Karen Malpede

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Karen Malpede
Born Wichita Falls, Texas
Alma mater University of Wisconsin
Columbia University School of the Arts
Spouse George Bartenieff
Genre Social justice art
Website theaterthreecollaborative.org

Karen Malpede is an American playwright and director whose work reflects an ongoing interest in social justice issues. She is a co-founder of the Theater Three Collaborative in New York City, and teaches theater at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is also the editor of a notable anthology, Women and Theater: Compassion and Hope (1984).[1]


She was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, to a Jewish mother and an Italian-American father. Because of her dual background, Malpede has said, she never quite fit in with any one group, and that has had a freeing effect on her as a dramatist.[1] She earned a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Fine Arts degree in theater at the Columbia University School of the Arts.[2]

Malpede's first play, A Lament for Three Women, was published in A Century of Plays by American Women (Richards Rosen Press, 1979),[3] and she has been writing and producing plays ever since.[4] In 1995, she co-founded the Theater Three Collaborative with her husband, George Bartenieff, and the late Lee Nagrin, both actors. The purpose was to enable them "to produce plays that could not be produced elsewhere" because of their social justice themes. Her play Extreme Whether, for example, depicts the struggle of scientists to tell the truth about climate change in the face of opposition from the fossil fuel industry, while Another Life is about the U.S. government torture program.[4]

Malpede's one-man play, I Will Bear Witness, is adapted from the diaries of Victor Klemperer, a German Jew who documented the persecution of Jews in Dresden between 1933 and 1945.[5] The production, which she directed, won Obie Awards for acting and set design.[6]

Malpede's short stories, reviews, and other writings have been published in New Theatre Quarterly,[7] the Women's Review of Books,[8] the Kenyon Review,[9] and other periodicals; and in anthologies such as Helen Barolini's The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (1985). She has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships, and her productions are regularly reviewed in periodicals such as American Theatre and the New York Times.[3][5][10][11]

Selected works[edit]

As author:

  • Plays in Time: The Beekeeper's Daughter, Prophecy, Another Life, Extreme Whether (2017)
  • A Monster Has Stolen the Sun and Other Plays (1987)

As editor:

  • Acts of War: Iraq and Afghanistan in Seven Plays (2011)
  • Women in Theater: Compassion & Hope (1985)

As anthology contributor:

  • Duo! The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century (2009)
  • One on One: The Best Women's Monologues for the 21st Century (2008)
  • One on One: Best Men's Monologues for the 21st Century (2008)
  • 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11 (2002)
  • Genocide, War and Human Survival (1996)
  • Women on the Verge: Seven Avant-Garde Plays (1993)
  • Angels of Power (1991)
  • The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (1985)
  • A Century of Plays by American Women (1979)


  1. ^ a b Barolini, Helen. "Karen Malpede". The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women. New York: Schocken Books. pp. 84–92. ISBN 0-8052-3972-3.
  2. ^ "Karen Malpede". John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
  3. ^ a b Rothbart, Brad (May 25, 2016). "Karen Malpede Imagines a Better World in 'The Beekeeper's Daughter'". American Theatre.
  4. ^ a b Park, Kyoung H. (August 26, 2013). "Talking to Karen Malpede: A Cultural Democracy in the Performing Arts Interview". The Brooklyn Commune.
  5. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (March 13, 2001). "THEATER REVIEW; Year by Year, a Witness to the Nazis' Affronts". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Obie Awards". Obie Awards.
  7. ^ Malpede, Karen (1996). "Theatre of Witness: Passage Into a New Millennium". New Theatre Quarterly. 12.
  8. ^ Malpede, Karen (1991). "Review: We Are Not a Muse...". The Women's Review of Books. 8 (9). JSTOR 4021022.
  9. ^ Malpede, Karen. "Extreme Whether". The Kenyon Review.
  10. ^ Goodman, Walter (December 28, 1987). "The Stage: 'Us,' by Karen Malpede". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Dunning, Jennifer (October 23, 1983). "Dance: Karen Malpede". The New York Times.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]