Professor of Theatre
Teaching Areas: Directing, Shakespeare
Date of Hire: August 2003
Karen Kessler teaches directing and Shakespeare for Ball State’s Department of Theatre and Dance. Currently she is writing an Americana musical titled Piney Creek Elegy set in West Virginia in a coal mining town with her sister, Kelly Kessler. She is also just starting a book called, “Don’t Cut What You Don’t Understand,” a handbook for cutting Shakespeare plays for modern audiences and productions.
Karen is a proud ensemble member of Chicago’s iconoclastic, cutting-edge A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago (www.aredorchidtheatre.org) where she has directed The Nether, Brett Neveu’s The Opponent in both Chicago for its world premiere and off-Broadway in New York at the 59E59 Theatre. Other Red Orchid credits include Solstice by Zinnie Harris, the Chicago premier of Paul Mullin’s Louis Slotin Sonata, the Chicago premiere of Blasted by notorious British playwright Sarah Kane, the Chicago premiere of Mr. Kolpert by German playwright David Gieselmann and the US premiere of Gagarin's Way by Scottish playwright Gregory Burke.
Her other recent Chicago area work includes a production of the world premiere of Alias Grace at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, A Number at Backstage Theatre Company, the US premiere of Roddy Doyle’s War at Seanachai Theatre Company, the Midwest premiere of Sam Shepard's The God of Hell at the Next Theatre in Evanston and a staged reading of Susan Nussbaum's Crippled Sisters for world renowned Goodman Theatre's New Play Series.
Karen is past artistic director of the gone but not forgotten Famous Door Theatre where she directed the world premiere of Early and Often, the world premiere of a Mislaid Heaven, (a play that won a Jeff Award for Best New Work), the US premiere of A Going Concern, This Lime Tree Brower and Remembrance. Other Chicago credits include: Wrens (a play that won a Jeff Award for Best New Work), The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Hamlet and Cyrano de Bergerac for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble-a company which Karen co-founded; and the Midwest premiere of Steve Martin's The Underpants for Noble Fool Productions.
Credits outside of Chicago include: Glengarry Glen Ross for the Northern Stage Ensemble in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England; Macbeth for Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Measure for Measure for Connecticut Repertory Theatre; Henry V, The Three Musketeers, Scapin, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, and All's Well That Ends Well at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival; and the Merry Wives of Windsor and The Complete History of American (Abridged) for Idaho Repertory Theatre.
University directing credits include: Borrowed Babies, Pericles, Great God Pan, Alias Grace, Oklahoma!, Music Man, Guys and Dolls, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Frozen, Hair, Camino Real, Love’s Labors’ Lost, Polaroid Stories, Antigone, Bat Boy! The Musical, Our Town, Lysistrata, and You Can't Take It with You at Ball State University; A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the University of Illinois Chicago, The Rivals at Virginia Commonwealth University; Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Illinois State University; and The Miss Firecracker Contest at Denison University.