Tony Winner Karen Olivo On Returning to the Stage After Leaving NYC Behind in Search of a "Full Life"

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16 May 2014

Karen Olivo
Karen Olivo
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Last seen on the New York City stage in Murder Ballad — an experience she described as "going into battle" — Tony Award winner Karen Olivo refreshes and refocuses at her new home in Madison, WI, and preps for a short summer return to NYC.


When Karen Olivo called from her new home in Madison, WI, to chat about life post-Broadway, she immediately explained, "Art has never been an issue." The actress posted on her personal blog March 18, 2013, that she was "transitioning" into a new phase and leaving New York City show business behind. She cited a split from her second husband, an internal struggle and tough breaks in the biz as reasons to head out of town.

Not realizing her message — intended for fans and friends — would go viral, Olivo was faced with additional anxiety before taking the final leap after closing the first Off-Broadway incarnation of the hit musical Murder Ballad. The performer, exploring new artistic freedoms, has kept a low profile since then.

"Murder Ballad was the hardest thing I've ever done because it exhausted me emotionally as well as vocally and physically," she confided to "I started to think, when I was crawling back to my apartment nightly, 'Yeah, that was really great work, and I'm proud of what me and my castmates have done,' but then I kept thinking, 'I'm going home alone again…' I'm going to ice my knees and cover my cuts and my bruises and go on vocal rest and hopefully order something in and fall asleep in front of the TV, and I don't think this is the life I want to live. I can't even see my friends because the work is asking so much of me…"

She thought, "This is no way to live. This is no way to live for barely cutting it monetarily. That's when it really started to weigh on me. Something is very uneven. For what I'm putting in, I'm not getting nearly enough back. I'm not getting refilled, and I've never been one of those people [who] love to say, 'It's the applause that fills you.' That's bullshit. It actually isn't. You need a full life. You need something outside of adoration from fans and things like that because then you don't have anything to draw from when you're on stage. I realized I was depleting my life — my personal life had withered away to nothing, and here I was trying to draw from the well that had run dry."


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