Karen Zacarias

Karen Zacarias

KAREN ZACARÍAS was recently hailed as one of the most produced playwrights in the US. Her award-winning plays include The Copper Children, Destiny of Desire, Native Gardens, The Book Club Play, Legacy of Light, Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, the adaptations of Just Like Us, Into The Beautiful North, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent. She is the author of ten renown TYA musicals and...
KAREN ZACARÍAS was recently hailed as one of the most produced playwrights in the US. Her award-winning plays include The Copper Children, Destiny of Desire, Native Gardens, The Book Club Play, Legacy of Light, Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, the adaptations of Just Like Us, Into The Beautiful North, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent. She is the author of ten renown TYA musicals and the librettist of several Ballets. She is one of the inaugural resident playwrights at Arena Stage, a core founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons, and a founder of Young Playwrights’ Theater. She was voted 2018 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine for her advocacy work in the arts.

Plays

  • Native Gardens
    One of the 10 most produced plays this 2018-2019 season- American Theater Magazine

    Good fences make good neighbors … right?

    A hilarious hot-button comedy
    You can’t choose your neighbors. In this brilliant new comedy, cultures and gardens clash, turning well-intentioned neighbors into feuding enemies. Pablo, a rising attorney, and doctoral candidate Tania, his very pregnant...
    One of the 10 most produced plays this 2018-2019 season- American Theater Magazine

    Good fences make good neighbors … right?

    A hilarious hot-button comedy
    You can’t choose your neighbors. In this brilliant new comedy, cultures and gardens clash, turning well-intentioned neighbors into feuding enemies. Pablo, a rising attorney, and doctoral candidate Tania, his very pregnant wife, have just purchased a home next to Frank and Virginia, a well-established D.C. couple with a prize-worthy English garden. But an impending barbeque for Pablo’s colleagues and a delicate disagreement over a long-standing fence line soon spirals into an all-out border dispute, exposing both couples’ notions of race, taste, class and privilege.

    “Guthrie’s ‘Native Gardens’ is the best stage comedy of the summer”

    – Star Tribune
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    “Native Gardens is a true breath of comic fresh air. It’s a biting, perceptive, and ultimately hopeful sendup to our fraught relationships with those around us – even right next door. Beyond snappy one-liners and garden hose fights, the play challenges audiences to look beyond petty differences and rediscover our shared decency.”

    – DC Theatre Scene
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    “The Guthrie has extended “Native Gardens” another week, and that’s a good thing, because it’s a perfect summer play. It has sharp, witty writing, lots of laughs, a strong cast, a beautiful set, a sense of currency and immediacy, and an ideal summer length: 90 minutes, no intermission. Everything about it clicks and hums.”

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    – Minnesota Post
    Cast & Crew
    2 women // 2 men

    2-4 extras

    View Photo Gallery >
    Production History:
    Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Guthrie Theater, Arena Stage, Victory Gardens, Old Globe Theater, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Trinity Repertory Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Intiman Theater, Florida Studio Stage, Vermont Stage, WaterTower Theater
  • Destiny of Desire: An Unapologetic and Subversive Telenovela for the Stage.
    Destiny of Desire
    “Terrifically entertaining theatrical roller-coaster “Destiny of Desire…is a zany, funny delight”
    – LA Times – Charles McNulty

    On a stormy night in Bellarica, Mexico, two baby girls are born — one into a life of privilege and one into a life of poverty. When the newborns are swapped by a former beauty queen with an insatiable lust for power the stage is set for two...
    Destiny of Desire
    “Terrifically entertaining theatrical roller-coaster “Destiny of Desire…is a zany, funny delight”
    – LA Times – Charles McNulty

    On a stormy night in Bellarica, Mexico, two baby girls are born — one into a life of privilege and one into a life of poverty. When the newborns are swapped by a former beauty queen with an insatiable lust for power the stage is set for two outrageous misfortunes to grow into one remarkable destiny. “A writer of comedic skill” (Variety), Karen Zacarías infuses the Mexican telenovela genre with music, high drama and burning passion to make for a fast-paced modern comedy.

    “Terrifically entertaining theatrical roller-coaster “Destiny of Desire…is a zany, funny delight”

    – LA Times – Charles McNulty

    “Destiny of Desire” may owe a debt to soap operas, miniseries and potboilers of the most shameless variety, but it also shares storytelling DNA with Shakespeare’s romances, in which children are lost, lovers are separated and the lurking threat of death and destruction makes happy endings all the more delectable.” Read More

    – LA Times – Charles McNulty

    “Simply fabulous and riotously funny…highly entertaining. (Destiny of Desire) would make a good Broadway musical.“

    – Chicago Tribune – Chris Jones
  • INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH
    Based on the hilarious and heart-wrenching book by Luis Alberto Urrea- Inspired by the Movie The Maginificent Seven, Nayeli leaves with her best friends goth Vampi, and gay-bar ownder Tacho, to sneak into the US to bring seven Magnificent Mexican Men to defend their town from drug dealers. The epic journey from Sinaloa, Mexico- to- San Diego and finally to Kankakee Illinois- is laugh out loud funny and gut wrenching at the same time.
  • Mariela in the Desert
    Mariela in the Desert
    “When is Art a Lie?”

    Mariela and José were once the golden couple of the Mexican artists’ inner circle. Together they built a family and an artist colony to host friends Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo. But now their daughter has grown up and run away, their friends are too famous to call, and artistic inspiration has been strangled by isolation and lies...
    Mariela in the Desert
    “When is Art a Lie?”

    Mariela and José were once the golden couple of the Mexican artists’ inner circle. Together they built a family and an artist colony to host friends Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo. But now their daughter has grown up and run away, their friends are too famous to call, and artistic inspiration has been strangled by isolation and lies. Set in the northern Mexican desert in 1950, Mariela in the Desert is a deadly mystery—a layered yet profoundly honest story of what happens to a family when creativity is forced to dry and wither away. (ALSO AVAILABLE IN SPANISH)

    “It’s a play much like the family that lives in it. Think of a fraying blanket with many loose threads. Pull just one, and you fear it might all just fall apart. That it never does—the family or the play—is writer Karen Zacarías’ achievement. Her characters are fully drawn and her dialogue is infused with a color all its own “Mariela in the Desert,” lingers in the mind like the sandy desert air.”

    – John Moore, Denver Post
  • Legacy of Light
    Legacy of Light
    “What is the science of love?”

    Two women scientists, living hundreds of years apart, explore the meaning of love, motherhood, family, art and science in this contemporary comedy. Legacy of Light juxtaposes the story of Émilie du Châtelet, a mathematician, scientist, and lover of the great 18th-century philosopher Voltaire, who became unexpectedly pregnant at 42, and that of...
    Legacy of Light
    “What is the science of love?”

    Two women scientists, living hundreds of years apart, explore the meaning of love, motherhood, family, art and science in this contemporary comedy. Legacy of Light juxtaposes the story of Émilie du Châtelet, a mathematician, scientist, and lover of the great 18th-century philosopher Voltaire, who became unexpectedly pregnant at 42, and that of a 21st-century physicist desperately trying to conceive a child.

    “This is a work with its heart in the right place, one in which the comic machinations emanate from a source of bona fide light.”

    – Peter Marks, Washington Post

    “Zacarías has written this entertaining play with a shrewd eye for the economies and interests of today’s theater. It is a flight of fancy with a relevant component, containing expansive roles that will be popular with performers. Women, especially, will admire the strength, intellectual depth and human qualities of the play’s female characters.”

    – VARIETY

    “Legacy of Light is an intellectual joyride from start to finish that confronts a universal question: How do women balance a passionate yearning for science with maternal instinct?”

    – Rosalind Lucy, DC Theater Scene

    “If Karen Zacarías’ new play Legacy of Light is any indication of where play writing is headed then pop the champagne, we have a lot to celebrate.”

    – Stark Insider
  • Just Like Us
    Just Like Us
    “What makes us American?”

    Based on Helen Thorpe’s bestselling book, this documentary-style play follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver—two of whom are documented and two who are not—through young adulthood. Their close-knit friendships begin to unravel when immigration status dictates the girls’ opportunities, or lack thereof. When a political firestorm arises, each girl’...
    Just Like Us
    “What makes us American?”

    Based on Helen Thorpe’s bestselling book, this documentary-style play follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver—two of whom are documented and two who are not—through young adulthood. Their close-knit friendships begin to unravel when immigration status dictates the girls’ opportunities, or lack thereof. When a political firestorm arises, each girl’s future becomes increasingly complicated. Just Like Us poses difficult, yet essential questions about what makes us American.

    “One of the finest things about this wise play… is its generous, even celebratory sense of humor, a plus for a tale that carries with it a great deal of hurt.”

    Lisa Kennedy – The Denver Post
  • THE BOOK CLUB PLAY
    The Book Club Play
    “Book Club is like Lord of the Flies with Wine and Dip”

    A hit comedy about books and the people who love them. When the members of a devoted book club become the subjects of a documentary filmmaker and accept a provocative new member, their long-standing group dynamics take a hilarious turn. Sprinkled with wit, joy and novels galore.

    “A delightful, fresh...
    The Book Club Play
    “Book Club is like Lord of the Flies with Wine and Dip”

    A hit comedy about books and the people who love them. When the members of a devoted book club become the subjects of a documentary filmmaker and accept a provocative new member, their long-standing group dynamics take a hilarious turn. Sprinkled with wit, joy and novels galore.

    “A delightful, fresh comedy.”

    – Talkin’ Broadway

    “The Book Club Play is a dangerous comedy about community, loving books, high and low culture, and the absolute terror of group dynamics.”

    – Molly Smith, Artistic Director – Arena Stage

    “Quite simply, the funniest play I’ve seen in years. Watch with horror, glee and recognition as this book club implodes—only to shed new light on its all-too-familiar members.”

    – Blake Robison, Artistic Director Cincinnati Playhouse
  • The Sins of Sor Juana
    The Sins of Sor Juana
    “Why is an enlightened woman dangerous?”

    Legendary Mexican poet Juana Inés de la Cruz writes expressive, sensual verse at the Viceroy’s court in the 1600s, a time when it was unfashionable—and sinful—for women to exercise their intellect. The Viceroy is jealous of Juana’s influence on his beautiful wife, the Vicereine, who has arranged a profitable marriage to ensure...
    The Sins of Sor Juana
    “Why is an enlightened woman dangerous?”

    Legendary Mexican poet Juana Inés de la Cruz writes expressive, sensual verse at the Viceroy’s court in the 1600s, a time when it was unfashionable—and sinful—for women to exercise their intellect. The Viceroy is jealous of Juana’s influence on his beautiful wife, the Vicereine, who has arranged a profitable marriage to ensure that Juana will always have a place at court. Believing his own marriage is threatened by Juana’s engagement, the Viceroy hires a charming, educated rogue to seduce Juana and destroy her reputation. When Juana refuses to compromise her poetry for what the church ordains appropriate, she stands to lose everything she loves.

    Approximate running time: 120 minutes.

    “The play has everything…brilliantly written…The Sins of Sor Juana is a must-see…wonderfully complex and poetic.”

    — Broadside

    “Zacarías’ real talent is for intense, one-on-one scenes between people. On a human level, Juana’s confrontations with almost every character are absorbing.”

    — Washington Post
  • Ella Enchanted
    Winner of the 2018 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical Adaptation. Ella of Frell is given the ‘”gift” of obedience by Lucinda, her misguided Fairy Godmother, and is forced to do anything people command her. On her adventure to rid herself of the curse, she must outwit ogres, sidestep giants, befriend a prince, survive her step-family, and ultimately find the power to be her true self. PRP_9915
    ...
    Winner of the 2018 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical Adaptation. Ella of Frell is given the ‘”gift” of obedience by Lucinda, her misguided Fairy Godmother, and is forced to do anything people command her. On her adventure to rid herself of the curse, she must outwit ogres, sidestep giants, befriend a prince, survive her step-family, and ultimately find the power to be her true self. PRP_9915
    First Stage, Milwaukee
    “ELLA ENCHANTED heroically speaks to the value of words…the battle between saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ wages a magical war…delightful and utterly disarming…A story that gives every child a chance to be heroic every day.” – Broadway World
  • Frida Libre
    Frida Libre
    Inspired by the childhood of legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Frida Libre is an uplifting story full of physical acting (actors become trees, trains and sinks), featuring delightful songs that explore the meaning of friendship, bravery and transformation.
    Alex may seem like a quiet, shy boy, but he secretly holds big ideas inside his head. He wants to be a luchador (wrestler) and...
    Frida Libre
    Inspired by the childhood of legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Frida Libre is an uplifting story full of physical acting (actors become trees, trains and sinks), featuring delightful songs that explore the meaning of friendship, bravery and transformation.
    Alex may seem like a quiet, shy boy, but he secretly holds big ideas inside his head. He wants to be a luchador (wrestler) and defeat bad guys in the ring. His life changes when he meets brave and colorful Frida, an unusual girl who dreams of being a doctor so she can help people. Forced to do a science project together on butterflies and metamorphosis,the pair discovers how true friendship can help you overcome fear and transform your dreams into reality.

    Commissioned and toured by La Jolla Playhouse.
  • Jane of the Jungle
    Jane is an ordinary girl, complete with a mom and a bratty little brother. But Jane is on the verge of some big changes. Middle school is looming, and that’s both exciting and a little scary. And yet nothing compares with the jolt she gets when she wakes up one morning to discover she has acquired spots, furry ears and a tail! Not only that, but her neighborhood seems to be turning into a jungle! This...
    Jane is an ordinary girl, complete with a mom and a bratty little brother. But Jane is on the verge of some big changes. Middle school is looming, and that’s both exciting and a little scary. And yet nothing compares with the jolt she gets when she wakes up one morning to discover she has acquired spots, furry ears and a tail! Not only that, but her neighborhood seems to be turning into a jungle! This delightfully inventive new musical takes a wild and wonderful approach to everything kids have to go through before they’re truly “grown up.”
  • Looking for Roberto Clemente
    Looking for Roberto Clemente
    The year: 1972. The place: Pittsburgh, where legendary baseball player Roberto Clemente is at the top of his game. Sam Kowalski and the neighborhood baseball-playing kids are in an intense competition to win the chance to meet Clemente in person. But it is their hero’s fateful off-field actions while aiding natural disaster victims in Nicaragua that teach the kids what is...
    Looking for Roberto Clemente
    The year: 1972. The place: Pittsburgh, where legendary baseball player Roberto Clemente is at the top of his game. Sam Kowalski and the neighborhood baseball-playing kids are in an intense competition to win the chance to meet Clemente in person. But it is their hero’s fateful off-field actions while aiding natural disaster victims in Nicaragua that teach the kids what is more important than winning.

    “Clemente the musical hits it out of the ballpark.”

    – The Washington Times

    “Writer Karen Zacarías and composer Deborah Wicks La Puma turn a funny, crackerjack tale about baseball-obsessed kids into a terrific new children’s musical”

    – Celia Wren, Washington Post