Karen Carpenter directed the premiere of Love Loss and What I Wore, by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron. The play was a smash hit, broke box office records, won the Drama Desk Award for Best Unique Theatrical Experience, and ran a record three years Off-Broadway, featuring rotating celebrity casts. Karen directed over 150 of our most celebrated comediennes in the show: Rosie O’Donnell, Jane Lynch, Marlo Thomas, Fran Drescher, Rhea Perlman, Tyne Daly, Natasha Lyonne, Kate Mulgrew, Kristen Chenoweth, Barbara Feldon, Caroline Rhea, and Janeane Garofolo, among them. The show is now enjoyed world-wide. Additional companies have played throughout the U.S., and a new tour is out in the U.S. this year.
Karen is the Artistic Director of the William Inge Center for the Arts and produces its annual Inge Festival, which honors a singular Playwright for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater, each year. She has directed Lifetime Achievement tributes to David Henry Hwang, Arthur Kopit, Donald Margulies and the 100th Birthday Tribute to William Inge, Farther Off From Heaven; and developmental readings of many playwrights in residence, for the Inge Center. In 2009, the Inge Foundation commissioned her to curate and direct an evening of previously unproduced short works by William Inge, which she entitled Inge: Complex, featuring the world premieres of five of his “lost” one-acts in conjunction with their first publication.
Her stage work includes the off-Broadway and West Coast premieres of New York Times Critic’s pick Handle With Care, by Jason Odell Williams, Surflight Theater's Wizard of Oz, the premiere of Witnessed by the World at 59E59, regional productions of The Vagina Monologues at Bucks County Playhouse, starring Andrea McArdle, Lea Delaria, and Adriene Lenox, and the premiere of Wendy Yondorf’s Admit One in a sold- out run at New Jersey Rep. She directed Michael Keaton in The 24HR Plays for the Festival de Sole, Napa; Kelly Bishop and Beth Fowler in Steel Magnolias at Papermill Playhouse; premiered Rosemary Loar’s fractured-fairytale rock musical, Spoolie Girl, for the Midtown International Theater Festival (Best of the Fest,) and Mary Walsh’s Dancing With Rage, which toured Canada.
For five seasons Ms. Carpenter was Associate Artistic Director of the Tony-winning Old Globe Theater, where she served as artistic producer for over 40 plays and musicals by such theatrical luminaries 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, and John Lithgow, 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”). Her production of As You Like It for the Old Globe was chosen Best of the Year by San Diego Magazine.
For her events company, The Figment Factory, she has directed Dazzle the District, an outdoor spectacle for Playhouse Square revealing the largest outdoor chandelier in the world, featuring a cast of 365 Clevelanders; and the launch of the Million Women’s Heart Project: “Take Heart”, 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. She was line producer for Moet-Hennessey’s first Louis Vuitton Car Show at Rockefeller Center, a sumptuous display of the most precious antique cars in the world; President Clinton’s inaugural Clinton Global Initiative; and the PBS Festival of Teaching & Learning with the original presentation of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. She conceived/directed the launch of the U.N. and W.H.O global campaign, “Deliver Now for Women and Children,” featuring Chaka Kahn & Ricki Lake in Bryant Park.
In her early career, Karen was production stage manager on Broadway for 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. She subsequently chaired the M.F.A. Stage Management program for Yale Drama, where she managed the premieres of John Guare, Suzan Lori Parks, and Jeffrey Hatcher, among many, for the Yale Repertory Theater.
In 2010, Boston University's School of Theatre Arts established The Karen Carpenter Award for Excellence in Theatre Arts, given annually to a graduating student of exceptional merit. She has taught master classes in directing, stage management and producing in colleges across the country, and is authoring a book on these subjects, entitled “Enabling Creativity: Philosophy and Practice. Faculty, Yale Drama School, 1990-1996. For more, follow Karen at kcdirector.com, on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr @kcdirector