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The Inge Foundation commissioned her to curate an evening of previously unpublished and unproduced short works, she entitled Inge: Complex, featuring the world premieres of six “lost” one-acts by William Inge, in conjunction with their first publication; Lifetime Achievement tributes to David Henry Hwang and Arthur Kopit; and the 100th Birthday Tribute to Williamof the mothe Yale Repertory Theater.
Karen Carpenter is a producer, director, and teacher who has created theater and large-scale events to great success, for 20 years. Karen is best known for directing premiere presentations of new plays and musicals for the stage, and her dramaturgical contributions to them.
Her smash hit, Love Loss and What I Wore, by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, produced by Daryl Roth, was met with unanimous critical acclaim, broke all existing off-Broadway box office records, won the Drama Desk Award for Best Unique Theatrical Experience, and ran a record 3 years in New York, featuring rotating celebrity casts. Karen directed over 150 of our most celebrated comediennes in the show off-Broadway: Rosie O’Donnell, Jane Lynch, Fran Drescher, Rhea Perlman, Tyne Daly, Natasha Lyonne, Kate Mulgrew, and Janeane Garofolo, among them. Additional companies have played on virtually every continent, and the show is now enjoyed world-wide.
Her most recent stage work includes the new musical, Bulldozer: the Ballad of Robert Moses, off-Broadway, the New York Times critics’ pick Handle With Care, the premiere of Witnessed by the World at 59E59; regional productions of The Wizard of Oz at Surflight, The Vagina Monologues at Bucks County Playhouse, starring Andrea McArdle, Lea Delaria, and Adriene Lenox; and the premieres of Wendy Yondorf’s Admit One in a sold-out run at New Jersey Rep; Rosemary Loar’s fractured-fairytale rock musical, Spoolie Girl, for the Midtown International Theater Festival (awarded Best of the Fest) and Mary Walsh’s Dancing With Rage, which toured Canada. Her favorite gig to date: directing Michael Keaton in Lauren Yee's Countville for the Festival del Sole, Napa
Karen lead the Inge Center for the Arts and William Inge Theater Festival, which annually honors a legendary playwright for distinguished achievement, as Producing Artistic Director for three years, after serving on the Board of Trustees of the William Inge Festival Foundation. Preciously, the Foundation had commissioned her to curate an evening of previously unpublished and unproduced short works by William Inge, she entitled Inge: Complex, featuring the world premieres of six of his “lost” one-acts in conjunction with their first publication; and in subsequent years she conceived, directed, and curated the Festival's lifetime achievement tributes to David Henry Hwang, Arthur Kopit, Donald Margulies and Beth Henley; and their 100th Birthday Tribute to William Inge, Farther Off From Heaven.
For five seasons Ms. Carpenter was Associate Artistic Director for the Tony-winning Old Globe Theater, where she was artistic producer for over 40 plays and musicals by theatrical luminaries such as Arthur Miller, Tom Stoppard, Marvin Hamlisch, Jack O’Brien, Dan Sullivan, Mark Lamos, Stephen Wadsworth, John Rando, Henry Krieger, and Nora Ephron; featuring a roster of renowned actors: Ellen Burstyn, Dana Delaney, Cherry Jones, Swoosie Kurtz, John Lithgow, and Norburt Leo Butz among them. Her own most noteworthy productions there: the American premiere of Abi Morgan’s Splendour (Critic’s Choice, Los Angeles Times), Nilo Cruz’s Two Sisters and a Piano (Critic’s Choice, Los Angeles Times), Jeffrey Hatcher’s Smash (Patté Award), and Harold Pinter’s Betrayal (Craig Noel Award, The Reader’s “Best Bet”). She revived the Shakespeare Festival there, and her production of As You Like It that season was chosen Best of the Year by San Diego Magazine.
In 2005 she left the Old Globe to devote herself exclusively to working with writers on new plays. Upon leaving, Karen was one of a select few nominees nationwide for the Alan Schneider Award at TCG, and the Mike Ockrent Fellowship at SSDC.
Deemed a “provocateur” and “impresario” by the press for her Indianapolis Symphony concerts, Riot of Spring featuring Roger Rees, and Hear Art, See Music Live, featuring artists André Miripolsky and Michael Arthur; tickets were in such demand for her concerts that they were standing room only for the first time in this symphony's history. Karen also staged the American Premiere of Jonathan Dove's opera Mansfield Park, Top of the Heap by Jeffrey Lodin and William Squier, for the New York Musical Festival (Director’s Choice Award), and a new commedia operetta, Mira Spektor and Caroline Balducci’s Giovanni the Fearless, for the League of Professional Theater Women’s 30 Plays for 30 Years.
For several years, Ms. Carpenter served President Clinton as project coordinator for his inaugural and subsequent Clinton Global Initiatives. She was creative director for the launch of the United Nations/World Health Organization’s global campaign to eradicate infant and maternal mortalities worldwide: “Deliver Now for Women and Children”, starring Chaka Kahn, Ricki Lake, Lidya Kebede, and Girls Inc., featuring the first all-female panel in the history of the United Nations. Karen also participated by invitation in the Friends of the U.N.’s think tank for their millennium goals campaign, “The Big Push”.
She directed an outdoor spectacle for Playhouse Square, Dazzle the District, to reveal the largest outdoor chandelier in the world, featuring a cast of 365 local Clevelanders; the launch of the Million Women’s Heart Project: “Take Heart”, a national movement to test a million women for heart health in the U.S., with Donna Karan and a panel of women at the forefront of producing innovative media and news journalism: Deborah Roberts, Ali Wentworth, Pat Mitchell and Joni Evans.
In her early career, Karen was considered one of the top production stage managers on Broadway, where her work included the premieres of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, and Two Trains Running; and musicals such as Les Misérables and Sunset Boulevard. Subsequently, Karen chaired the MFA Stage Management program for the Yale School of Drama, where she managed the premieres of noted playwrights John Guare, Suzan Lori Parks, and Jeffrey Hatcher among many others, as production stage manager for the Yale Repertory Theater.
Karen served on the faculty of the Yale Drama School from 1990-1996. In 2010, her alma mater, Boston University's School of Theatre Arts, established in her honor, The Karen Carpenter Award for Excellence in Theatre Arts, to be given annually to a graduating student of exceptional merit. She has taught master classes in directing, theater production, and stage management in universities across the country, and is authoring a book on these subjects, entitled “Enabling Creativity: Philosophy and Practice”.