Cultural Commissioner

Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin offers her secrets to artistic success

Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin “Small but mighty” is how Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin, managing director of Los Angeles’ New American Theatre, characterizes the operations of the twin theaters she leads. (Image courtesy of New American Theatre)
Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin offers her secrets to artistic success

Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin, ’86 MEDIA, is managing director of the acclaimed New American Theatre in Los Angeles. Celebrating its 25th year in 2020, NAT has put on more than 100 mainstage plays and hundreds more in its biannual one-act festival, many featuring top actors from film and theater. It has been repeatedly hailed as one of LA’s top ten small theaters. Here Wisnosky offers her personal guide to achieving success and fulfillment in the exciting world of LA theater.

Start with a great education. Wisnosky was able to try out her lifelong dream of becoming an actor in a senior-year production of West Side Story at Illinois. She kept her feet on the ground with a degree in advertising and added an MBA from IIT.

Risk a geographical move. A film she was in, Watch It, premiered in LA in 1993. Wisnosky went for the opening and decided to stay. 

Fall in love with a person who complements your life’s work. That would be Jack Stehlin, a TV and film actor, who graduated from The Juilliard School in New York and became NAT’s artistic director. After working together for a year, they transitioned to a personal relationship.

Find the right niche. “Small but mighty” is how she characterizes the twin theaters on Hollywood Boulevard that survive on support from donors and partners. “But we also run a really tight ship.”

Remember that no man is an island. “We work with a core group of artists. We’ve also partnered with other small theaters,” says Wisnosky, who chairs the Cultural Affairs Commission in Culver City, where she lives.

Put passion into family, too. Wisnosky has three daughters. The oldest is at the University of California Santa Cruz and is planning to break from the family’s theater tradition. “She wants to be a superintendent at a district school,” Wisnosky says with pride. “I did a great job of parenting.”

Never give up what you love. “I’m a little shy about all the writing I’ve done, but I might submit a few scripts blind to our play committee. I’m working on an adaptation of Danton’s Death, which requires a working guillotine on stage, but it’s been done. I’d also like to do a musical.”