‘Changing His Mind’, acrylic on canvas
by Lorrisa Julianus

Craig J. Engel, actor, veteran of the Naval Special Forces (SEALS), and executive producer and director at Chicago’s Theater on the Hill and elsewhere; formed an artistic mastermind when he married Lorrisa Jullianus, SAG-AFTRA actress, internationally displayed painter, playwright, handwriting analyist (whose analysis of this author was shockingly and hilariously spot-on) motion capture actor for the last two Mortal Kombat videogames, and guest star on The Bold & the Beautiful. Stacks & Droppers welcomes this talented couple to the Orange Typewriter series as they welcome the orange typewriter to America. 

S&D: What are you two working on these days, together and separately?
L.J: I have a lot of work this year with a steady group of clients as a motion capture actor, hand model, makeup artist, painter, and more. My passion and focus has, for the last two years, been devoted to the development of a musical about Zenobia, the 3rd century queen of Syria. I’ve written the script and lyrics and work closely with Angela Salvaggione, a local composer. Craig has been very supportive of this all-consuming obsession, and my deepest hope is that even if he can’t perform in it, he will be able to direct its premiere in 2013. Despite the minor challenges of working with, and sometimes under, one’s spouse, there is no one I trust more to refine and present my dream to the world.
C.J.E: My work these days is in live theatre, My most recent projects have been “Den of Thieves,” a comedy written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, who imparted his distinctive urban perspective into the script, and who was a writer on “The Sopranos” in the Fall of 2011. This past Spring, I directed and produced “God of Carnage,” a recent Tony-Award winner for best new play. Both shows were well received by the public and were financially and artistically successful, while creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and creative accomplishment for everyone involved in the cast and crew.
Lorrisa and I have been collaborating on her new musical, and I directed the promotional video for the project.

S&D: How has your life as a couple changed your art/ visa versa? Were you hesitant to work together?
L.J: My artistic development is completely due to my relationship with Craig, as our love and marriage has been pivotal to my evolution as a woman and human being. Craig’s input has been invaluable to me as I find my voice and refine my craft…I think love has put me in touch with those human qualities that are vital to that craft.
There is nothing we enjoy more than working together, but that comes with its challenges too. I often joke that I’m not my toughest critic, Craig is. And I am his. We want each other to be the best we can possibly be, and we have higher standards for each other than we do for others because we each know the other’s full potential better than anyone else. Naturally, pushing or being blunt with the person you love most can be tough as we are so close and sensitive to each other. It’s hard to not take criticism from your spouse personally. After years of learning to trust the expertise and vision of the other, however, it’s easier to accept constructive criticism in the loving manner it was intended.
C.J.E: Lorrisa has strong, even snarky, opinions about what constitutes good theater. So I always work with the idea that if Lorrisa likes it, the world will. And that has proven to be true!
I’ve directed her in three stage plays. The first was “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” when we were dating. The dynamic was different then, of course. After we married, I directed her in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” and “Animal Farm.” That was tougher; directing your spouse becomes a totally different animal, for sure! Living together in an equal partnership and then coming into a director/actor relationship has its inherent difficulties, because the boundaries are entirely different. But we really understand each other, so we have adjusted our attitudes about working together. These days, we’re just very selective about what work we choose to do together, and are supportive of each other when working on separate projects.
Craig in a top-hot
 and a short comedy by Lorrisa 
S&D: Tell us about Chicago as an artistic base:
C.J.E: Chicago is one of the most eclectic cities in the world. The talent here is immense, and the ability to surround yourself with creative thinkers and doers makes for exciting times. These types of people long for opportunities to work and play together, creating great work across the artistic spectrum.
L.J: But Chicago can be as frustrating as it is rewarding. The actors, painters, musicians, etc. always manage to find each other. The support systems we’ve nurtured are like second family, but it’s hard to find the level of community support and participation needed to sustain professional careers. Being an artist is less common here, I think, than in other areas of the country, and because of that, the Chicagoland area is not viewed as the mecca for national and international patrons to find their art and entertainment. Neither are the arts necessarily as highly valued by those not actively involved.
Lorrisa as St. Monica in 
the Last Days of Judus Iscariot
S&D: Do you have any advice for other couples in the arts?
L.J:  The hardest challenge for marriages is even worse for artist couples — money. Artists are passionate people with plenty of fireworks in their love lives, but I often observe that sustaining a relationship can be very difficult when the practicalities of life interrupt the romance… From the beginning, we’ve taken turns financially carrying the household when one of us is struggling to establish or reestablish their work. Beyond that, everyone knows that financial security doesn’t equate happiness or a successful marriage. Keeping the romance alive in a lifelong partnership is a daily, sometimes hourly, practice of asking oneself, ‘What can I do to express my love?’ In my experience, making your spouse feel appreciated and desired doesn’t have to cost a lot of time or money, but the outcome of a growing, deepening, passionate love is life’s greatest treasure.
C.J.E: JUST DO IT! You never know if there will be financial rewards. Sometimes there are, sometimes not. However, the esoteric rewards are ALWAYS worth the effort. Life experiences, memories, new friends, and professional opportunities always arise from doing great work together. My work as a director and producer has opened doors for me that I never could have imagined, from directing video, writing numerous projects, doing voice-over work, writing and producing elaborate trade show events (which pay VERY well), traveling the country doing corporate comedy events, getting hired into a job that utilizes my stage talents, and also meeting the love of my life, Lorrisa. There is nothing you can’t do, once you decide to make it happen. Don’t sit still. Put yourself OUT THERE. Explore people and opportunities in the creative world. Maintain your personal and artisitc integrity. Get out of your comfort zone. In a few years, you’ll be amazed at what your life has turned into. 

Coming soon: more ‘b-side’ typewritten drafts, and updates on previous Orange Typewriter guests.

Interview by Charlie Daly

Written by Charlie