Dionne O’Dell has always had a love of theater – and she’s been sharing that affection with everybody.
O’Dell is a faculty member at the Michigan State University Department of Theatre, where she specializes in writing and directing plays for youth and the community. She is currently serving as the interim program director for the Arts and Cultural Management/Museum Studies Program.
“I always wanted to do theater,” said O’Dell. “But I didn’t know what capacity that I wanted to help. I trained as an actor originally.”
After college, O’Dell moved to New York and worked in the Lincoln Center Theater as the associate director of education, where she trained New York City public school teachers for eight years to incorporate more theater into their lesson plans.
O’Dell moved to North Carolina, where her kids, Toby and Miranda, were born. There she wrote a screenplay and applied for a $100,000 grant from the SC Film Commission. She won on the second submission and was able to work as an associate producer on the short film based on the screenplay called “Dreadful Sorry,” which was then shown at film festivals and selected by the Orlando Film Festival in 2013.
“It was a wonderful experience,” O’Dell said. “I got to work with some amazing cinematographers and actors.”
She has published articles on classical theater in the English Journal and written both plays and screenplays.
In 2017, O’Dell wrote and directed “Farm! A Musical Experience,” which is a musical written specifically for those who have autism spectrum disorder and other diagnoses. “Farm! A Musical Experience” toured and was performed at schools.
“They’re generally small performances,” O’Dell explained. “Usually it’s performed for around 10 people in order for them to get more attention. It’s all about their interaction with the play.”
She is currently working on other shows called “Soda Pop Shop” and “Pond.”
“‘Soda Pop Shop’ is specifically designed for a neuro-diverse audience,” O’Dell said. “It’s a very relaxed setting so that the audience doesn’t get overwhelmed. There are also interactive parts to keep the audience engaged, like clouds they can touch and scarecrows that they can dance with.”
“Pond” is another piece that O’Dell is working on along with Sean Ahlquist, a researcher in socio-sensory architecture from the University of Michigan School of Architecture.
When she’s not working, O’Dell enjoys playing golf.
“My father taught me when I was young, and I’ve always enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s one of the only sporty activities that I do.”