Eastern Principal

Claire KArpen

New York, NY

COMMITTEES:
LORT, Production, Eastern Developing Theatre, Member Ed, EEO,  President’s Committee to Prevent Harassment

#FairWageOnCouncil

As I write, it’s hard to know what to say as things change daily.  Like me you have probably lost work, income, and, at times, faith that there is another side to this.  I’m running for re-election to ensure there is; to ensure a strong, stable Union exists to shepherd you there; and to ensure your safety, worth, and necessity when we arrive.

There is much to be proud of and buoyed by.  Since being elected in 2017, I’ve worked jobs across the country on LORT, SPT, URTA, and more, that have helped me hear and bring your priorities to Council and committees. Together, we have:

    • Achieved record wage increases
    • Created the President’s Committee to Prevent Harassment, of which I am a member, leading to a hotline 833-550-0030, staff training in handling reports, and greater Producer accountability
    • Passed Judge it By the Budget, a new policy looking beyond house size to a theatre’s entire budget when negotiating
    • Achieved profit participation in Broadway show development
    • Quickly responded to COVID-19 by successfully lobbying for Arts Workers inclusion in the CARES Act, postponing dues late fees, and authorizing Curtain Up Fund for members in need

In 2020 and beyond, there will be more to do as we are called to provide a necessary human service.  People will need spaces to laugh, cry and breathe together again.  I promise to work tirelessly to ensure stage managers and actors are safe with a #FairWage so we can successfully heed that call.


Personal Statement

I grew up in Connecticut in a suburb of NYC and was a theatre goer (and maker, if you count my basement as a venue) from as early as I can remember.  We would go into the city to see Broadway musicals, to Long Wharf in New Haven, Westport Country Playhouse,  a few local Dinner Theaters and of course the town High School.  Now, years later, I count NYC as my home base, and am also happy to say that my work has taken me to states all over the country (California, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, Rhode Island to name a few) and sometimes even abroad. 

My family is large and expansive – both by blood and by choice – and I am endlessly grateful for all of them.

My Equity Card: I was in the chorus of this musical called “The 60s Project” at Goodspeed.  It was a jukebox musical that featured – get this – not just one artist, but MANY incredible artists including the Temptations, Carole King, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Crosby Stills and Nash, it was CRAZY.  One of my first benefits of being a Union member was the Equity Rep getting me a pay bump because I had added lines. 

How/Why is Equity and this work important to you?
I believe in the work, and I believe in order to get real quality work you need a healthy, happy, safe and inclusive work environment.  I deeply believe that a #FairWage and a safe, respectful workplace are essential to making art that is truly risky, brave and alive. 

Is there anything else do you do in the world (volunteerism, side hustle, civic work) that informs your worldview and the experience you will bring to the Council room?
Like many actors, I have done a little bit of a lot of things, and I think that has served me as an artist and a Council member.  Directing, producing, teaching, bookkeeping, babysitting, temping, assisting, catering, etc. which means that I have been on a lot of different sides of a lot of different power dynamics.  That experience helps me stay creative with problem solving ideas and have compassion and perspective for many different points of view.  It allows me to be a better listener and, to be honest, a better bullshit detector.

What is a Fun Fact or something most people don’t know about you?
Oh god, I’m such an open book this is hard.  Gonna keep thinking on this.  I’m a beer nerd?  My mother’s family is Norwegian and so we have a lot of great stories and hilarious family names like Bjorn, Arne, Sissel and Ragnild.  I love gjetost, a very strange brown Norwegian cheese that tastes like peanut butter and caramel.

Where/What is your happy place?
Part of my warm up before a show involves me turning off my phone, taking off my shoes, and lying on my back with my eyes closed to do an Alexander Technique self-lesson.  Whether I’m doing that on stage (if they let me), or in the green room, or in the dressing room, that moment when I can feel the buzz of everyone preparing – the crew, the cast, the ushers, the audience arriving – while I prepare to get myself as present and ready as possible – is one of my happiest places.  It’s when I feel a part of something bigger than me and at the start of something we’re all going to experience together.  God, I love that.

What is your Superpower, or what do you wish your Superpower could be?
When I’m on my game,  my superpower is empowering people.

In a more magical, playful way, somebody asked me this a year ago, and I replied out of nowhere “Oasis!” I had this vision of protecting people from harm by immediately creating a bubble around them that was their own individualized “oasis.” Something that would take them to an island beach with a MaiTai, or their favorite team’s baseball game, or a hike with a loved one.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?  And then, when they felt centered and happy, they could return and face the hard things.  I wonder where people’s oases would be these days. 

What was your first ever stage production?
Does playing Chicken Little in kindergarten count? Maybe on stage would be Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when I was eleven.  It holds a special place in my heart because I went on to co-direct an Off-Broadway play with my friend, colleague and Oz fanatic James Ortiz called THE WOODSMAN.   (Shameless self plug warning: it’s now available for streaming on Broadway HD.  It’s a strange, gorgeous, indescribable bit of magic I’m proud of, featuring some really stunning work by our members, including some remarkable stage management that we would have been lost without).