrong. But life isn’t black and white. It’s messy and each individual human being brings different experiences and viewpoints to the table. John and Carol’s biggest failure is that they refuse or are incapable of listening to each other.

This show is messy, and it’s uncomfortable. I believe that to be theatre’s purpose: To take something messy and complicated and face it head on. This allows us to unpack difficult emotions in a creative, shared space. People will side with one character or another, that’s expected, but some may also start talking less and listening more.

On a more personal note, I’m excited to direct my supremely talented husband for the first time. He’s so dang directable and works harder than most.  As for Amanda, this meaty role is overdue, and she hasn’t disappointed for a moment. Her ability to transition from oblivious innocent to righteous anger has been a privilege to watch. Both actors have worked intensely to master Mamet’s language in record time and both show a continued willingness to fearlessly explore excruciating material. It’s humbling to work with them both.

Meet the Cast

Christopher Crockett (John)

Amanda Ranowsky and Christopher Crockett rehearse with Roxanne Waite (stage manager) on script.

I saw Oleanna for the first time last fall—at the Theatre Lab in D.C.—and was immediately struck by how relevant the play is today, despite being first produced in 1992! Premiering in the wake of the Anita Hill hearings, the play’s themes of power, privilege, entitlement, and harassment are still so timely, maybe even more so now.

What really struck me about this script is that while it appears on the surface to be about sexual harassment and power, it’s really about what happens when we stop listening to each other. These two characters just can’t hear each other, despite talking at each other for a solid 70 minutes! I think it’s critical in this era of hyper partisanship, rising bigotry, and high-profile accusations of harassment to heed Oleanna’s warnings. If we don’t listen to each other, we’ll just end up destroying ourselves.

What I also love about the play is how strongly it reflects each audience member’s biases. People will, despite having all witnessed the exact same event, argue passionately about who was right and who was wrong. No two people can see this play the same way. The show has the ability to shake you to your core—I urge everyone not to miss it!

Amanda Ranowsky (Carol)

I came into this show as someone who wanted the chance to take on a complicated, challenging role. With Carol, I got what I wanted and more.  It would be too easy to paint Oleanna as a show about sexual harassment, or to only focus on its renewed relevance in the #metoo era. But, like those issues themselves, it’s more complicated than that. It explores gender dynamics, and privilege, and entitlement. It questions the value of education. And it takes a hard look at what happens when we stop listening to each other. All of these aspects are issues we need to recognize and discuss, especially today. I am thrilled to be working with the supremely talented Chris and Julie, and can’t wait to present this thought-provoking, discussion-starting work to our audiences.