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Danielle Dresden sitting on the studio floor and smiling up


Danielle Dresden, playwright, actor, and residency artist, is producing artistic director of TNW Ensemble Theater, which she co-founded in 1985 in Madison, Wisconsin. Dresden is the author of 35 plays performed across the United States and abroad. 

Her playwrighting awards include a 2010 Wisconsin Arts Board Literary Arts Fellowship, 1999 Finalist for the Yukon Pacific New Play Award and the Council for Wisconsin Writers Drama Awards in 2001, 2003, and 2006. Her most recent productions are Convenience, a site-specific immersive collaboration with Fresco Opera Theatre, performed in Madison, Wisconsin, in August 2014, Source Code: Candide, at Horse Trade Theater Group’s #DRAFTSNYC in New York City in July 2014, and Now What, a one-act comedy about apocalyptic thinking (with zombies, of course!), developed as part of a touring exchange with the New World Performance Lab in Akron, Ohio, in 2013.

Her play Take Care premiered at UW-Marathon County and was performed at The Last Frontier Theater Conference in Valdez, Alaska, in 2012. In 2011, Bullying: The Musical premiered at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin. Help Wanted: The Search for Security, True Love or at Least a Decent Part-Time Job, for which she was awarded the 2010 Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship, was performed in Madison and Stoughton, Wisconsin, in 2010. From 2008-2014 Mangia, Mangia!, a play about Madison’s historic Greenbush neighborhood, played to capacity audiences in Wisconsin. Dresden toured to Canada in February 2008 with her play Garden Party, which opened in 2005 in Madison, subsequently touring in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Washington, DC.

Her short play, “Just My Luck,” was part of the Break A Leg mini-ensemble theater festival at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts in November, 2007. Tear Up the Front Page premiered in 2006 with performances in 2008-2009 in Wisconsin and at Purdue University in Indiana. In 2003, she premiered One Wall Missing in Madison and Changing Faces was produced at the Playwright’s Forum of the Looking Glass Theatre in New York City. Her monologue from Athena, Live! was published in Young Women’s Monologues from Contemporary Plays #2 from Meriwether Publishing Ltd.

Other plays include Without Pity, performed at the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the AIDS Theater Festival in San Francisco, Soul Journey at the International Festival of Madness and Arts in Toronto, and Questionable Origins at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.


Dresden has served as a panelist and presenter at the Last Frontier Theater Festival since 2002 and worked as a professional actor in theater, radio and video. Examples include performances in her play, Source Code: Candide, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in 2008 and at Madison’s Overture Center in 2005, the Syncopated Syndromes tour to Door County, with talkbacks by Dr. Zorba Paster, and The Girls From Building B, performing in Ohio, northern Wisconsin, and twice touring to Miami Beach, Florida.

Younger Danielle sitting on the studio floor in black and white

An experienced residency artist, Dresden co-developed a model residency combining creative writing, movement, and visual arts. Her work as a judge and consultant with the Marcia Legere Student Play Festival at the University of Wisconsin-Madison began in 2013 and continues. In 2009 and 2007 she taught theater and playwriting, and coached a college student theater group as part of residencies at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County. She performed and taught as part of a National Performance Network residency at Alverno College in Milwaukee and served as a featured speaker at the Annual Meeting of the Georgia Association on Young Children in 2000. She has served as a peer review panelist for the Wisconsin Arts Board and Dane Arts, and is a member of the Barrymore Theatre Board of Directors in Madison, Wisconsin, the Dramatists Guild, the Theatre Communications Group, and the Network of Ensemble Theaters. Dresden received BAs in Journalism and Comparative Literature and a Masters in Business in Arts Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A former reporter, her arts administration experience includes work as the acting editor for ACUCAA, now the Association for Performing Arts Presenters, and a three-year stint as a development director in community radio. She was a contributing writer for DramaBiz Magazine.

Younger Danielle posing next to a man in a theater production in black and white
Younger Danielle and younger Donna posing with props in black and white
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