Being adrift in the entertainment doldrums of summer – Westside’s Broadway revue a couple of weeks off, Riverfront’s “Cheaper By the Dozen” not quite open (it starts Saturday, July 16), and the school year not even on the horizon – I thought it would be a good time for a profile story. Summer is a time of travel and this is the story of one actor’s journey northward.
Karen C. Fox’s theater journey began with “the hook.” When she was 10, her mother took her to an audition at Shasta College for “A Christmas Carol,” hoping to give her an outlet for her excess energy. She was cast as Belinda Cratchit, the cast showered her with attention and doughnuts, and she was hooked. Theater can do that to a person. And she’s been hooked ever since. This fall, Karen will begin courses at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. That sounded exciting and I wanted to know more about her journey and the twists and turns she’s taken along the way.
“I saw my first Shakespeare play at OSF when I was 14. I was enthralled! When I found out there was a college in Ashland I knew I had to go. It took me this long to risk rejection and try,” she said.
And between then and now? Well, I met Karen Fox (then Karen Jackson) when I was doing a play at Redding’s Riverfront Playhouse in 2000. It was also during this show, (“Our Miss Brooks”), that she met her future husband, Ted Fox. This teenager was zipping around doing tech work, helping with costumes, painting the set, rewiring lights. After the show opened she became our make-up artist. She did the work of four people, which was nothing new for her.
“In high school I did anything and everything I could possibly do at the theater (at Roseburg High in Roseburg, Oregon) and at the local community theater, U.A.C.T (Umpqua Actors Community Theater),” Karen said. “I did sound, costumes, and set painting as well as performing in a variety of shows at both venues. I joined the International Thespian Society my senior year and I got lifetime membership and several awards that year for acting.”
After taking a year and a half break from school in Reno, Karen moved back to Roseburg to start as a theater major at Umpqua Community College. She took acting classes and got back on stage, earning talent grants that paid her way through her first year and a half. Moving to Redding for a while to save money brought her back to Riverfront Playhouse and a part as “Big Mama” in “Cindy Ella’s Goin’ to the Ball, Baby” – still one of her favorite roles. From here she hopped over to San Francisco to attend film school, acting in more student films than she produced herself. But wait, there’s more! Karen and her new husband Ted headed south for a 2-year immersion in the tech program at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) in Santa Maria, California, graduating in 2004.
Moving back to Chico after graduating, Ted joined the IATSE Local 16 and found work in San Francisco. Karen opted for more school, this time earning her AA in social and behavioral science from Butte College in 2006. She joined her husband in SF then and also joined the stage hand’s union. “After about a year and a half, I was tired of working conventions. A dear friend of mine was going through a rough time, so Ted and I decided the time was right to move back to Chico and buy a house.” That same friend told her about an open teaching position. Karen applied and was hired to teach drama and run the Drama Club for Children’s Community Charter School. This prompted her to really get back into acting and she began auditioning for shows at local venues.
This resulted in landing roles in five shows in 2008 and even directing one. She also started participating in an outreach program called Shakespeare in the Schools (SITS). All was going well, theater-wise, but due to budget cuts in 2010, Karen lost her job. Now, have you ever noticed how loss can lead to gain? Or, when one door closes, another opens? Karen was at a loss for what to do next.
“Ted asked me, ‘What have you always wanted to do but never had the guts to?’ I said, ‘The theater program at SOU.’ He said, ‘Then that’s what you’ll do.’” So she applied, was accepted, and that is how she ended up moving to Ashland this fall. It is not, however, the end of an actor’s journey. It is but the beginning of a new Act, Scene 1.
Footnote: Karen C. Fox is a fan of the Steampunk genre and for her birthday last May she hosted a Steampunk-themed party. I asked her about her interest in this subculture. “As a longtime theater performer and enthusiast, there is a natural draw to costume, history, and the ‘what-ifs’ that are dreamed up by an active imagination. I know a lot of actors who express themselves through painting or writing. Steampunk lets my imagination run wild with what-ifs. It’s a fantastic creative outlet.”
If the reader hasn’t the faintest idea what we’re talking about, I recommend you start here:
An actor, director, and artist, Dean Williams has appeared on Shasta County stages for over 25 years in nearly 100 different roles. He has collaborated with many theater groups and is co-founder of The Root Theatre Company. He has also voiced characters for Sega and Playstation video games, acted for a number of radio, televison and independent film projects, and now also serves as A News Cafe’s editor of Stage Manager listings. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.