Karen Bovard

Karen Bovard Karen Bovard has been reviewing theater online, in weekly arts papers, and in scholarly journals for 20 years in New England. In 2016, she relocated to Saint Paul, MN. She's been making theater for more than 40 years, amassing over 70 directing credits. An avid theater goer, she's seen professional productions of all of Shakespeare's plays, completing the canon from the audience pov. She holds a Ph.D. in Theater & Women's Studies. A global educator, she has lived, studied, or worked in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Russia, France, and Germany.


MOST POPULAR ARTICLES
LAST 30 DAYS

BWW Review:  Immersive CHICAGO at Theater Latte DaBWW Review: Immersive CHICAGO at Theater Latte Da
Posted: Sep. 29, 2019


BWW Review: Tender GLASS MENAGERIE at GuthrieBWW Review: Tender GLASS MENAGERIE at Guthrie
Posted: Sep. 24, 2019


BWW Review: FRIENDS WITH GUNS by Uprising Productions at Off Leash Art BoxBWW Review: FRIENDS WITH GUNS by Uprising Productions at Off Leash Art Box
Posted: Sep. 24, 2019


BWW Review: Regional Premiere of GLORIA: A LIFE at History TheatreBWW Review: Regional Premiere of GLORIA: A LIFE at History Theatre
Posted: Oct. 1, 2019


BWW Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at JungleBWW Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Jungle
Posted: Sep. 15, 2019


BWW Review: Eloquent, Timely PIPELINE at Penumbra TheatreBWW Review: Eloquent, Timely PIPELINE at Penumbra Theatre
Posted: Oct. 8, 2019


LAST 365 DAYS

BWW Review: World Premiere of Fast, Funny, Smart STEWARDESS! at History TheatreBWW Review: World Premiere of Fast, Funny, Smart STEWARDESS! at History Theatre
Posted: Feb. 18, 2019


BWW Review: Masterful CYRANO DE BERGERAC at Guthrie TheaterBWW Review: Masterful CYRANO DE BERGERAC at Guthrie Theater
Posted: Mar. 28, 2019


BWW Review: METAMORPHOSES at GuthrieBWW Review: METAMORPHOSES at Guthrie
Posted: Apr. 22, 2019


BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at the GuthrieBWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at the Guthrie
Posted: Jul. 2, 2019


BWW Review: SISTERS OF PEACE at History TheatreBWW Review: SISTERS OF PEACE at History Theatre
Posted: Mar. 27, 2019


BWW Review: Intimate, Funny, Moving INTO THE WOODS at Ten Thousand ThingsBWW Review: Intimate, Funny, Moving INTO THE WOODS at Ten Thousand Things
Posted: Mar. 4, 2019


BWW Review: World Premiere of BENEVOLENCE at Penumbra TheatreBWW Review: World Premiere of BENEVOLENCE at Penumbra Theatre
Posted: Feb. 25, 2019


BWW Review: ZAFIRA AND THE RESISTANCE at Dowling Studio/Guthrie
October 13, 2019

The 9th floor black box space at the Guthrie showcases short runs of plays that foreground diverse voices from local and international companies. This season, they've chosen a string of works featuring Arab artists. Currently up is ZAFIRA AND THE RESISTANCE, by Kathryn Haddad, mounted by the Minnesota based New Arab American Theater Works, a non-profit educational group that's been mission driven for 20 years.

BWW Review: Food, Family, Mortality in AUBERGINE at Park Square Theatre
October 12, 2019

AUBERGINE is, like its title, a quirky cross-cultural offering; like eggplant, it won't be to everyone's taste. It's a meditation circling around the ways food, family, memory, and mortality intertwine. Personally, I found it engaging though longer than it needs to be, at 2 hours and 10 minutes, including intermission.

BWW Review: Eloquent, Timely PIPELINE at Penumbra Theatre
October 8, 2019

Playwright Dominique Morisseau is a gifted rising voice in the theater, recognized with a 2018 Macarthur 'Genius' Grant. Her straight play PIPELINE centers contemporary lives we see on stage too rarely: an anguished black mother trying to keep her teenage son safe, and her financially successful ex-husband, estranged from both of them. Because Morisseau drops us into both public and private school dilemmas for people of color, we gain insight into the deep inequities in our educational systems in this country, though this never feels like an 'issue play' for two reasons: there is no grasping for simple resolutions and the characters are so thoroughly imagined.

BWW Review: Regional Premiere of GLORIA: A LIFE at History Theatre
October 1, 2019

Gloria Steinem turns 85 this year, and she's still working as a feminist activist. As embodied in this regional premiere by the great Charity Jones, she's as humble as she is savvy. This production dives into her long life, consistently dedicated to issues of women's rights, but full of personal evolution and discovery. Dozens of supporting roles are taken up by a strong ensemble of six additional women, dedicated to explicating Steinem's life in both the personal and public arenas. The play unrolls in brisk, forthright, direct address to the audience.

BWW Review: Immersive CHICAGO at Theater Latte Da
September 29, 2019

Theater Latte Da is justly famous locally for high quality intimate takes on the American musical. This time, they've done their best to erase all division between audience and actor, creating the feel of a 1920s speakeasy in their 240 seat proscenium space. Full disclosure: I don't much like CHICAGO as a show (largely because it strikes me as so deeply cynical, plus I'm not a big Fosse/Verdon fan) but I can't fault this production in the slightest. If this is your thing, you'll love it. With its inherent critique of egregious lying in order to stay in the media spotlight so as to avoid justice, it's topical, too, I'd say.

BWW Review: Tender GLASS MENAGERIE at Guthrie
September 24, 2019

The Guthrie's current production of THE GLASS MENAGERIE (the fifth in its history) is delicate and heartbreaking as well as absolutely faithful to the non-naturalistic spirit of the play, which was so ground-breaking in its day. And while theater nowadays often bounds over all the strictures of realism, making us accustomed to imagistic writing, non-linear structure, and conceptual design, in no way does GLASS MENAGERIE as staged here seem clunky or old-fashioned. It's a true classic and a masterpiece and perhaps, as the young woman sitting next to me said, may remain so for all time.

BWW Review: FRIENDS WITH GUNS by Uprising Productions at Off Leash Art Box
September 24, 2019

Issue driven theater can too often be, well, bad theater: haranguing, simplistic, didactic, predictable. Thankfully, FRIENDS WITH GUNS avoids those pitfalls. Playwright Stephanie Alison Walker, a frequent finalist in a handful of prestigious competitions, has written a contemporary piece from a feminist point of view which doesn't take sides. If there is a message here, it is that we need to commit to listening to one another, especially if we vehemently disagree.

BWW Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Jungle
September 15, 2019

I'm all for efforts to create new ensemble musicals in tune with our times. RIDE THE CYCLONE was composed in 2008 by Canadian artists Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond, played at the Toronto Fringe Festival, and has bumped across Canada and the US (including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Seattle) since then, collecting a fan club as it goes. Funny and tuneful, it has a dark but intriguing premise, a theatrically spooky setting, and some strong musical moments. I just wish it traded less on tired stereotypes. Warning: spoilers ahead.

BWW Review: Mozart Mashup by Mixed Precipitation in their 11th annual Picnic Operetta
August 25, 2019

Mix Mozart with 80's New Wave hits, Roman intrigue with sports rivalries, a stinky but accurate Oracle whose all-seeing eyeballs are made of ping pong rackets studded with tennis balls, and five separate courses of yummy edible treats serve to an audience that lounges on lawn chairs and picnic blankets, in a series of 14 different public gardens or farms over 8 weekends, and what do you have? MIxed Precipitation's 11th annual Picnic Operetta, of course, one of the most fun and inventive community art productions I've ever seen. Only in Minnesota.

BWW Review: World Premiere of Lynn Nottage's Comedy FLOYD'S at the Guthrie
August 6, 2019

Playwright Lynn Nottage matters.  Winner of a MacArthur 'genius' grant, she's also been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2019.  She's the only woman to win two Pulitzer Prizes for drama (for RUINED in 2009 and SWEAT in 2017). Nottage calls FLOYD'S her 'side hustle' to SWEAT.  Commissioned by the Guthrie, it had its world premiere there this past weekend.

BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at the Guthrie
July 2, 2019

With a youthful, multi-racial cast of 30, the Guthrie's current production of GUYS AND DOLLS bolsters its reputation as a theater that can mount classics with flair, fidelity, and design excellence. The lyrics crackle, as ever, the singing soars, the casting features multiple body types and skin tones, and the design pops.

BWW Review: Prime Productions Mounts MARJORIE PRIME at Park Square
April 30, 2019

Playwriting can be a form of thinking, and plays can be thought-experiments. That's true of Jordan Harrison's four actor, 80 minute play MARJORIE PRIME (a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize), set in 2062 and beyond. He's investigating whether advances in artificial intelligence might enable new means of care-giving for older adults losing their memories. Along the way, intriguing questions arise. Though I don't think the play works all that well despite strong work from the actors, I admire Harrison's audacious choice of subject. He's a bold artist, currently writing for Netflix's "Orange is the New Black."

BWW Review: METAMORPHOSES at Guthrie
April 22, 2019

'Bodies' is the first word spoken in Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of Ovid's METAMORPHOSES, and it's the physicality of the story telling that makes this show such a theatrical pleasure. First developed with students at Northwestern, the production went pro and opened on Broadway in 2002 at Circle in the Square. There it created quite a splash, literally: the first two rows of audience were supplied with disposable raincoats. Yes, that's right: METAMORPHOSES is staged in and around a pool.

BWW Review: Masterful CYRANO DE BERGERAC at Guthrie Theater
March 28, 2019

Sometimes all the pieces come together: story, language, visuals, performance, staging.  That's the case with the superb production of the French classic CYRANO DE BERGERAC currently playing on the proscenium stage at the Guthrie.  Artistic director Joseph Haj first created his own adaptation in 2006, and he's tweaked it here. The result is quite faithful to the original but tighter, a little less flowery, and more in keeping with modern notions about female agency.

BWW Review: SISTERS OF PEACE at History Theatre
March 27, 2019

Do you find it hard to imagine how to engage, directly but civilly, with people who hold views you emphatically oppose? If so, make a beeline for History Theater in Saint Paul to see SISTERS OF PEACE. This new play models that very thing several times, even within a nuclear family.

BWW Review: Intimate, Funny, Moving INTO THE WOODS at Ten Thousand Things
March 4, 2019

INTO THE WOODS is new artistic director Marcela Lorca's debut directorial outing for Ten Thousand Things after the retirement of renowned artist and social change agent Michelle Hensley, the founder of the company. Seeing this Sondheim masterpiece up close and stripped of pretentiousness is a treat.

BWW Review: World Premiere of BENEVOLENCE at Penumbra Theatre
February 25, 2019

Ifa Bayeza's (lower case titled) benevolence, the second play in her trilogy revolving around Emmett Till, the 14 year old Chicago boy brutally murdered in the Mississippi Delta in 1955, is hard to watch. It's also important, because it takes us beyond what we think we know to detail the aftermath of Till's violent death on two couples, one white, one black, all real historical figures. Penumbra Theatre in Saint Paul is mounting the world premiere under Talvin Wilks' direction.

BWW Feature: Inclusive and Contemporary AS YOU LIKE IT at Guthrie Theater
February 23, 2019

Director Lavina Jadhwani had a clear intention underlying casting and concept in the Guthrie's current production of AS YOU LIKE IT: to enable audience members from many different heritages and sexualities to see themselves represented on stage. Her intent was fueled, in part, by her own memories of going to theater as a child, and loving it, but never seeing someone who looked like her on stage; she is of South Asian descent. This production is, in Jadhwani's words, meant to be "hereish and nowish" and is informed by a deliberately intersectional feminist lens.

BWW Review: World Premiere of Fast, Funny, Smart STEWARDESS! at History Theatre
February 18, 2019

Briskly written and dynamically staged, this world premiere tells a complicated, true, little known story with wit and economy. From the early days of commercial airlines, stewardesses were hired based on looks, required to pass weekly weight checks, forbidden to wear glasses or marry, and fired automatically when they reached age 32. They were also not allowed to apply for the higher paying bursar jobs. Though it took decades, literally, a stewardess named Mary Pat Laffey got all that to change, persisting with a lawsuit under Equal Employment statutes that derive directly from the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

BWW Review: Compact, All-Female Cast ANTIGONE at Park Square Theatre
February 13, 2019

Let's remember: Antigone was a teenager. This 90 minute intermissionless ANTIGONE is calibrated to work beautifully as a week day field trip for high school students, and succeeds equally well for adult audiences who may be a little rusty on the ancient Greek tale of Oedipus and his offspring. Some 2,500 students will see this show up close: the basement thrust stage is quite intimate. You can't be more than a few rows from the action. Thus lots of teenagers will be confronted with one of the world's great plays, one that turns on themes of family loyalty, ethics, leadership and fate. Creative high school teachers can spin lessons off this for days, in all manner of directions, including the legal and historic grounding for contemporary human rights law.



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