As stages begin to reopen around the globe, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Karen Ziemba, who received Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her performance in Susan Stroman's Tony-winning Contact. She was also Tony-nominated for her work in Curtains, Steel Pier, and Never Gonna Dance, and her other Broadway credits include Prince of Broadway, Bullets Over Broadway, Chicago, Crazy for You, Teddy & Alice, 42nd Street, and A Chorus Line. Ziemba was seen Off-Broadway in The Traveling Lady, Kid Victory, Almost Home, I Do! I Do!, And the World Goes 'Round, Gay Divorce, and Nunsense, and her screen credits include Madam Secretary, Elementary, The Good Wife, Law & Order S.V.U., and The Kennedy Center Honors.
The triple threat returns to the New York stage beginning October 12 in the title role of Gingold Theatrical Group's revival of Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Directed by Artistic Director David Staller, the production will officially open October 27 at Theatre Row for a limited run through November 20. For ticket information visit GingoldGroup.org.
What is your typical day like now?
Well, rehearsing Mrs. Warren’s Profession…learning a lot of lines! According to GB Shaw, Kitty Warren had many opinions and much to say about the world. Apart from that, I’m in rehearsals with the rest of the cast. And my dog, Gertie, still needs to be walked three times a day.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Anything PBS is always top of my list. I’m also looking forward to binging the second season of Ted Lasso, because it makes me happy and actually belly laugh.
How did this role come along?
A few years back I did a production of Shaw’s Heartbreak House with the Gingold Group—and I’ve also done many readings for their Project Shaw series. When the chance to do Mrs. Warren’s Profession came along, I jumped at it. She’s a strong but flawed woman in business, who raises issues about the objectification of women and Victorian ideas of morality. It’s a role you can really sink your teeth into.
How do you think Mrs. Warren's Profession speaks to today’s world?
It’s a play about strong women speaking their truth.
How do you feel about returning to live performance?
I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve missed a live audience, and I’ve missed the camaraderie of being in rehearsals with so many talented people who make up an entire company… onstage and backstage.
What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to a theatre?
Everyone has their own degree of comfort. You should trust your gut—and also take into account your own individual health. When I’m an audience member now, I wear a mask.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
We all need to listen to each other. And make sure that everyone has a voice and is respected and heard. As an actor, when expressing myself in my work, it’s by inhabiting other characters, telling stories, sharing many points of view. That is a way to explore human connections. Sometimes in conflict. Yet, out of conflict can come connection and understanding—but only if we truly listen to each other.
What advice would you give someone who might be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
This has been a disorienting time for so many of us. When we feel so isolated, it’s hard to remember that we’re not alone. Be kind to yourself. I encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out to others—whether friends or family. And if you need to, don’t be hesitant about talking to a professional.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past year-and-a-half that you didn’t already know?
I’m a much better cook than I thought. And having to record an audio book for Simon & Schuster during the first week of the shutdown, I instantly became a fairly decent recording engineer. Also, I was privileged to be among a small group of loved ones who cared for my late, dear friend Rebecca Luker. Because our business was shut down, our community was able to be present to care for her. It was an enormous gift to be with her and her beautiful transcendent spirit—to realize how precious life is, how fleeting, and how there’s nothing more important than the people you love.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I feel strongly about supporting The Actors Fund. Also BC/EFA. And, there are so many people hungry in our city, organizations helping to feed people, like Citymeals on Wheels, City Harvest, the Food Bank, and others, have been vital in helping families and individuals make it through this crisis.