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Karen Bovard

Karen Bovard

Karen Bovard reviewied 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.


BWW Review: SITI Company's Updated, International BACCHAE at Guthrie Theater
March 12, 2020

Euripides' BACCHAE is one of the bloodiest of the Greek tragedies we have: a grisly tale of how violently the capricious Olympian gods can retaliate on mortals if they feel disrespected. Here, the god in question is Dionysus, god of wine, passion, fertility--and theater. As played by Ellen Lauren, he's sinewy and androgynous and lewd: part Mick Jagger, part mad imp.

BWW Review: THUNDER KNOCKING AT THE DOOR at Ten Thousand Things
March 9, 2020

Enjoy a rare thing: A black musical rooted in the blues that conjures up mythic characters and is also, fundamentally, a feel-good family story. THUNDER KNOCKING ON THE DOOR in the hands of the social activist theater company Ten Thousand Things is a celebration of love, music, movement, and the mystical moments that cause us to transform into new, fuller versions of ourselves.

March 8, 2020

Theater can be a place to get to know your neighbors, and their stories. That's what's happening in a short run of an original work about contemporary Hmong-American women at the Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul. It was devised there, based on multiple interviews conducted by Sara Zatz, the Associate Director of the Ping Chong Company from New York City. FACE TO FACE is the latest in a series running since 1992, with over 60 original scripts.

BWW Review: THE WHITE CARD at Penumbra Offers a Brainy Rollercoaster on Race and Art
February 20, 2020

Director Talvin Wilks puts it well: a?oeJourneying into the writing of Claudia Rankine is like taking a roller coaster ride through our nation's most complex and subtle quandaries regarding race.a?? THE WHITE CARD is a new play by the renowned 2016 MacArthur Fellow, and author of five collections of poetry. THE WHITE CARD avoids simplistic slogans in favor of a far more nuanced autopsy of the way that white privilege (and the obliviousness and self-righteousness it fosters) infect the actions of well-meaning white people.

February 16, 2020

SUPERMAN BECOMES LOIS LANE is an autobiographical play, tracing the transgender transition of a Saint Paul politician. Fledgling playwright Susan Kimberley was once an investment banker, a lobbyist, and chair of the Saint Paul City Council in her earlier identity as Bob Sylvester. (She also served on the board of the History Theatre for a decade.) Bouncing around a bit in time, she shares the winding and sometimes bumpy course of her courageous journey to live a life consonant with her inner identity.

BWW Review: NOURA Anchors Celebration of Arab Artistry at the Guthrie
February 2, 2020

Heather Raffo's NOURA, a variation on themes from Ibsen's A DOLL'S HOUSE set within an immigrant Iraqi family, serves as the mainstage anchor for an ambitious, multi-month series of four shows plus a distinguished panel talk at the Guthrie Theater. Collectively, these comprise the theater's Celebration of Arab Artistry. It's been a vital, eye-opening, boundary-crossing initiative. Artistic Director Joseph Haj says, a?oeExpanding the idea of what the classical canon is and should look like is very much in the Guthrie's charge.a??

BWW Review: Spectacular JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Orpheum Theatre
January 26, 2020

The touring production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at the Orpheum this week is just what the Hennepin Theatre Trust calls it: spectacular. Staged originally in London in 2017, it won that year's Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. This young company is brim full of talent and energy. They bring unrelenting vitality to this production, which marks (yep, really!) the 50th anniversary of this show.

BWW Review: Skillful, Riveting A DOLL'S HOUSE PART 2 at Jungle Theater
January 20, 2020

If the idea of an update to one of the world's most groundbreaking plays makes you dubious, because you think it will be a stodgy yawner or because you believe classics should not be messed with, or if you know little about Ibsen's most famous play, and so think you'll be too clueless to get this one, be reassured: the Jungle's production of A DOLL'S HOUSE PART 2 is both accessible and riveting.

BWW Review: Gorgeous and Grim BERNARDA ALBA at Theater Latte Da
January 20, 2020

This musical adaptation of Lorca's all-female play is visually arresting, aurally reminiscent of flamenco, and provides a grim dissection of misogynistic oppression within one female-headed household.

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.

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