Karen Saari

Karen Saari

Karen Saari writes plays with themes of redemption, hope and humor in the face of obstacles. Her early roots in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are evident in most of her work. She also writes about robots and witches. So there's that.

Her full-length plays include ‘RAIN ON FIRE, BAD IN BED (A FAIRY TALE), IN A CLEARING, TRAGEDY SOUND, MORNINGS WITH JUNE and ROCKHOUND. She also wrote the...
Karen Saari writes plays with themes of redemption, hope and humor in the face of obstacles. Her early roots in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are evident in most of her work. She also writes about robots and witches. So there's that.

Her full-length plays include ‘RAIN ON FIRE, BAD IN BED (A FAIRY TALE), IN A CLEARING, TRAGEDY SOUND, MORNINGS WITH JUNE and ROCKHOUND. She also wrote the book and co-lyrics (with composer Jennifer Hedstrom) for TEN DAYS IN A MADHOUSE. One-acts include JOYLAND and GUN STORY.

Karen is a three-time O’Neill NPC semi-finalist (IN A CLEARING, MORNINGS WITH JUNE), two-time ATHE Award/Judith Royer Excellence in Playwriting finalist and a two-time Princess Grace Fellowship semi-finalist (IN A CLEARING, BAD IN BED).

Her plays have been developed and/or produced with Flint Repertory Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, Magnetic Theatre Company, Forward Theater Company, The Shattered Glass Project, Broad Horizons Theatre Company, Vintage Theatre Company, Stray Dog Theatre, Acadiana Repertory, Last Frontier (Valdez) Theatre Festival, William Inge Theater Festival, The Blank Theatre, Otherworld Theatre, among others.
She was commissioned by Music Theatre of Madison to co-write TEN DAYS IN A MADHOUSE, which celebrated a successful world premiere in Aug 2022. Its four-year development process included a public reading in Dec. 2019 and a workshop podcast (a COVID-forced alternative to original plans) was awarded two NAMT development grants.

Other honors include 2023 Playwrights Realm semi-finalist (TRAGEDY SOUND), 2022 Panndora Productions New Works Festival Honorable Mention (MORNINGS WITH JUNE), 2020 TalkBack Theatre Playwriting Prize (‘RAIN ON FIRE), The 4208 Group’s 2021 Audience Favorite Award (JOYLAND), 2018 Garry Marshall New Play Festival semi-finalist (BAD IN BED), 2022 The City Theatre National Playwriting Contest finalist (JOYLAND).

Karen is a performing arts instructor at Madison Area Technical College and a mom to two awesome kids. She earned her MFA in playwriting from Augsburg University. She intends to keep writing plays as long as the characters keep tapping her on the shoulder.

Plays

  • 'Rain on Fire
    Marie comes home to plan her addicted mother Lorraine’s funeral. "Rain" left a surprising final wish for Marie and her cousin Caleb, a meth user, to fulfill together. Marie struggles with her anger and loss in a tense, and often funny, play that deals with the opiate crisis in Michigan's northwoods.
  • Tragedy Sound
    Three young women accept a dare and embark on a canoe trek on frigid waters. Dangerous conditions prevail and force them to reveal and face the choices they've made and the trappings of life in their confining hometown.
  • TEN DAYS IN A MADHOUSE
    CO-WRITTEN with JENNIFER HEDSTROM. A musical reimagining of Nellie Bly's time undercover at Blackwell's Island Insane Asylum. In 1887 Nellie Bly infiltrated the notorious asylum and forged connections with several inmates, who were not insane at all. The stunt catapulted her journalistic career. This musical retelling examines the impact her stay had on Nellie's own psyche, considering trauma...
    CO-WRITTEN with JENNIFER HEDSTROM. A musical reimagining of Nellie Bly's time undercover at Blackwell's Island Insane Asylum. In 1887 Nellie Bly infiltrated the notorious asylum and forged connections with several inmates, who were not insane at all. The stunt catapulted her journalistic career. This musical retelling examines the impact her stay had on Nellie's own psyche, considering trauma from her childhood. Originally written on commission for Music Theater of Madison. Contact playwright/co-lyricist for score perusal. Book & co-lyrics by Karen Saari. Music and co-lyrics by Jennifer Hedstrom.
  • Bad in Bed (A Fairy Tale)
    Charles’ third wife has just informed him she’s leaving. As he reels from the news and the reason she gives, he spends a weekend with his best friend Jack and their college friend Betsy, an up and coming author. Betsy, a former Wiccan, reveals a secret from their college days that could be the reason for Charles’ failed relationships.

    Can Betsy help Charles win back his wife? Maybe, with the...
    Charles’ third wife has just informed him she’s leaving. As he reels from the news and the reason she gives, he spends a weekend with his best friend Jack and their college friend Betsy, an up and coming author. Betsy, a former Wiccan, reveals a secret from their college days that could be the reason for Charles’ failed relationships.

    Can Betsy help Charles win back his wife? Maybe, with the help of a Finnish coven.
  • In a Clearing
    Mark is a newly recovering alcoholic living in his hometown of Carp Lake, Wisconsin. He's recently grown close to Pam, a childhood friend who is back home following a family tragedy. As Mark copes with a life of sobriety, he begins having flashbacks to an event that threaten the life he is trying to rebuild. This play shares an intense but often humorous look at addiction recovery and loss, especially in the rural midwest.
  • Mornings with June
    June is a once successful radio personality who has returned to her northern Michigan hometown after a series of personal and on-air disasters. Living with her mom, she grudgingly takes a job as a morning show host at the town's radio station, shabbily run by the overworked Wilbert. June is also forced to collaborate with her high school tormentor, Melanie. As June struggles to start over, she may need...
    June is a once successful radio personality who has returned to her northern Michigan hometown after a series of personal and on-air disasters. Living with her mom, she grudgingly takes a job as a morning show host at the town's radio station, shabbily run by the overworked Wilbert. June is also forced to collaborate with her high school tormentor, Melanie. As June struggles to start over, she may need make peace with more of her past--and herself--than she expected.
  • EGG DROP, 10-minute play
    A group of teenage girls realize something is not quite right about their friend's recent behavior. But have they figured it out too late?
  • Joyland
    (10-minute play) Lorna is a young single mother who needs a job. When she applies for a retail gig at a Disney-like corporation, she is screened by an automated interviewer who is an android/princess with an agenda of her own. A class-based battle of wits ensues in this one-act comedy.
  • Gun Story
    (10-15 minute play) Two parents of high school athletes meet and discover they have a connection through their kids. An offhand joke triggers a surprising reaction in this story related to the gun debate.
  • Rockhound
    Rain, a lonely widow, has a growing addiction to painkillers and forms a close bond with her kind
    but unstable nephew Caleb. Caleb, fighting his own demons, tries to help her cope with
    her growing dependency and her grief. They both risk falling prey to the trappings of the
    drug trade in their hometown. This play, punctuated with humor, shares a look at the
    opiate crisis in rural...
    Rain, a lonely widow, has a growing addiction to painkillers and forms a close bond with her kind
    but unstable nephew Caleb. Caleb, fighting his own demons, tries to help her cope with
    her growing dependency and her grief. They both risk falling prey to the trappings of the
    drug trade in their hometown. This play, punctuated with humor, shares a look at the
    opiate crisis in rural America, particularly Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Companion piece to 'Rain on Fire.
  • SAINT TAMMY
    (10-minute play) Tammy is perfectly happy with her poor life choices and selfish ways until a guy claiming to be Jesus tells her she needs to save her born-again-Christian sister. NOT a religious play, but a satire on religion.
  • The Ones Who Stay
    (15-minute play) Two people find a happy respite in a very sad place. A play about connection and making the best of things.
  • A Robot, a Clown and a Turban
    (10-minute play) Spend a day in the life of a robot, a clown and their co-workers in an otherwise mundane office environment. This stew of oddballs will make you laugh and maybe even cheer as they prove that when we have to, anyone can find love and anyone can get along.
  • Every Woman in the World
    (Monologue, 3-5 min) A woman shares a bittersweet love story.
  • Burning for You
    (Monlogue, 3-5 mins) A slightly dark but humorous look at quitting smoking. Told from an unusual perspective.
  • Only a Paper Moon
    (Monologue, 3 mins) A high school principal fights their own appreciation for a good practical joke.