Interview: Director, Karen Thornton of AGNES OF GOD at Summit Playhouse

Director, Karen Thornton of AGNES OF GOD

By: Jan. 23, 2024
Interview: Director, Karen Thornton of AGNES OF GOD at Summit Playhouse

Summit Playhouse, one of the oldest continuously operating amateur community theaters in the United States, will be presenting Agnes of God from February 23rd to March 9th. Broadwayworld had the pleasure of interviewing the show’s director, Karen Thornton about her career and the upcoming production.

Thornton is an actor, director, and producer located in New Jersey. Recent directing credits includeThe Diary of Anne Frank (Summit Playhouse); acting: Cyrano (Wharton Community Players), Sense & Sensibility (Mrs Dashwood, Summit Playhouse), Amityville ‘74 (Louise, interACT Theatre Productions), A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Nora, Summit Playhouse), Enchanted April (Lotty, Summit Playhouse), To Kill a Mockingbird (Jean Louise, Summit Playhouse). She has appeared on various stages in Chicago, New York, and Atlanta, where some favorite credits include: The Royal Family (Steppenwolf Theatre), Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare), Dimly Perceived Threats to the System (Stage Left Theatre), Ghetto (Famous Door Theatre Co.), and Talking With (Out of Box Theatre). She holds an MA in theatre and currently serves as VP of The Summit Playhouse. 

What was your very first experience in live theatre?

My first experience on stage came during the Bicentennial Pageant of  Franklin County at age 12, where the finale contained fireworks, a huge American flag, and Neil Diamond. It was epic. In high school I played Ethel Toffelmier in The Music Man. I can still Shipoopi with the best of them.

You wear many hats.  How do you juggle the diverse elements of your entertainment career?

Like pretty much everyone involved in entertainment and the theatre, the love of everything keeps us going. I've found as growing older I've developed an appreciation for more aspects of theatre; acting used to be my main focus, but I also find great satisfaction in directing as well as the administrative areas. Being involved in the theatre community of New Jersey makes me a better person all around. 

Tell us about someone who you consider a mentor.

Janet Field-Pickering, my high school English teacher, is the reason for everything creative I do. She cast me as  Kate Keller in The Miracle Worker my senior year, and she became a confidant and friend after I graduated. She eventually left teaching and served as the head of education for The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. I remember calling her in a panic in the middle of the day because I had an audition for Chicago Shakespeare and needed to perform a monologue from Twelfth Night. She dropped everything she was doing to help me with this, providing me advice and encouragement. She also gave me the best advice I ever received: stick your nose in, meaning if there's something you want, a job, a part, an involvement in the theatre, go and ask. You may be surprised at how many people will answer. 

Summit Playhouse is known for fine productions.  Why do you think this community theatre has been so successful?

I love The Summit Playhouse! Community theatre has been successful for so many reasons. New Jersey community theatre has to be the best out there, mainly because we're located so close to Broadway, and a lot of NJ's residents have a lot of theatre experience. Most of the theatres in the state rely on volunteers to get the shows up, and all of these grassroots efforts create a strong bond and community. We may not have crashing chandeliers and spinning DeLoreans, but we have so much heart and dedication. Not to mention much cheaper ticket prices!

Tell us a little about the cast and creative team for Agnes of God.

My cast and creative team for Agnes of God is top notch. I have three supremely talented female actors: Missy Renwick (Agnes), Jennifer Padley (Doctor Livingstone), and Debra Carozza (Mother Superior). I like to give actors the opportunity to speak up when they feel like something isn't working and to try their own spin. My cast has amazing instincts. The creative team includes Producer: Leslie Schwartz, Stage Manager: Christine Petruzzell, Assistant Stage Manager: Paris Bates, Set Design: Gordon Wiener, Set Construction: Ed Whittman & Roy Pancirov, Sound Design: Samori Etienne, Assistant Sound Design: Wendy Roome, Lighting Design: Mark Reilly, Props: Paula Ehrenberg, Costumes: Ann Lowe, Fight/Intimacy Director: Katie Claire, and Dramaturgy: Grace Ahlin. All of these people have put a tremendous amount of sweat equity into this show, and it wouldn't be possible without them.

What would you like people to know about the show?

We tend to look for answers as human beings, but we also need to realize we get a lot of information from the questions, and the questions can teach us a lot. The three roles in this show may be some of the best ever written in the theatre, and they really give them room to shine. Faith and reason discussions have been going on for 100 years, and I don't see them stopping any time soon. I think many people will come and see the show with one mindset and leave with another, or at least be challenged in their held beliefs. 

Can you share some of your plans for the future?

I hope to keep enjoying New Jersey community theatre as a director and actor, and hopefully spread my wings as a playwright. I'm really proud of this community, and I feel grateful to be a part of it. Let's keep challenging and encouraging each other to put up excellent local theatre. 

Agnes of God runs from February 23 through March 9 at The Summit Playhouse, 10 New England Avenue, Summit NJ. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.thesummitplayhouse.org/. You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thesummitplayhouse/ and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/summitplayhouse/.

Photo Credit: Kyle LeMaire



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