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Local Independent Film Spotlight: Karen Elle

I know that you’re going to enjoy reading about this gifted young woman. The first time Karen Elle grabbed my attention was when she stood up at one of our church group meetings and read a monologue she had written about her real, relatable and down-to-earth interactions with God. This was not your usual religious exchange. Oh No! Instead, Karen personalized her communication in a manner that was comparable to blatantly chatting with a close friend. It was gritty…it was candid, and I loved it!

Anyway, my take-away was that Karen Elle was someone special…unique, and “outside-the-box” – in a really good way. I later learned that Karen was an actress, and that we had much in common as we pursued careers in entertainment arts.  Naturally, this drew us closer, and it is my honor to present Ms. Karen Elle…

…Read this descriptive interview to learn  everything about this show-stopping talent.

Hello Karen, it is GREAT to get to talk with you, and chat about your growing prowess as an actress in the DMV. Please tell us where it all began — How old were you, and how did you know you were destined to be an actress?

I don’t remember the exact moment, but it happened at a young age. My first love was writing. I’d always loved to write stories. But somewhere along the line the acting bug bit me, and I’ve been in love with it ever since.

What was, and where did your very first acting experience take place?

Picture it: Dayton, Ohio. Early nineties. I was huddled in a makeshift brick house, trembling in a pink turtleneck, pink jeans, and a pig mask. I was trembling not from fear of the Big Bad Wolf, but from the excitement of being in the moment. Nah, it wasn’t that deep. I was only in second grade and when I had my first stage role as Pig #2 in some school play adaptation of The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. That was my first formal acting experience. But I’d had plenty of practice before then—like the times I’d break something or eat cake I wasn’t supposed to, and act like I didn’t know anything when my mom asked me about it.

You’re currently involved with a stage play at the Silver Spring Stage, and we really want to hear all the details in just a few moments, but tell us about the acting work you’ve been involved with.

Well, my most recent show was Amrika Chalo! (Destination USA) with Ajoka Theatre Company, a very reputable theatre company in Pakistan. Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics brought the company here to do two performances (another was added because it sold out like milk before a snow day). I and four other local actors had the privilege of being in this production. That experience was so enriching. I learned a lot about Pakistan, about US-Pakistani relations. I learned some Urdu, and I made some great friends.
Also, I had the opportunity to be in DC Yuppies, a web series about seven friends who live, work, and play in DC and the drama that ensues. That was a lot of fun. I’ve done mostly theatre, and the only film experience I have done a couple of short student films, so with DC Yuppies I learned more about acting on camera. including advice from my cast mates, who had more film experience. You can watch the series at www.dcyuppies.tv or on the B.E. Cre8ive channel on YouTube. New episodes drop every Wednesday.
I have been in two other productions at Silver Spring Stage: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot in 2011. I played St. Monica, Simon the Zealot, and one of the centurions. Even though St. Monica was fun, my favorite character was Simon the Zealot. I gave the character a Tinidadian accent—well, I attempted to. I met with a Trini friend who said I sounded more Antiguan, and everyone else thought I was Jamaican. But it was cool to do that. I also played Perfect Love and other characters in Arabian Nights last spring. That show was a beast. I had to dance, and I was supposed to have a solo. I ended up singing so low so the audience couldn’t hear me. Ha ha.
I was a part of the Hope Operas (2014), Capitol Fringe Festival (2010, 2012), the Delaware Fringe Festival (2011), the DC Black Theatre Festival (2011, 2012). I wrote and produced my first stage play in the 2011 DCBTF. That was awesome. I was in DC’s inaugural One Minute Play Festival that premiered at Roundhouse Theatre last summer. That was really cool. I’ve been in a couple of productions of the Vagina Monologues. The first time I did that show I felt empowered and proud to be a woman and unashamed of my lady parts. I’ve been in a few play readings.

Now please fill us in on your current project coming up at Silver Spring Stage.

The production I’m currently rehearsing for is 33 Variations. It is a very interesting show. It takes toggles between present day New York and 19th century Austria and mainly focuses on Katherine Brandt, an esteemed musicologist and Beethoven aficionado. She is struggling with a paper she is writing on him and also suffering from ALS. She has a daughter who tries to connect with her and spend time with her, but Katherine is hard to love. Then in 19th century Austria, Beethoven is experiencing the denouement of his own career and health. He grapples with his own demons and his musical genius.
I am enjoying working on this show, even though it has its challenges. The director, Natalia Gleason, has a big vision for it. A unique vision, and I think it will make the show work beautifully.
The show opens Friday, February 27th (with pay-what-you-can previews on Thursday, February 26th) and runs through March 21st. There are two Sunday matinée performances on March 8th and 15th at 2:00 p.m.

What’s your role in this on-stage drama?

I play Clara Brandt, Katherine’s daughter. She wants to love her mother, but her mother pushes her away. This role is particularly challenging because there are some moments that require me to be emotional. I haven’t really had a dramatic role before, but I appreciate the challenge, because it stretches me and helps me become a better performer.

How can we get tickets to see this enlightening performance?

Tickets are $20, and you can get them online at ssstage.org. You can also buy them at the door. Goldstar.com has discounted tickets for $10.

Moving forward, what future acting gigs are you preparing for?

I am working on a TV pilot about Capitol Hill. I’m praying for success with that. I am looking forward to Season 2 of DC Yuppies. I’d like to participate in Monologue Madness this year. I do want to go to an acting conservatory, so I’ll be preparing to apply for programs that begin next year. Other than that, I don’t have anything lined up for the moment. I’ll just keep my eyes peeled for auditions and other opportunities as they come. I want to do more film projects, so I’ll be auditioning for those. Oh, and I will prepare for the future unknown acting gigs by taking classes to help me become a better performer.

What is your dream role. What character, if it became available to you – anywhere in the country – you would just have to be there to audition for?

Well, one of my dream roles is to play Grown Nala in the Lion King on Broadway. Last year I could’ve auditioned for that, but I’m not a singer or much of a dancer, so….However, I’ll risk making someone’s ears bleed to audition for the role of Carmen Jones. I would love to have that role.
If there is a reboot of A Different World, I’d definitely be in the number for that! I’ll audition for any character—especially one like Freddie Brooks.

How do you view the local independent film industry?

I’m learning more about the industry itself, but I love independent films. I’m excited about those filmmakers who churn out masterpieces on small budgets. To me, some of the stories told seem more substantial and genuine. Also, there seems to be more opportunities to see people who doesn’t fit a particular aesthetic. I aspire to be in independent films someday.

Do you have a favorite local independent film?

Sons of the City, directed by Marcus Richardson.

You’re a very creative individual who also pens scripts for others, personal monologues, and so much more. Do you have plans to write a film, documentary, stage play or other?
There are a couple of plays I want to write, one of which I’ve been wrestling with for years. Maybe when I finally sit my hind parts down I can churn them out. I have an idea for a web series that I’m working on.
I do write some scripts and monologues for skits at my church, as you know 🙂 . I enjoy using my gift in that way.

Yes, we work on video and stage performance scripts together at The Bridge DC. Now, please share your ultimate dreams and aspirations as an actress, and writer.

I would like to win a few Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and Golden Globes, but overall, I desire to create awesome work. I want to be the best actress I can be, and bring such truth, talent, and power to the roles I have, that they resonate deeply with anyone who watches. Same with the plays I pen. I want to tell powerful stories that create a positive force in this world.
I would love to work with Ava DuVernay. I heart her work.

Now to a more national focus; as the 2015 Oscar Awards approach this coming Sunday, do you have a favorite film, or actor, or actress that you are rooting for?

Oh yes. I’m rooting for Selma. It was fantastic. I love Birdman, and I hope Michael Keaton and Emma Stone walk away with the little golden man.

There has been lots of controversy around “Selma” director, Ava DuVernay not receiving the best director nomination for this film, although the film was nominated “best film”. As a woman in “The Biz”, what is your opinion on the full matter?

I wish I could let my facial expression answer this question.
Selma was a great film. Ava is a fantastic director—I’ve seen some of her other films. While an Academy Award is a great honor, it is not the only honor one can receive.. I think her talent speaks for itself. Just because she’s not in the running for best director doesn’t mean she’s not a great director. It doesn’t mean she won’t stop making great films. There are other spaces where she can win an award like that.
Furthermore, there have been talented directors, actors, crew members, and great films that didn’t get nominated or win an Academy Award for whatever reason. They don’t need validation from the Academy to prove that their work is magnificent.

Well said! Karen you are a fascinating young woman with immense talent. It has been such a joy speaking with you. Any final words?

Thank you! I am humbled that you wanted to interview me. Even though I am not where I want to be in my acting career, I am grateful for the journey, and I look forward to what’s to come!

That is what Local Independent Film Spotlight is all about! How can we keep abreast of all the remarkable work you’re doing as an actress, and writer?

You can follow me on Twitter–@actrizkarenelle. I also am in the process of setting up a Facebook Page, Karen Elle and a Twitter account. I will launch a web site later this year.

Thanks again Karen! It’s been fun, and enlightening! 

There you have it everyone; another remarkable Local Independent Film Spotlight individual. You wouldn’t want to miss more stories about other phenomenal talent residing, and creating, right here in the DMV area. See you next Wednesday!

Karen Elle

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