Future Head of the Genesius Guild ?
Isabel Dawson, a 2020 graduate of Augustana College, wears many hats – with each taking advantage of her skills in theater and business.
The 23-year-old, who did a lot of theater in high school in Normal, Illinois, is the new assistant executive director for the Genesius Guild and is helping assemble this summer’s abridged schedule of three productions outside, in Rock Island’s Lincoln Park.
Doug Tschopp has been executive director for about 15 years, involved in Genesius for 25 years, and worked closely with Dawson at Augustana, where she majored in theater and business management. She was attracted to Augustana, in part, since the school opened the new $4.2 million Brunner Theatre Center in 2016.
Dawson was involved in a lot of theater both at Augustana, including stage managing the summer 2018 season for the Mississippi Bend Players, and stage managing three plays at the QC Theatre Workshop.
“What I really love about stage management is, I get to see all the parts and how they all work together. I get to help out with costumes – if there’s a rip, I’m in the back sewing the tear, whatever I need to do. Or with props, I had done in high school, too, and comforting actors – helping them get through what they need to get through. And it’s a lot of crisis management, which I find really interesting.”
“With theater in general, I just love the way it helps people escape into someone else’s shoes, I just think is really special. It’s one of the things I’ve really been missing during the pandemic, is getting everyone in a room together. It’s not the same if you’re watching something on YouTube or a movie version.”
Dawson says Tschopp asked her to take on the Genesius role this past winter, as he’s stepping back from some responsibilities, and may relinquish the job (for which he doesn’t take a salary) in the next year. She says it’s an ideal merging of her theater and business background.
“He’s looking to slowly fade out a little bit and pass the reins over, so this year, I’m kind of the one on the ground, being his eyes and ears and also kind of making some of those decisions. It’s been exciting -- I’ve been going to board meetings; I’m part of the artistic committee now.”
Dawson is building the Genesius team for the summer, including stage managers and costumers. She says the Guild will be doing much smaller sets, if any at all.
Tschopp and Dawson aren’t sure when the transition to a new executive director will happen.
“I’m 23, so even the opportunity to be executive directing a theater company at 24 is incredible. We’re going to see how this season goes. It’s wonderful I know Doug is still there; he’s a phone call away all the time. He’s such a good mentor and we’ll still have that relationship.”
She thinks people will understand that a smaller season this summer is reasonable. Dawson was able to secure one of the scripts for no royalties – the abridged adaptation of “Measure for Measure,” by Kevin Rich, who she knew from the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, which will be the first play of the season in June.
“Kevin Rich has some really great adaptations. He’s a Shakespeare expert, a Shakespeare scholar in every way. He actually left Bloomington-Normal to go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is such a renowned, great theater. So it’s super incredible we can form this partnership, bring his work to life and get to use it.”
Genesius is similar to the outdoor Shakespeare festival Dawson grew up attending in Bloomington-Normal, where she worked during high school. But despite going to Augustana, she’s never seen a Genesius Guild show. She was so busy with the Mississippi Bend Players, she never got a weekend off that summer, and in 2019, she worked at a summer stock theater in Wisconsin, northeast of the Twin Cities.
Last year at college, Dawson won the $4,500 first prize in the Augustana Business Plan Competition, for inventing a new bra for women with unevenly shaped or sized breasts. She says many women have asymmetrical breasts (between 40-50 percent have a cup size difference, according to her research), yet no current bra treats each breast separately. Dawson’s Evenly bra fills the gap, literally. She wrote her business plan during Augustana’s first J Term in January 2020, where students could focus on one class or project.
“I was cut down to just one class. I had no shows; my roommate left for Norway. I said I was going to sit down and it took me about two weeks, because I’d sit down three or four hours a night.”
Dawson works full-time as administrative coordinator for Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors, and she has a patent pending for her invention.
For more information, visit sidebysidebra.com.