New theater director brings varied passions

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Jamie Kim news editor

Due to her love of surfing, she moved to Costa Rica for its tropical environment. But, due to her love of theater and teaching, she landed back in the United States, specifically the Salter Family Theater.

New theater director Karen Chandler brings her passion for art and the performing arts. She credits her multitude of interests as the reason she leads her life the way she does today. Her passion for teaching theater has always paralleled her love for it, a constant in Chandler’s life.

“I would constantly find myself performing. People would ask me, ‘Oh, come and sing at this’ or ‘Come and do this’ at different functions,” Chandler said. “I was probably about 25 when somebody asked me to do an actual play again. I did and remembered how much I loved it and that kind of springboarded and went crazy.”

Ever since then, Chandler has always been a performer, as she still continues acting to this day.

“I’m still a performing arts student myself. I’ve played Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, I love Shakespeare, and although the women’s roles aren’t as frequent, I’ve been blessed to get great ones, such as the nurse in Romeo and Juliet. I have not looked yet for what I can audition for in the Los Angeles region yet, but I’m pretty busy right now just to get this program going. So once I get this pattern going, I might look around for auditions,” she said.

Chandler plays Mrs. Lovett in the play "Sweeney Todd." Photo courtesy of: KAREN CHANDLER.
Chandler plays Mrs. Lovett in the play “Sweeney Todd.” Photo courtesy of: KAREN CHANDLER.

Furthermore, Chandler believes that by being a teacher, she is constantly improving her skills as a performing arts student.

“I’ve been a theater teacher for over almost 40 years now. From the moment I started teaching theater, the very first time I started teaching theater, I know in my heart I became a better actor myself because it’s true with anything else in this world. Once you teach it, you start to master it. It’s the only way to master anything,” Chandler said.

This deep passion for the performing arts led to her decision to acquire dual-residency in the United States and Costa Rica.

“As much as I love [living in Costa Rica], the jungle is a hard place for a theater artist to live 12 months out of a year. I can take three or four months, so I was getting a little jungle-looney; you find yourself wondering if you ever have to come back and work your passion and profession when you’re trying to organize the monkeys into a chorus,” Chandler said. “I go back for all the holidays and summer, but I really missed theater. Hence, my choice to split my life.”

Chandler hopes to apply her love for theater to Beverly’s own theater department.

“I’m really happy to be here teaching these students, I find them invigorating and really dedicated, so it’s igniting what I like most about theater education in me. I’m excited when I come to work and I’m excited when I leave,” she said. “These kids are so amazing, so talented, sophisticated and intelligent. There is no reason they shouldn’t be sharing that talent with the entire high school theater community, nation and internationally-wide [sic], in my opinion.”

Junior Daniel Kohanbash commented on the positivity Chandler adds to the performing arts group.

“Her energy is like that of a different planet; she brings a much needed life to the Salter,” Kohanbash said.

Whether it’s leading the theater department at schools or performing in shows, Chandler knows that theater will continue to impact her life in positive ways.

“One of my favorite parts about performing is adrenaline, for sure. I think people that get into theater enjoy that rush, the fear, then the ultimate satisfaction when you perform. It’d be like anything that’s like skydiving, or skiing, or surfing. It’s got that fear factor, that adrenaline rush, and then that satisfaction of having done something. That’s the crazy side of it,” Chandler said.  “The artistic side of it is creating. Anytime we are involved in an act of creation, something happens within us as a human being that feels fresh and renewed.”

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