Karen Wray

Theatre Artist

Time in Greater OC: 24+ Years

Neighborhood: Costa Mesa

Hometown: Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

What are you currently working on?

New Voices Playwright's Theatre spring production. One hour of five Ten Minute Plays, outdoor production, at Stage Door Rep in Anaheim. We're currently rehearsing in my front yard: with the masks and the social distancing! Also in pre-production of a Zoom workshop with Panndora Productions for one of our winning plays from last fall's festival: The Opening of Panndora's Box.

What's been inspiring you recently?

A subscription to National Theater at Home. And lots of Zoom theater. And most recently, talk of reopening theater and what that will look like.

Tell us a story from your childhood that illuminates who you are as an artist.

I caught myself narrating my life out loud. One day my mom asked me if I had loaded the dishwasher; I replied, "She asked firmly." I was reading a lot of Judy Blume then; a lot of her books are in the first person. It’s a great way for a young person to tap into subtext, and how important it is.

Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

Julie Andrews, Alan Alda, Edward Albee, Moliere, August Wilson; every playwright we've ever produced at Panndora: Tracy Godfrey, Ben Jolivet, Ken Pisani, Alexandra Petri, to name a few.

What kind of theatre excites you?

I love straight plays with beautiful sets and fabulous lighting, but I also love when mixed media is added, like puppets and projections. Set design is so cool. I also love fast-paced dialogue. I love subject matter that challenges a way of thinking and can influence change and growth within an audience member.

What's the craziest thing you have ever needed to do for theatre?

I stage managed a play where I had to push buttons for various fireworks sound effects and hit the various lights to make it look like fireworks were happening down the street. It went on for 5 minutes under the actor's dialogue, THAT was fun! Also auditioning, it scares the heck out of me!

Outside of a theatre, what's your favorite hot spot in Orange County?

Downtown Orange is gorgeous and I also love the art walk in downtown Santa Ana. I'm also partial to Knott's Berry Farm. Whenever my family or out-of-town friends come to visit, I take them to these places.

What surprises you the most about your role in the theatre community?

That I keep getting to do it, and all levels. I've directed, acted and stage-managed and it makes me love and respect actors, stage managers, and directors. I like to help build sets, too. I love designers, from their first sketches to the models to the final build. Those folks are brilliant. Playwrights, though... the true heroes of the theater.

What advice do you have for theatre artists just starting out in Orange County?

Go see plays. Visit with folk after the show. If you find a good feel for them, send emails, volunteer, audition, get involved. Stay positive and work hard and you will make a bunch of theater friends. (And they really are the best kind).

Go ahead, promote your things...

New Voices Playwright's Theatre spring production. One hour of five Ten Minute Plays, outdoor production, at Stage Door Rep in Anaheim, April 10, 11, 17, 18 at 2pm. Reservations Required. And my little theater company in Long Beach: www.panndoraproductions.com

Karen Wray