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Karen Olivo Reveals Acting Departure, New Life Path

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The very popular and Tony winning Karen Olivo, who was most recently seen appearing in the sold out IN THE HEIGHTS reunion concert in New York City, shared a blog on her web site this morning, revealing a new direction. BWW selfishly hopes that this won't be a permanent break.

Here's what she wrote, entitled 'Starting Over':

I've learned so much in such a short time.

I was young when I decided to be an actor. I was driven and ambitious. I wanted nothing more than to be on a stage and transform myself. That desire grew into a career that has left me proud and amazed.

I have had the luxury of going to an amazing school and working with great teachers. I was even luckier to be cast in my 1st Broadway show before I had graduated. I never took for granted the fact that fortune was smiling down on me. I always worked harder to compensate for my string of good luck. I was always hungry for the next thing. I was never satisfied with my performance or the opinions of others. I have always been left wanting until this past fall.

I split with my 2nd husband of 6 years. I was alone again. I was crushed. And in true Olivo-fashion, I threw myself into my next job. I knew it would be my last for sometime. As I re-arranged my life to move back to NYC for a short stint I sensed a conclusion coming. I knew as I was packing my box of dressing room things that I wasn't likely to use them again. I had one more thing to do, my best work.

The rehearsal process was a blur of anxiety and fury. A small motley crew of actors and writers tried to make sense of a very personal story. And with support and courage we put up a small, down and dirty show that would prove to be my biggest challenge.

I use to say something to my friends in rehearsal that sums up everything now. At the time I used it to explain why I shouldn't belt ridiculously high notes while trying to do a hip-hop move that represented a basketball dunk.

"Just because I can, doesn't mean I should."

My abilities have always been bigger than my desire to share them. That sounds egotistical but if you know me, truly, you know I am anything but.

My desire to share my experience, my heart, and my pain became a need. Every evening I would call our show "going into battle". My cast-mates would laugh or sometimes agree depending on their level of fatigue or illness. However, I meant it. I was at war with myself. I was going out every night and trying to run my well of emotion dry. It's hard to be yourself in front of paying customers. Actors don't do that. That is the opposite of what they are hired for. Yet nightly, I dared myself to show the darkness that I have lived with for 36 years. It was moving to others but most importantly it was informative to me. I started remembering things about my childhood and why I started acting. I learned why I was good at what I did. It was my last lesson before I would leave it all behind.

It puzzles me now as I think back on all of my life's lessons. If I wrote them down it would have been obvious to me what I was destined to do. It took a good look at what I was capable of to see that what I was giving away for the price of a ticket was a fraction of me. I have ignored my desires for some time. I have climbed the ladder because someone said I should, because I owed my talent, my teachers,...myself. All the while I wanted to be on the ground, because I was afraid of heights. (which is completely true.)

"Just because I can, doesn't mean I should."
And with this knowledge I start a new chapter. I leave behind the actor and I start learning how to be me.

Karen Olivo recently played lawyer "Cassie Reynolds" on NBC's HARRY'S LAW opposite Academy Award winner Kathy Bates and appeared Off-Broadway in MURDER BALLAD. Prior to that, she starred as Anita in the acclaimed Broadway revival of West Side Story, directed by Arthur Laurents, a role which garnered her the 2009 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. Karen also earned Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations for her portrayal of the iconic character. In addition, Olivo received her second straight Astaire Award nomination for Best Female Dancer on Broadway, an award she previously won in 2008.

Olivo originated the role of Vanessa in both the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions of the Tony Award-winning musical, In the Heights. Exploring three days in the lives of a group of Dominican-American characters living in Washington Heights, In the Heights was also the recipient of the 2007 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical, the 2007 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, and the 2007 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble. Furthermore, Olivo was featured in In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams, a televised documentary highlighting their road to the New York stage.

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