Skip to main content

Janet Wilson

School of Theatre and Dance
Center for the Visual Arts - CVA 217-D
  • About
  • Education
  • Awards & Honors
  • Research


Janet Wilson joined the acting faculty at Illinois State University in 2001 to teach Acting I, Acting II, Realism, Auditioning, and On Camera. Prior to her career at Illinois State, Janet spent over a decade in New York City where she trained extensively in the Sanford Meisner Technique of acting. She worked professionally in theatre, film, and television and earned membership in the professional talent unions. In 1986 she established a Meisner acting studio and later taught for the Riverside Shakespeare Company. After a move to Richmond, VA, she was a Founding member, Co-Artistic Director, and Director of Education for the Firehouse Theatre Project, a professional theatre in Richmond where she produced, directed, and acted in numerous productions from 1993-1998. The Founders of the Firehouse Theatre Project were awarded the prestigious Legacy Award in October 2023 by the Richmond Theatre Community Circle for their foundational role in strengthening the Richmond theatre community. While earning her M.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, she developed a research interest in contemporary women playwrights. She has directed over 35 productions and is a published and produced playwright. Her directing credits include A Piece of My Heart by Shirley Lauro for the AmeriCulture Arts Festival in Massachusetts, Roosters by Milcha Sanchez-Scott, Hopeless Spinning by Margaret E. Iha, In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks and The Coffee Bar by Ali Salem. Ms. Wilson collaborated with her Illinois State colleagues to create a critically acclaimed production that toured nationally for over six years. Shame the Devil! An Audience with Fanny Kemble by Anne Ludlum featured Lori Adams as the nineteenth-century British actress, author, abolitionist, wife, and mother. During the summer of 2009, Janet worked with the “Acting Out” Theatre Troupe at Lincoln Correctional to create and perform an original script, A Theatrical Ritual for Incarcerated Women. Her conference paper, Going Public in Prison: Empowering Incarcerated Women On and Off Stage, was delivered at the 2010 Mid-America Theatre Conference. Her subsequent article, Agency through Collective Creation and Performance: Empowering Incarcerated Women On and Off Stage, was published in the spring 2013 issue of Making Connections: Interdisciplinary approaches to cultural diversity, a publication of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Frederick Douglass Institute Collaborative. Ms. Wilson served as the Director of the School of Theatre and Dance and Producer of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival from 2010-2019, during which time she spearheaded the reaccreditation process for theatre for the School of Theatre and Dance with the National Association of the Schools of Theatre (NAST). She was promoted to full Professor in May, 2014. She presented several workshops for new theatre administrators organized by NAST and served as the lead facilitator for the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA) on a contract negotiation with Actors’ Equity Association in New York City. Spring 2020 marked her return to the acting area. Her current creative project is writing Rebels With a Cause, a documentary play based on sociological research conducted by Dr. Maria Schmeeckle, formerly a faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Illinois State. This documentary play is crafted from the words and stories of 12 people from diverse backgrounds who rebelled against their families of origin for very legitimate reasons. The play depicts social inequalities/advantages and disadvantages of race/ethnicity, sex/gender, social class, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, etc. Collaborators on the development of this play include Associate Professors Kee-Yoon Nahm (Dramaturg) and Robert Quinlan (Director). Faculty, staff, and students also contributed to the development of the play by providing feedback after numerous readings, dating back to 2020. In August 2022, Robert Quinlan directed a four-day workshop of the play, with Dr. Schmeeckle in residence.

Current Courses

210.001Acting II

410.001Acting II

411.001Acting Styles, Discovery & Performance: Acting on Camera

411.002Acting Styles, Discovery & Performance: Acting on Camera

314.001Acting Styles: Discovery And Performance:On Camera

314.002Acting Styles: Discovery And Performance:On Camera

400.007Independent Study

Teaching Interests & Areas

Acting I, Acting II, Realism, Auditioning, On Camera, Contemporary Women Playwrights

Research Interests & Areas

Directing Plays by Women, Theatre and Social Justice Work, Developing New Work for the Theatre

MFA Theatre Pedagogy

Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA

Founders of The Firehouse Theatre Project (FTP)

Richmond Theatre Community Circle Legacy Award

Grants & Contracts

Alice and Fannie Fell Trust Grant. Illinois State University Foundation. Illinois State University. (2023)