Karen Ziemba, Tony Winning Broadway and TV Actress-Episode #154

Mar 30, 2021 | 2 comments

“Make yourself the person that doesn’t suck the air out of the room, but that contributes.”

– Karen Ziemba

Stage and TV actress, Karen Ziemba, has appeared in 11 Broadway shows. Her Broadway debut was in A Chorus Line as Diana Morales. Later, she played Peggy Sawyer, the lead in 42nd Street. Other Broadway roles include Polly Baker in Crazy for You, Roxie Hart in Chicago, and Belle Hagner in Teddy & Alice.

Karen has been nominated for 4 Tony Awards, once for Best Actress in a Musical for Steel Pier, and three times for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Curtains, Never Gonna Dance, and she won the Tony for Contact in 2000 for her performance as the “timid, abused mafioso’s wife.”

She returned to Broadway in 2014, in the musical adaptation of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway as the character Eden Brent.

For various theater performances in New York City and around the country, Karen has also received Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Princess Grace Foundation, Bay Area Theatre Critics, and Joseph Jefferson Awards.

Karen has appeared on TV’s Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, Elementary, Law and Order’s S.V.U. & Criminal Intent., Scrubs, The Kennedy Center Honors, and PBS’s Great Performances.

Karen Ziemba Websites:


Read the Podcast Transcript

Steve Cuden: On today’s StoryBeat. What would you say are the most important lessons you’ve perhaps taken from directors that you continue to use to this day?

Karen Ziemba: When you’re asked to do something or try something, you say, yes. I try it. You don’t put up a stop sign right away, like, oh, I wouldn’t do that. My character wouldn’t do that. That’s my motivation? They’re there to do a job, and you might not agree with it, but you got to try it. Sometimes you’re surprised.

Narrator: This is StoryBeat with Steve Cuden, a podcast for the creative mind. StoryBeat explores how masters of creativity develop and produce brilliant works that people everywhere love and admire. So join us as we discover how talented creators find success in the worlds of imagination and entertainment. Here now is your host, Steve Cuden.

Steve Cuden: Thanks for joining us on StoryBeat. We’re coming to you from the Steel City, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My guest today, Karen Ziemba, has appeared in 11 Broadway shows. Her Broadway debut was in a Chorus line as Diana Morales. Later she played Peggy Sawyer, the lead in 42nd Street. Other Broadway roles include Polly Baker in Crazy for You, Roxy Hart in Chicago, and Bell Hagner in Teddy and Alice. Karen has been nominated for four Tony Awards once for Best actress in a musical for Steel Pier, and three times for best featured actress in a musical for curtains, Never Going to Dance. She won the Tony for contact in 2000 for her performance in the Timid abused Mafioso’s wife.

She returned to Broadway in 2014 in the musical adaptation of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway as the character Eden Brent for various theater performances in New York City and around the country. Karen has also received Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle, Princess Grace Foundation, Bay Area Theater Critics, and Joseph Jefferson Awards. Karen has appeared on TV’s Madam Secretary, the Good Wife, Elementary, Law and Order’s SVU and Criminal Intent, Scrubs, the Kennedy Center Honors and PBS’s Great Performances. For more, please visit Karenziemba.com. For all those reasons and many more, it’s a deep honor and a real privilege for me to welcome the exceptionally talented Karen Ziemba to StoryBeat today. Karen, welcome to the show.

Karen Ziemba: Well, thank you very much, Steve. It’s great to be here.

Steve Cuden: Well, I’m so glad you are joining me today. So let’s go back in time. Tell us a bit about your history. I know you’ve been a hoofer forever, but when did it start?

Karen Ziemba: My mother wanted to be a dancer, but her circumstances didn’t work out. She had kids boom, boom, boom back in the sixties and seventies. So she was raising children, but I was the only girl in the family. I have three brothers. So she got me into ballet and tap. All the things that she loved. She loved a movie musical. So she loved Eleanor Powell, and she loved Leslie Caron. She and Cyd Charisse. I think that she wanted to do that kind of thing, but she gave it to me.

Steve Cuden: Did she live vicariously through you? Did she watch you perform?

Karen Ziemba: Maybe a little bit. She did bring me to see the local ballet company, the local high school musicals that were in town, so I could see live theater. As I got older, for my birthday each year, my father would bring me downtown to the Fisher Theater where my folks had season tickets to see a show. I had a pretty good idea of what the live theater was like, but I didn’t really know the ins and outs of it. I just was looking up at the stage going, oh wow, that’s really cool.

Steve Cuden: It was, you were awestruck by it, like many. Yes?

Karen Ziemba: Of course. Yes.

Steve Cuden: Yeah, of course. That’s the way it was for me too, awestruck at a young age. Early on, who were your artistic and creative heroes? Who did you look up to and say, wow, I think I’d really like to be like so-and-so?

Karen Ziemba: Well for us living in suburban Detroit, it was mostly dancing around the living room to LPs and listening to Julie Andrews, Mary Martin, Judy Garland, Shirley McClain and then watching movies, of course. Fred/Ginger movies and Gene Kelly. So watching the Golden Age movie musicals, and then also listening to the LPs of the Broadway cast albums.

Steve Cuden: So, as you got a little older, when did you think to yourself, this is something that I really want to do, I’m really going to focus on this?

Karen Ziemba: Well, because my mother got me into dance class very early, around six years old, and I started ballet. Then she got me into tap dancing. It was sort of a natural progression, and I really took to it like a duck to water. I loved to dance and got a lot of attention that way. It was one of those things, kind of competing with my brothers for attention. But I loved it and I loved music. So I just excelled at it. Then as I got older, I joined a local ballet company, and then I became more serious about classical ballet. So I thought that I wanted to be a concert dancer for a long time, even though I had sung all my life in Chorus and Chorale, and I played a little piano.

So I was very musical that way, vocally, but I really loved the dance. So I went more in that direction. Then as I went to college for dance, and then as I kept going on, I realized, no, I don’t really just want to be a concert dancer. I want to be in musical theater because I wanted to express myself a little bit more broadly.

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Karen Ziemba: I could do that. Telling jokes and singing songs and falling on my face and all that kind of stuff. Where the ballet world was a little bit too focused for me, I should say. There weren’t as many facets. You kind of had to be in this line. You had to look this way. You had to be this thin. It wasn’t in my wheelhouse.

Steve Cuden: I personally think the musical theater is much more fun than the ballet, but that’s just my own personal taste.

Karen Ziemba: However, having that great training catapulted me into work because I could not only tap dance. I did ballet. I did gymnastics. So I could do all the flips plus I could sing. I was very confident singing because I’d sung all my life, not only in the living room, but in school and church. So it all kind of came together. When I got into the musical theater professionally, it was at a time when they were really making casts smaller. You have four girls and four guys doing all the ensemble, all the small roles in summer stock productions. So I was able to fill those tracks, so to speak.

Steve Cuden: About how old were you when you made that decision that you want to make this turn to be in musical theater versus ballet? About how old?

Karen Ziemba: I would say it was just as I was getting out of college. So that would be 18. Excuse me, 18, 20, 21.

Steve Cuden: I see. So you had actually been through an advanced education at that point and really had an understanding of it?

Karen Ziemba: I had done two musicals in high school. At my high school in Farmington Hills, Michigan, they were doing a production of West Side Story, and they wanted a Maria who could do her own dream ballet. It’s usually not done that way in a traditional production, but they didn’t have many dancers of my caliber in the school. So they said, Karen would you audition for this? Because I could hit the notes and I could also do the ballet, I got the part. Then I had dark hair, and my mother could sew my costumes. She made my costumes for me too.

Steve Cuden: Did you at that point go to New York? Was it right away?

Karen Ziemba: No, I went after college, after I got my degree in dance, and then I said, nah, I don’t want to do that. I thought maybe I’d get a master’s and teach, but no, I wanted to perform.

Steve Cuden: That’s when you went to New York and tried your hand?

Karen Ziemba: Correct.

Steve Cuden: How long was it before you got A Chorus Line?

Karen Ziemba: Oh, gosh. Well, I didn’t have my union card when I got to New York, so it was a year of waitressing, ushering, and auditioning for non-union theater. Then I got what was my first union job? Oh, I got a production, a little summer touring production of My Fair Lady in the ensemble. That’s how it all started. It was mostly smaller productions. I didn’t go to Broadway. I didn’t do A Chorus Line until oh, well, it didn’t take that long, I guess. Because that was 1982. Yeah. I was, I wouldn’t say floundering, but I was doing a lot of different things for about three years and then auditioned for A Chorus Line.

Steve Cuden: I assume once you got in A Chorus Line, things just sort of turned into a profession for you?

Karen Ziemba: Yes. Actually, I started on one of the tours of A Chorus line, and when you do that show, part of the deal is that you have to learn other characters. Everybody covers somebody usually.

Steve Cuden: Sure. Sure.

Karen Ziemba: I’m sure in the original production, Donna McKenney and Kelly Bishop did not cover other roles. But if you were maybe playing like a smaller role in the show, you also covered the Cassie role, or if somebody got injured or you covered Sheila. So I was cast as Maggie Winslow who sings at the ballet. But I also had to cover Cassie, Deanna Morales, Bens Heimer. Those three characters. So after I did the tour, and they needed somebody on Broadway to fill in for a month as Deanna Morales, guess who was available? Me. She was in that show across the alley that failed to bring her in. No, that was the second time I went back to Chorus Line. That’s another thing. I’m getting confused now. But yes, so I was ready to jump into that. It was very daunting and wonderful at the same time.

Steve Cuden: I assume it was very fulfilling to do it. Yes.

Karen Ziemba: Oh, yes. Then I just continued on in that production as one of the people that are in the beginning of the show that get cut and then sing in the booth to enhance the big musical numbers. I went on in different roles as needed. As I played all those different characters, I was a perfect employee.

Steve Cuden: Well, yeah. You were the go-to person for anything that was screwed up.

Karen Ziemba: As were others. Yes. Well, that’s good with me.

Steve Cuden: That’s interesting for the listeners to pay attention to when you make yourself invaluable to a production, it’s very hard for them to let you go.

Karen Ziemba: That’s right. Among other things. I mean, that’s true. You got to cover your bases as it were. Right?

Steve Cuden: Yeah. Ah, you better cover your bases.

Karen Ziemba: And show up on time. They’ll be okay.

Steve Cuden: It’s very easy to remove people from a show. So you don’t want to be in that position. You want to make yourself absolutely worthy to them in some way. I think that that’s very valuable advice for someone who’s trying to find their way into a career. Alright, so when you begin to work on a role, when you’ve actually gotten a role – we’ll talk about auditioning in a moment – but when you’ve actually gotten a role, aside from reading a script, which is, or libretto, which is the first thing that you’ll get, I assume, or the songs. What is your approach? How do you develop a character? Where do you start?

Karen Ziemba: Well, a lot of it has to do with where’s the person from. How old is the person? What is their background. Who were their parents? Who were their siblings?

Steve Cuden: Backstory.

Karen Ziemba: What is their backstory. Then it’s about what do they want. What do they need? What are they looking for? What is their goal? How do they react around others?

Steve Cuden: Do you keep a notebook? Do you take notes? What do you do?

Karen Ziemba: No, not really. Sometimes I do. When we’re talking with the director. Of course, I would in a session, definitely take down notes. But as far as what I’m going to do, the minute I step up into the arena, so to speak, or into the rehearsal room, to play or to read opposite somebody, or to do a scene, or even to do dance. To dance with somebody else, or dance by myself, it’s you have to allow so much what is within you just all of a sudden to come out.

Steve Cuden: Well, obviously. I think it’s obvious, may not be obvious to everyone. But I think it’s obvious that when you create a role, a lot of that role is written and just like you’re talking about, you’ve got to go looking for the backstory. But a certain amount of it is you. You’ve got to bring you to it.

Karen Ziemba: That’s all you got.

Steve Cuden: That is the temple with which you work.

Karen Ziemba: Right. There’s so many different facets of our personalities and our emotions that we have all within us that we can tap. As for me, as I’ve gone through my career, it gets richer. It gets fuller. I become a more realized person as I age. So that all just feeds into how much of a deep well you have to pull up and pull the stuff up in the bucket and use it. What do we got here? Oh, let’s try this. Also too, there’s that when you think of it as yourself, but there’s so much too that you get from others in listening. Not only listening to the people who are directing you or choreographing on you, but your fellow performers too.

Steve Cuden: How important is listening for people on stage?

Karen Ziemba: It’s everything. It’s everything. Even if you’re moving around and you’re swaying back and forth to somebody who’s singing, you must. It’s about focus. It’s not only about listening to somebody when you’re just talking or having dialogue, but when you’re even dancing behind somebody or with somebody. It’s you have to be so clued into them to give them the focus, because then it just makes you look better. It makes the whole story be told better.

Steve Cuden: Isn’t that an interesting aspect of performance, that when you pay attention to the other characters, it makes you better? I think that’s just fantastic. What would you say are the most challenging things that you go through when you’re developing a character? What are the things that you have always done well, this is the hill I have to climb?

Karen Ziemba: I would say probably it’s always about just digging deeper and also leaving yourself alone more as opposed to thinking, now what would I do now? How do I look? The more you dig in and feel and allow yourself to let something happen, the better. As opposed to trying to create some kind of character. I mean, I’m not saying you don’t create it. Especially if it’s somebody who’s far away from who you are in real life. It comes from inside first and it’s all about what story are you trying to tell. Because you have a smile on your face and might be cute, you could still be a villain, or you could still be the bad girl.

Steve Cuden: For sure.

Karen Ziemba: You’re manipulating or something. So there’s so many different ways of approaching something.

Steve Cuden: Are you saying you like to let the role come to you in your development?

Karen Ziemba: Hopefully, yes. If you have enough time to allow that to happen. I think really if you’re fortunate, you get a chance to play it for a while. So it evolves and, like I said, gets richer and changes. You still got to hit your marks, and you still got to be standing in the right place for the light to hit you.

Steve Cuden: Absolutely.

Karen Ziemba: Somebody’s kicking their leg over your head if you got a duck or whatever that is. But as far as the more confident you get in the movement and the dialogue in what you’re saying. Then all the other stuff can bubble up and become much more connected.

Steve Cuden: So have you worked on parts that you had a hard time finding? Is that how it happened for you, where it was like really a challenge to find?

Karen Ziemba: I’ll admit that when I went into Chicago to play Roxy Hart. Of course it had been originated by the great Gwen Verdon, played by many great women – Ann Reinking and Liza Minnelli. It was the sort of a lady that I hadn’t done a lot of those kind of ladies. Those very selfish, egocentric entitled bad girls, but with a heart of gold, of course. But sort of clueless in some ways. Manipulative, but sort of clueless too. It took me a while to get into that. I mean, the dancing and the singing, that was not a problem. It was finding her and being willing to be that entitled and very selfish woman.

Steve Cuden: This is 180 degrees from who you are in real life.

Karen Ziemba: Well, I’m not saying that I’m the Lisa. I mean, I can be selfish too. I mean, you don’t live with me, so you don’t know. Everybody has their moments and their peccadillos. But yes. I had to work at that one. I mean it got better. I had some wonderful conversations with Ann Reinking. She helped me so much just by giving me some images.

Steve Cuden: Can you give us an example of an image she gave you that was helpful?

Karen Ziemba: Yes, I can. She said that Roxy was the girl who would say, I don’t want to go to the prom. I don’t want to do this. I want this. I want that. She wanted me to make her like a little girl. A selfish, young, entitled girl as opposed to this woman who had been through it, because she wasn’t educated. All she knew was it’s somebody who doesn’t know any way to discipline somebody except by being violent or hitting them or yelling at them.

Steve Cuden: So someone who has never matured, basically.

Karen Ziemba: Sort of, yeah. That’s a good way of putting it. What she wants, she wants it now, and she’ll do whatever she can to get it. I sort of knew that about her. But my own personality, my own kind of persona was coming out more. My Sunny personality was coming out a little bit more than this other kind of very… had more guile.

Steve Cuden: Darker than you.

Karen Ziemba: Yes. So that one took me a little bit of time. I mean, just because I was wearing black blazer, black stockings and high heels. The clothes helped, but that’s the one that I had needed to dig a lot deeper.

Steve Cuden: Interesting.

Karen Ziemba: Over time, I got a chance to play it for a while. It really helped. It really helped.

Steve Cuden: By the time you were at the end of that run in the show, for you, I assume it was a part of you at that point?

Karen Ziemba: Yes, it was. She had evolved.

Steve Cuden: Well, that’s a beautiful thing. I ask lots of guests this question, which is, in your case, it’s all character stuff. You’re always looking for a part that has great character depth of some kind. What is it for you that makes a great part great or makes a great show great? What is it for you that you go, yeah, I really can sink my teeth into that?

Karen Ziemba: I think it’s a big pie. When pieces of the pie are missing, it’s lesser than, obviously. That’s maybe a strange way of putting it. But a show, for example, like Gypsy. I’ve done Mama Rose and Gypsy. You’ve already got this incredible piece of theater.

Steve Cuden: For sure.

Karen Ziemba: Now, of course, Mama Rose is the penultimate character in that story. But without that music, that book, that story, those characters that were created, it wouldn’t be quite as sure, so to speak. Do you know what I mean? It’s just this beautiful piece, great piece. I mean, it starts with the overture. Then you’ve got this person who just, she knows what she wants, and she does whatever. That’s another one. Had I not played Rocky C Heart, maybe then when I played Mama Rose, that probably fed into that performance.

Steve Cuden: That makes sense. Mama Rose is domineering.

Karen Ziemba: Yes. She’s going to do whatever she can, and she says it’s because of the love of her kids. But it’s because she’s missing something inside of her that she never got to experience. She still is looking for that. She’s still searching for that. Back to what you were saying though of asking is that the show itself buoys your character. Contact is another experience of mine. Yes. Okay. I won the Tony for Contact. That role was created for me. She was wonderful. There was so much about that character that was me. Yet also I had to then take left turns and become somebody else. Become a little evil in some parts of that.

But it was the show, the contact, the entire evening that was so moving and funny and delightful and eye-opening. It just buoyed my performance. You could do a great performance in a show, but if the show is really good too, wow. It makes it all that much better. That’s again what I’m saying about the theater. It’s those pieces of the pie. If they’re missing, it’s okay, but it could be so much greater.

Steve Cuden: I’ve been teaching screenwriting for a long time, and one of the things that we teach in terms of storytelling is that structure, which is what you’re really referring to, structure, the definition of it, is the relationship of the pieces and parts to each other and to the whole. If everything does not blend together into one cohesive whole, this show’s not going to stay together. That’s what you’re talking about. You’re looking for where the show itself is all integrated into one thing.

Karen Ziemba: Essentially. Yes.

Steve Cuden: I think that’s very, very, very smart to look at it that way. Are there over time? Have there been parts that you’ve been offered or went up for and then thought, this is not right for me, and you just avoided?

Karen Ziemba: Well, there are some that I have turned down just because I didn’t necessarily want to go out of town for a year or something like that. Then today I kicked myself and say gosh, I could have put that money away. It’s like would have, should have, could have. I find something really, really positive in every single show I do even the ones that aren’t successful. There are also some disappointing things in them too you learn from.

Steve Cuden: What would you say has been disappointing in your life that you then learned from that you grew from?

Karen Ziemba: Oh gosh, so many things.

Steve Cuden: Can you think of one?

Karen Ziemba: Oh well, Steel Pier for example. Steel Pier was, I mean, you couldn’t have asked for a better cast and crew and the team that worked on that show. But it was like we never got a chance to go out of town and work on it and see what we had. It was an original idea. Not necessarily adapted but based on a lot of many different kind of stories that they kind of compiled. But it was really an original story. When you have an original musical like that, you really need the time. I didn’t think we had the time to figure out, oh, maybe that’s not so right, or this is confusing, or this. We really needed time with that. That was my first original role on Broadway. So for that not to be a success, or at least not to have more time with it, at least for it to run for, I don’t know, a year maybe or nine months. We didn’t even get that much time.

Steve Cuden: That was Kander and Ebb, right?

Karen Ziemba: That was Kander and Ebb. I mean, come on. It was just glorious. But there were parts of it that was, uh.

Steve Cuden: It felt like it got away because it wasn’t fully realized because it didn’t have the time to grow that way.

Karen Ziemba: I think that’s part of it. Yeah.

Steve Cuden: I think most people that are even in the theater don’t understand how long it takes to develop a show to the point where it’s really right for a Broadway stage. There are lots of shows that get produced that never make it to Broadway that are fine shows, but they’re not Broadway-ready for one reason or another. When you have a Kander and Ebb or a Stephen Heim or a Stephen Schwartz or something like that, then you know you’re trying to get to Broadway with it. It should be allowed it’s time to materialize, I guess. I’m curious about your philosophy toward auditioning. When you have auditioned, what is your philosophy toward it? How do you look at auditioning?

Karen Ziemba: It never gets easy for me. I mean, I know some people say, oh, I just pretend I’m auditioning. Then I go in there and say, hey, I can’t do that. I sit outside of a room when I’m waiting to go into a room to meet a casting director or a creative team. I’m very nervous but I try to isolate myself and really be focused. The thing is when you’re at an audition, it hasn’t happened in a while because of the pandemic, of course.

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Karen Ziemba: But when you are in a hallway sitting with other actors and you’re up for the same parts, or other people are auditioning for other shows and it’s noisy and people are stretching, and people are tapping their feet. It can be very distracting, and you must focus. Focus is everything. Because the minute you open the door, that’s when your audition starts. Not when you open your mouth to sing or open to do a speech from a play. It’s who you are and how you comport yourself.

Steve Cuden: I think people forget that a part of auditioning is the people looking at you or deciding whether they want to work with you beyond just your talents. Do we want to spend time with this person? So that’s what the comportment is.

Karen Ziemba: Yeah. You can’t come in with a weight of the world on your shoulders because these people want to hire you. They want you to be the one. You have to give them that much credit that this is going to be it. I mean, unless there’s somebody in there who thinks, oh, I know who I don’t like, or something like that. They might already have preexisting conditions.

Steve Cuden: I can’t imagine anybody sitting out in an audience looking at you and thinking, I don’t like her. That can’t be possible.

Karen Ziemba: Maybe I’ve worked up to that point but thank you. So, but yeah, as you enter the door, that’s what happens. You just got to be prepared and you got to give your music to the pianist, or you have to say hello. But I think I find with nervousness sometimes comes too much chatter. I know I felt sometimes after auditions, I think you didn’t have to be so chatty with them. You didn’t need to shake everybody’s hand. You didn’t have to. It’s like, just come in and do what you’re there to do. Be cordial and if you know somebody say hi, whatever. But it’s really about getting that job done and them doing their job.

Steve Cuden: Do you settle down once you’re on stage and doing your thing? Or you remain nervous through it?

Karen Ziemba: No, no. Definitely settle down. I think that there’s a transformation that happens once you’re out on a stage. Even for many dancers, I think that maybe have a sore hip or a sore knee, it’s like you sort of forget about it. You kind of do it. It’s like your body goes into this different mode. It’s really fascinating.

Steve Cuden: The adrenaline kicks in a little bit and you’re in go mode at that point.

Karen Ziemba: Yep.

Steve Cuden: Yeah. I think so. Alright. I want to talk about performing, which you’ve done an enormous amount of. Do you have any sort of ritualistic preparation that you go through before you’re about to do a performance in a fully rehearsed show you’re ready to go on?

Karen Ziemba: Yes. I think that it’s, even if you’re not, for example, the last 10, 15 years I’ve done more straight theater along with doing musicals. I find even so, and I’m not singing in the show, I feel that a vocal warmup, a yoga or stretching sort of warmup. Maybe 10 minutes for you to just meditate and just relax and open yourself up. Of course, when you’re at your dressing table and you’re doing your makeup and you’re transforming yourself into whoever you’re playing that night, that’s part of that warmup. But your voice and your body. I think your body first because your body helps warm up your voice that it’s imperative. Anything physical because you need to fill a theater with your presence.

Steve Cuden: Do you have a series of vocal exercises that you always do?

Karen Ziemba: Nothing specific that I do. Sometimes it’s just reading something. I really do like to sing and do a singing vocalist. Because that comes naturally to me, because I’ve sung all my life. I like doing that. I think it really puts fluidity into your speech. The nuance of the tambur and everything.

Steve Cuden: You work your jaw, your tongue, your lips and so on. Get everything loosened up and ready to go.

Karen Ziemba: Yep.

Steve Cuden: I think that you would have a harder time if you just went out and winged it.

Karen Ziemba: Yes. I think when you’re in a long run to, you’re so used to it. It’s sort of like the backend. You just kind of run out there. But I find that when you take the time, even if it’s just for 15- or 20-minutes prior, you feel so much better and you’re so glad you did.

Steve Cuden: What’s the longest you’ve been in a run? What’s the longest you’ve been on one show?

Karen Ziemba: The longest run I ever did was Crazy for You. I say that because I did it for 10 months on the national tour first.

Steve Cuden: Right.

Karen Ziemba: Before I came to Broadway. Then I continued on In Broadway until it closed.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Karen Ziemba: Over two and a half years.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Karen Ziemba: Part of that was because it was one of the most joyous experiences to do that show every night. Not only because it was the Gershman brothers music and lyrics, which they weren’t too shabby. But it was fun, and it was hopeful and happy and funny. I love the people I worked with.

Steve Cuden: Even though you were enjoying it, it’s hard not to like the Gershmans. But even though you were enjoying it, I assume after you’ve done it for a long period it starts to wear on you a little bit. Yeah? Or did it never get old?

Karen Ziemba: Shows do.

Steve Cuden: Yes. How do you overcome that? What do you do?

Karen Ziemba: Yeah. You just start as if it’s the first time you’ve ever done it, and it’s a new audience. Again, it’s how you relate to everybody else on stage. Especially in the long run. There’s always somebody new on stage because you have replacements and there’s other things to capture your attention. That’s a question people ask all the time. How do you do those long runs? How do you remember all those lines? How do you? How do you? Oh, how could you do that show Contact, that dancing and there’s not much there, blah, blah. It’s like how I felt from day one doing that to how I felt a year and a half later. It was like, exponential and how I grew and how closer I was to that character. But that’s me. Some people don’t like to be with a show more than six months. They can’t take it. It’s like they get bored. I don’t get bored.

Steve Cuden: Well, that’s important.

Karen Ziemba: It’s really hard to explain.

Steve Cuden: I think there was one actor. I think it was an actress who was in Cats for the entire run.

Karen Ziemba: Yes.

Steve Cuden: She must have really loved it. Obviously, it was work and you made money.

Karen Ziemba: You loved it. Well, there’s many different reasons why people stay with shows for a long time. Everybody has different stories and different needs. People are putting their kids through college. People are buying a home. But I think more than that even, it’s not that those people wouldn’t go off and do another show and be able to work in another show. It becomes extended family. It becomes your family. You’re with them six days a week for a few hours every day. So it’s like it’s work, but there’s something much more familial about it than just going to an office, I think. There’s a family when you go to the office too. But there’s something about the theater, because of the way that you react to each other. You’re tactile. You are dancing together. You’re touching each other. You’re hugging. You’re gossiping. You’re doing all these things which you do in an office.

Steve Cuden: Well, the offices tend not to be magical, but the theater—

Karen Ziemba: Okay. There you go.

Steve Cuden: Is magical.

Karen Ziemba: That’s the word. Why couldn’t I think of the word magical? But there’s something about the way you connect your backstage and everybody. You go into the hair room to get a wig put on. So there’s that magic there, which is so wonderful. Those people have that craft that they do so well. There’s the costumes and the dressers and the people that you run into and talking to the doorman, or door woman. There’s something. It’s like, okay, now I’m going to visit my other family for a few hours.

Steve Cuden: Also, when you go to an office, you are not going to have some kind of chemical reaction with an audience.

Karen Ziemba: There’s that too. That’s a very good point. Why didn’t I think of that?

Steve Cuden: I don’t you know. Sometimes I get lucky.

Karen Ziemba: But you’re right, Steve. It’s once that music starts, and you go out and the light hits you and it’s quiet out there and they’re listening. What’s going to happen? What’s going to unfold?

Steve Cuden: Well, those last strains of the orchestra tuning before the curtain goes up. I mean, there’s something about it. I’ve never done a long run in the show. I’ve never worked on a long run. You obviously have. But my imagination tells me that it still gets your nerves on set up when you hear those sounds, and you smell those smells. There’s something about it.

Karen Ziemba: Yeah. Speaking of which, when I did A Chorus Line, because I was one of the understudies after I did the Deanne Morales track for a month, and then she returned. She had a baby, and she came back, and I continued to play some of the other roles. During the show when I’m not singing in the booth, or once the character’s cut from the beginning. I would go down into the orchestra pit, which was covered. I don’t know if you remember, you could not see the orchestra pit because it was supposed to be like it was in a rehearsal hall.

Steve Cuden: Right.

Karen Ziemba: So I went under and there was no room at all. But I would sit down and just being in that orchestra pit, oh my God, it makes me cry. That’s magical.

Steve Cuden: Indeed.

Karen Ziemba: Enveloped by these live musicians. I remember that that orchestra had a harp during the casts. He danced da da da and she’d played the harp. Then the trumpets. Oh my God. If you have a chance, if you’re ever in a show to sit in the pit. I mean, so many pits now are on stage and sometimes the musicians are in a different room. They’re actually down in a pit. But if you ever have the chance during the show, even if it’s just for five minutes just to sit down there. We used to sit in the room where the orchestra was during Bullets Over Broadway and sit in this room with all the musicians, which is also very tight. It was so exciting. So exciting because I had some downtime in that show too. That’s what you got to do. You got to see how big. Remember I was talking about all those pieces of the pie in a show that could come together.

Steve Cuden: Yeah.

Karen Ziemba: That’s something I can’t do. I can’t sit down with a bassoon or a violin and play like that. But that’s what’s making me sound good and that’s what’s making everybody else who’s up on stage knows. I’m sitting in the middle of it and just being swept away. That’s what’s so great about the theater. It’s all happening at the same time.

Steve Cuden: I’ve had the privilege of interviewing a couple of composers that also conduct orchestras when their compositions are recorded. One in particular, Bear McCreary, who’s a great TV composer and film composer. He said that he’s been spoiled for even live concerts anymore by being a conductor. Because you’re literally the focal point of all the music at one time. It’s all live and it’s all coming to you. It’s all facing you at the same time. So when he goes to a concert, even though it’s a live concert, it’s not the same for him.

Karen Ziemba: Right.

Steve Cuden: But what you’re talking about is most people don’t ever get to hear an orchestra that close.

Karen Ziemba: No.

Steve Cuden: It is a different sound. There’s something just huge about it. It fills every gap in the air. It feels that way. So you’ve worked for tons of directors over the years. You’ve worked for lots of different directors. Some of you’ve worked for more than once, like Susan Stroman. The great Susan Stroman. What would you say are the most important lessons you’ve perhaps taken from directors that you continue to use to this day?

Karen Ziemba: When you’re asked to do something or try something, you say, yes. You try it. You don’t put up the stop sign right away like, oh, I wouldn’t do that. My character wouldn’t do that. What’s my motivation? They’re there to do a job and you might not agree with it, but you got to try it. Sometimes you’re surprised. Sometimes they’re surprised when they say, nah, you’re right. Let’s not do that. But you have to at least give everybody the chance to make a contribution. That’s what collaboration is.

Steve Cuden: There’s something akin to improvisation. The work of an improvisational actor is they teach to say yes to everything. It’s yes and yes. That’s what you’re talking about, isn’t it?

Karen Ziemba: I guess so.

Steve Cuden: It’s just try. It doesn’t mean you have to live with it, but you should take everything in as an opportunity.

Karen Ziemba: Yep.

Steve Cuden: I think that that’s really key.

Karen Ziemba: Even scary. Even if it’s sometimes risky, especially if you’re doing something that has to do with choreography.

Steve Cuden: Well, you don’t want to hurt yourself.

Karen Ziemba: No, no. Stuff has been modified for me. I know that during Curtains, Rob Ashford was a fabulous choreographer. He had the dance assistants demonstrate this part that I was supposed to do with my leading man in that dance, Noah Racy. He was throwing her over his back and lifting her up. Joanne Hunter, who is now a great choreographer too. She was one of Rob’s assistants. She is a fabulous dancer. She was all over the place, but she’s five foot three maybe. Teeny, teeny tiny strong. He was throwing her around.

I said this guy’s not going to throw me around because first of all, I’m twice as big as she is. I wasn’t as agile as she was, or even as good of a dancer as she is anymore. I mean, it was at that point where I couldn’t do that kind of stuff. I was a little bit nervous. So we tried to do it a couple of times, and I think he hurt his shoulders. That was it. But it was like to watch these people go through this choreography and go, wow, that’s spectacular. But ooh, I don’t know if I can do that. So, to your point, yes. You don’t want to hurt yourself. That’s exactly it. Because you’re talking about eight shows a week.

Steve Cuden: Exactly. Well, you’ve got to be smart about it. At any age, at whatever your physicality is, you’ve still got to be smart about it.

Karen Ziemba: That’s right.

Steve Cuden: I mean, if she’s tiny, that doesn’t mean you can throw her off the balcony.

Karen Ziemba: True.

Steve Cuden: I mean, you still have to be smart about it.

Karen Ziemba: But she’d try it. She would try it.

Steve Cuden: Can you get from the balcony to stage in one leap? Yes. Let me try it. Yeah, yeah. No, no.

Karen Ziemba: There was a kid in Crazy for You that used to be on the banister up the second floor of the set. He would jump down. Ray Roderick. He’d jump down and do it right toward the audience every night. He jumped out. It was like, wow. He was a former gymnast.

Steve Cuden: And never got hurt?

Karen Ziemba: I don’t think so.

Steve Cuden: That’s amazing. That is amazing.

Karen Ziemba: He was amazing anyway.

Steve Cuden: So when you’re going into rehearsal on a show, what is it that you want? What are you looking for? What do you want a director to give you during rehearsal? What’s important to you?

Karen Ziemba: What works for me is really specific imagery. Not necessarily a lot of discussion about something. Sometimes when you talk a lot about stuff… In regional theater, we have the advantage of really sitting down and pouring over a script for the first week and a half before we put it on its feet, which is always valuable. But sometimes when you don’t have as much time, it really helps for a director to be able to go bam with an idea and you go, oh, that’s great. If they’re really good at it, I think to myself, that’s a good director who can get their idea out in very little elaboration. Do you know what I mean?

Steve Cuden: Yeah. I do know what you mean. It’s when it’s simple and direct. I think what you don’t want to do with an actor is give them multiple things that they need to try and do at one time. It’s always better if it’s a single thing.

Karen Ziemba: You’re right about that. Yes. Yes. Because all those multiple things will come from this one simple idea.

Steve Cuden: Sure. Absolutely. If you were given a note, we already said that you want to say yes to when a director gives you something, even if you disagree with it. But you’ve tried it, it doesn’t work, but the director keeps trying to get you to go there for some reason. Do you have a way to gently move a director off of something?

Karen Ziemba: You try. You try and it doesn’t always work. They have an idea of something, and they want it to be a certain way and you try to make it work.

Steve Cuden: And you do your best. That’s the job.

Karen Ziemba: Yes, absolutely. I mean, some people maybe have more clout than I do, and they feel that they can do it their way and they do it their way. For me I got other fish to fry going back in another scene that’s going to work okay.

Steve Cuden: Aside from saying yes, are there things that you do now that are very different from when you first started out in the business where you’re working with directors? Do you have an approach now that’s different, aside from just saying yes?

Karen Ziemba: I think it’s in conjunction with saying yes. As you move on in your career, you find different ways to describe something in a certain way. Why it doesn’t work for you. Or could we try this because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You learn these things just from doing the work. That and doing the work for years, how maybe to modify something. Because if somebody’s just cracking whips saying like, do it, do it, do it. Which I’ve worked in those kinds of situations before. You don’t really have any recourse. But if you are collaborating closer with somebody in a more collegial way, it’s, I don’t know.

Steve Cuden: Each case is different. Right? You have to approach each one in its own unique way. You’ve done both plenty of dramas and plenty of comedies and musical comedy as well. Do you have a preference? Would you rather be in comedy, or would you rather do drama? Or is it just everything is everything?

Karen Ziemba: Everything is everything.

Steve Cuden: You like it all.

Karen Ziemba: It’s a little bit of tragedy and comedy, and there’s a little bit of comedy and tragedy. However, I will say back to what you were saying about how could you do that show for so long. When a show is hopeful and joyous, it’s a lot easier to do a longer run than something that’s dark. After a while, playing a dark character, playing a pained character, you need a break from it.

Steve Cuden: Was that the case with Roxy?

Karen Ziemba: Not so much. Well, I went from that into Contact and Contact, that I did for a long time too. But that Contact was a role that I finally had to say, I need a break from it. Because she was a very wonderful character. But it was a painful character too. It was time to step aside and do something different.

Steve Cuden: Without getting the least bit personal, my assumption is it was beginning to leach into your life in some way. It was making life a little hard.

Karen Ziemba: Yes. It was very physically taxing. It was time.

Steve Cuden: It was grueling, and you were ready to move on is what it was, I assume. I want to talk for a few moments about your TV work. Because you’ve done a fair amount of TV work as well. There are really significant differences between working on a stage and working in front of a camera. Explain for those who may not know, what are those significant differences from your perspective, and how do you manage that?

Karen Ziemba: Well, stillness is important on television. Again, the focus. The cameraman and director really edit those things. Most of the shows that I’ve done in New York, have been one camera. So they switch around and do the scene in many different ways. From this point of view. From your point of view. Close up here.

Steve Cuden: Meaning you’re repeating. You’re repeating and repeating, right?

Karen Ziemba: Yes. I had a really, really good comment from the gentleman who was playing the judge when I did The Good Wife. I was on the stand. I was a very emotionally pained mother who had lost her daughter to cancer. I was in court because I was blaming the medical staff that had caused this to happen or allowed this to happen. Anyway, Saul, who was playing the judge said to me, Karen, you don’t have to be that emotional for every single take. You should save it for the closeup. But I thought to myself, yeah, but what about the people that are listening to me over in the jury box? What about the other lawyers? So each time I would conjure up this emotion. But he was sort of right. You learn over time, don’t give it all away. You’re not going to have any left. So that was really funny. So that’s an example that’s different. In the theater you just got to bring it up.

Steve Cuden: Once a night or twice in a day if you got a matinee.

Karen Ziemba: You do enough television you end up figuring it out. At that moment when I did that scene on that in the jury, I mean in the defendant’s box, I just wanted to put it all out there. He said, hey, take it easy.

Steve Cuden: I assume that’s turned out to be a valuable piece of advice for you.

Karen Ziemba: Yes, yes. It has. I have never done any television where I have a long running series where I’m playing, working every day many, many years. So they are guest spots, episodic, or whatever. You must go in there really knowing your material because people you’re playing opposite, they have sheets and sheaves and sheaves of pages, and they’re waiting for you to get it right or what. You really have to know it. So it is nerve-racking that way. You really want to know your stuff.

Steve Cuden: You’re jumping onto their moving train.

Karen Ziemba: Exactly.

Steve Cuden: So you really need to be on your best money stuff that day.

Karen Ziemba: Yes. I try to be. It can be daunting in that way because you’re just jumping in just to do a scene. It has nothing to do with the story that came beforehand. You don’t have no idea what was going on. You’re just kind of plugged in.

Steve Cuden: Well, that can be especially true in one of the Law and Orders. Because they’re somewhat broken up.

Karen Ziemba: Yes. I’ve done many and I’ve enjoyed them all.

Steve Cuden: The Law and Order machine apparently is literally making an effort to hire every New York actor they can get their hands on.

Karen Ziemba: I know. When I hear somebody say, oh, I’ve never done this show. I think, what?

Steve Cuden: Because they’re based in New York, and they do tons of New York actors. They bring in tons of New York actors. Alright. Do you have any tricks that you use to refresh your well. When you are burnt out. When you’re trying to find a new something, what do you do?

Karen Ziemba: It’s always good to see other theater, to see other musical performances, even just music performances. To go to museums. To be in nature. To just go away from everything for a week just to jumpstart the engine. I know that when I was with long running shows, and I would take a long-earned vacation. I always felt so much better when I came back. It really did help. It seems sort of during this pandemic, a lot of it has been like this sort of long vacation with little fits and starts and a very different way of performing. It’s all been technologically different, of course.

Steve Cuden: Well, that brings up a great question for me. Obviously, we’re having this conversation. This show’s going to live for a long time on the StoryBeat website. But right now, we’re having this conversation after about a year of lockdown on Covid or people being locked away in their homes. So this is not the same as being between a job. This is sort of an enforced stop for everybody. In a career that you’ve had, I’m going to imagine there have been times where you were between gigs. How do you keep yourself going? What is your focus? Do you work on your voice and your body, or how do you approach being between?

Karen Ziemba: I take a little downtime, but you have to continue in this business. You have to keep physically as up as much as you can. Your body. Your voice. Or you lose it. It’s a muscle.

Steve Cuden: Use it or lose it.

Karen Ziemba: That’s right.

Steve Cuden: It really is a muscle. There’s no question. By the way, same thing for writing. Writing is a muscle. You don’t write for a long time you lose that muscle too. It’s a muscle you have to keep. It’s akin to athletics,  well being what you do is definitely akin to athletics. It’s very athletic.

Karen Ziemba: Are you saying that a writer is what you’re keeping your mind facile? Or are you talking just about… In what way do you mean?

Steve Cuden: We’ve turned the tables and now I’m the interviewee.

Karen Ziemba: Right now I’m interviewing you.

Steve Cuden: So the answer is, it’s all the above. If you are a writer and you stop writing for a period of time, it doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be able to write again. It means that you’re going to get on and you’re going to be rusty. You won’t remember how to form sentences in an intriguing, interesting way. You won’t know how do I develop this character? How do I make the story in the plot work? The more that you do it, the better you get at it, the more facile it is for you. It’s akin to athleticism or training for athletics. It’s not the same at all. But it is akin to it in the sense that the more you do it, the better you are at it.

Karen Ziemba: I think you can never stop reading either.

Steve Cuden: Absolutely not.

Karen Ziemba: In my case, too.

Steve Cuden: You’re a reader. You’re a voracious reader.

Karen Ziemba: I’m not voracious, but I do it every day. Whether it be, the New York Times in the morning, but always at night as I’m lulling off. It’s having a real book made of paper and that where I turn the pages… Because those pixels keep me awake. So I’d like to have a real book, whether it’s more of the New York Times, but it’s usually a book that I’m reading. It gets you out of yourself, but it gets you into what’s happening in the world or somebody else’s life that you’re reading about or another time. This is always something else to bite into. What am I going to do for me, da, da, da. Enough of the, hey, I’ve cooked every meal every single night for the last year.

Steve Cuden: You and me both.

Karen Ziemba: So that’s changed my life. So there’s that to think about now. But I don’t need that much going out of myself to cook a meal as opposed to reading. Maybe reading some directions or trying what are we going to shop for? But when you read a book, it takes you totally out of yourself.

Steve Cuden: That’s very useful for both your mental and your physical being. Yes. It’s extremely helpful to be able to get away from yourself a little bit, especially when you are in your head, as they say. Well, I’ve been speaking now for almost an hour to the incredible Karen Ziemba, and we’re going to wind this down now. I’m just curious in all of your many, many experiences, do you have a story that you can relate to us that’s either weird, quirky, strange, or just maybe plain funny?

Karen Ziemba: There’s a few little things that have happened in my life in the theater. Some stories that have happened that I will not share that because I don’t want to mention any names.

Steve Cuden: No, please don’t.

Karen Ziemba: That has to do with people. The people that might never want to work with again. Who would you never want to work with again? Well, I’m not going to mention your names, but this is what happened. I mean, stuff like that. I do have those kinds of stories. This is not really a funny story, but this happened not that long ago actually, when we were doing Curtains at the Martin Beck now called, of course, the Hirschfeld. It was called the Hirschfeld at the time. Beautiful theater. It was in the middle of the summer, I believe.

So everything was on, every air conditioner, every computer, and of course all the theaters, everything is run by computer now. There must have been some kind of a power surge. I don’t know what happened, but our sound was gone. Thank goodness we were in the Hirschfeld Theater, which was built for acoustics. We weren’t in a new theater that had funky sound or whatever that needed a sound system. Now, every show needs a sound system now. Because very often, or mostly most of the time, there is some kind of an electronic instrument in the pit like a synthesizer that enhances the orchestra. A lot of these shows now have a rock score or a more pop score. So they use electronic instruments just for the score period.

Steve Cuden: Of course.

Karen Ziemba: We didn’t have that many. I think we did have a synthesizer in that pit. So what happened all of a sudden went out. All of a sudden, it’s like you couldn’t hear anybody. You couldn’t hear anybody speaking, but it’s like, okay. We separated the men from the boys at that moment. It’s continued on and we just had to make sure that we were kind of the edge of the stage face front and putting it out there. But it was like, okay, now you got it. All those voice lessons you took and how you wanted to project your voice and get it out there to that final 1500 seat up there.

It was such an eye-opener. A throat opener. But it was an eye-opener too. Oh my goodness, how much you had to support and really speak. I was thinking about the Ethel Mermans and Mary Martins when they didn’t have mics and things, and they used to just face front and they used to sing, and the orchestra was acoustic. So everybody was acoustic, and the theaters were all built for acoustics. You just had to go into that mode. It made me feel really happy to have to do that. That one. It was scary, but it was like, okay, here we go. Ground yourself and put it out there.

Steve Cuden: Has there ever been anyone with a louder voice than Ethel Merman?

Karen Ziemba: I don’t think so.

Steve Cuden: I don’t think so. I mean, she was huge. Out of a little woman. She was very small. Yes. That big voice came out. I mean, Bette Midler’s there, but not Ethel Merman.

Karen Ziemba: All on the mask. Nah.

Steve Cuden: So last question for you. Do you have a solid piece of advice or a tip that you can lend to someone who’s maybe just starting out and trying to break into the business? Or maybe they’re in a little bit and they’re struggling and they’re trying to get to the next level?

Karen Ziemba: Well, other than the things that you do just to keep yourself in shape, whether it be your singing. The theater that you’re working on. Going to as many virtual classes that you can do. I don’t know. I mean, I do a Shakespeare salon every Thursday night.

Steve Cuden: What’s a Shakespeare salon? What is that?

Karen Ziemba: It’s not a class. It’s a bunch of wonderful actors that got together. We were invited by this director Ron Daniels, who is phenomenal. He worked for the RSC, but he was my director for a couple of Sweeney Todd Productions that I did for opera companies around the country. We work on Shakespeare and sonnets and all different kinds. I learned so much. I’m one of the people that hasn’t done as much classical Shakespeare as some of these other people, but they’re just incredible to watch and to work with. His insightfulness, Ron, about an actor bringing this stuff to life. It’s been fabulous to do that. But that’s my kind of class salon that I do while I’m here virtually trying to keep myself going. But I say, other than those things you do to keep yourself in shape, your voice, your body, when you have the opportunity, it’s about who you are.

Are you the person that somebody wants to keep calling and keep working with and say, oh, get that person. I want to work with that person. I say the first thing is don’t kick anybody in the ass. You never know who you are with in this business that’s going to be the next director or casting director or producer or fellow actor on stage. We’re all in this together. There are going to be people that are very annoying that you might need to separate yourself from, and you’ll figure that out over time. You don’t want somebody who sucks the air out of the room all the time. You need to be with other people too, that want to share the space. If you’re fortunate enough, like I have, then I have to say, you get to work with those people a lot. But make yourself the person that doesn’t suck the air out of the room, but that contributes.

Even if sometimes it’s to say something that other people might not like. It’s to be truthful in your work and be kind and be generous as an actor. Remember that you never know who these people are that you’re working with. Everybody you work with. The person who gets the coffee. The person who is running the messenger, who’s bringing in the music, the new music. Those people all enhance what this final project is going to be. So do not discount them.

Steve Cuden: Well, isn’t the old expression be nice to everybody on the way up, because you’re going to see them again on the way back down.

Karen Ziemba: Yes. But hopefully it’s things will go up and maybe things will plateau. You don’t necessarily want everything to fall. But flatness is not as important, not as interesting as hills and dales and mountains that you climb and valleys you find beautiful flowers and vegetation and interesting creatures. The variation is what’s interesting.

Steve Cuden: For sure.

Karen Ziemba: I hate to use the word failure because I don’t think anything’s really a failure. But the things that are successful are like, wow and the things that maybe aren’t as successful, you learn from them, or you meet maybe a lifelong friend. There’s always something to be taken away from it, I say.

Steve Cuden: So much wisdom. So much wisdom and advice. So much wisdom and advice. You truly cannot afford in this business to burn bridges with anybody. It does happen, but you can’t really afford it too much. You really have to be a good person all the way up. I teach my students all the time. The first person you’re going to meet going into a studio is going to be the guard. Be nice to them. The next person you’re going to meet is going to be somebody at a reception desk. Be nice to them. Be nice to everybody because you’re correct. You never know.

Karen Ziemba: The spotlight operator.

Steve Cuden: Oh, be really nice to the Spotlight operator, because it’s really easy to not put that light on.

Karen Ziemba: Oops, I missed you.

Steve Cuden: Then you’re running around on stage trying to find that light, which is not the way to go. Karen Ziemba, this has been an absolutely spectacular hour plus on StoryBeat today.

Karen Ziemba: I too.

Steve Cuden: I cannot thank you enough for spending this time with me. I hope someday maybe we get a chance to meet in person.

Karen Ziemba: Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me, Steve.

Steve Cuden: So we’ve come to the end of today’s StoryBeat. If you like this episode, won’t you please take a moment to give us a comment, rating, or review on whatever app or platform you are listening to. Your support helps us bring more great StoryBeat episodes to you. StoryBeat is available on all major podcast apps and platforms, including Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Tune In, and many others. Until next time, I’m Steve Cuden. May all your stories be unforgettable.

Executive Producer: Steve Cuden, Producer: Casey Georgi, Announcer: Javier Grajeda
Social Media: Mina Hoffman, Design & Marketing: Holly Reed, Reed Creative Group


  1. Myla Fields

    Xlnt interview with a very fine artist. The overview presented of working in theater is important and worthwhile.

    • Steve Cuden

      Thanks, Myla. Karen is fantastic. It was a real thrill to chat with her.


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