I recently had a chance to sit down with Nic Dimond, Artistic Director of Strawdog Theatre to discuss life, love, and the end of his term. What will his life be like going forward? What will the future hold? I took him to a coffee shop on the edge of town to find out.
Andy: Hello, Nic! Thanks for meeting me in this coffee shop on the edge of town.
Nic: You know me - I love a mysterious location!
Andy: Well, let's get right to it. The rumor mill is abuzz with Nic Dimond gossip!
Is it true you are getting married?
Nic: If my luck holds, and she doesn’t discover that I’m a total and utter fraud, we are planning on getting married in June.
Andy: And whom is the lucky lady?
Nic: Ms. Amanda Delheimer is the crazy lady.
Andy: She sounds nice.
Nic: She smells good.
Andy: Now, are you just getting married because she is pregnant?
Nic: Clearly. There’s no other reason to get married in the 21st century, is there?
Andy: Not unless you are gay.
Nic: Gay and pregnant, that’s us!
Andy: Will you pass the cinnamon please?
Nic: My pleasure, Andy. Don’t burn yourself, that’s a hot beverage (referring to my large Orange Chai).
Andy: Oh no, I spilled a little on a baby that was in line behind us (The baby is recovering nicely at Cook County Hospital).
Nic: Thank God it was wearing that protective visor.
Andy: Stop avoiding the questions, Nic. Now did you really get a dog, too?
Nic: We really did! We just took her down to my moms place in Park Forest overnight for the first time. Her name is Nina, by the by.
Andy: Cool! I think a good name for a dog is Sergeant Bark.
Nic: Yes. You do. Would you ever name a dog that?
Andy: Nope. (There is a 1 minute pause in the conversation as we reevaluate the paths this interview is taking) So Nic...
Andy: Let's get to the heart of things.
Andy: Word is, you are resigning as Artistic Director of Strawdog Theatre Company.
Nic: The word is correct. This will be my last season.
Andy: Any particular reason?
Nic: I think it's time. It was a bizarre and fantastic summer for Strawdog. While we had a great time with our first ever remount (Red Noses) we were struggling with some issues with our board. There was some astounding work done by Hank Boland, our Managing Director, and all of a sudden we had an actual Board of Directors. I found myself wondering if i was qualified to lead the company through the next phase…
I’m a pretty hands on guy, and my production background has been helpful for us to now but, with this amazing new board, it seems to me that we need someone with some different skills. Some networking development skills that I just don’t have. So, with those thoughts rattling around in my head and with the hopes of eventually getting married and starting a family with Amanda, it seemed pretty clear that it was time for me to take some next steps and create some space for something new.
Andy: I see. What do you think were the most important things you brought to Strawdog, and what do you wish you could've done differently?
Nic: Hmmm, its a heavy question. I’ve been part of Strawdog for over 15 years. It’s a totally different place. The facility is different. The ensemble has totally changed, but the two main things that come to mind are leading the company through the critical values work a couple years back, and then the overall attention to production standards.
Andy: Criminal values?
Nic: Sorry not Critical Values, just Important Values. Genuine Connection, Challenges, Ensemble and Community and my unofficial entries of Playfulness and Generosity. (In 2006, Strawdog reassessed their mission statement and put "core values" in place that would work as a criterion for season selection and late night entertainment)
Andy: So, there was a workshop where these things were discussed?
Nic: Heh, one or two, or six over six months. I’m not surprised you don’t remember. The 90's were crazy.
Andy: You are telling me, sister. So, if you had to pick a favorite moment or memory of the past 15 years, what would it be?
Nic: Eh, not sure its a singular moment but I have just learned so much about stories and people. My favorite moments include but aren’t limited to opening night of Interrogating the Nude, working on the Isabella/Angelo scenes from Measure for Measure with [Jennifer]Avery and [Michael] Dailey, the Tuesday night revelation tech for Marathon33, the first run through of Red Noses in the theatre...
What I wish I could have done differently - shaped the idea of ensemble in a more constructive way much earlier - we wasted a lot of time wading through entitlement nonsense, and we would have all had more fun if we surrendered to the playfulness and generosity much earlier than we did. We still have moments where some of that darker shit creeps back in, and those are increasingly difficult for me to deal with.
Andy: If you had to pick one Strawdog show that you wish could have gone on forever, which one would it be, and which was the worst ever?
Nic: None. That’s one of the things I love about theatre - its here, its gone - somehow that impermanence makes it mean more for me. The worst?
Andy: THE WORST.
Nic: I think we were all relieved when True Ballad closed (The True Ballad of Fall’s Blessings was an original Strawdog musical).
Andy: The whole city was relieved. I also think everyone in the theater community would say 'thank you' to you for what you have done with that company. You have turned it around to a non-equity destination that people genuinely respect and expect quality from when they visit.
Nic: Heh, thank you.
Andy: You also have two shows left, yes?
Nic: Really wasn’t just me, and its important to me that people recognize that without Tim Zingelman (Strawdog’s Managing Director through most of the 90’s into the Aughts) and Gregory Altman (Board President until this year), Strawdog would have closed its doors 10 years ago. We all - and this includes current folks as well as that obnoxiously long emeritus list (over 50) - earned that respect and created that destination together. I’m just proud of what we've accomplished, especially with as unlikely any kind of success or longevity is in the world of Chicago storefront theatre and, yes - I'm the Artistic Director through the end of this season. That means I get to work with Lou [Contey] on Master and Margarita and Kimberly [Senior] on Conquest To The South Pole. Those are a couple pretty cool projects to end my tenure with....
Andy: That's great. You will still be around though, I have a feeling.
Nic: Strawdog is my life's work. I’m invested in the continued success of the company and I’m eager to understand if or how I can still play.
Andy: Now, I just got a text from Eric, asking you if you'd like to direct his one man version of "Boojum" entitled "Spoojum".
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach