Behind the Scenes of Spoon River Anthology: Karen

 Karen in the midst of the cast and crew of  Spoon River Antholog.  (Photo: supplied)

Karen in the midst of the cast and crew of Spoon River Antholog. (Photo: supplied)

Karen Towsley is a legend within the Fort McMurray (and Alberta!) theatre scene - and we are so excited to have her back to direct Spoon River Anthology! Recently retired from teaching high school Theatre and Musical Theatre in Calgary, her most prolific work was at Westwood High School Fort McMurray where she directed numerous shows for the Cheepiyak Theatre Company and coached the three-time National Champion Westwood Improv Team! Her Fort McMurray directing credits are extensive, and include (to only mention a very few): The Sound of Music, Charlotte’s Web, The Vagina Monologues, The Attic, the Pearls, and Three Fine Girls, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), and How to Eat Like a Child (Wayawitmayihk Theatre Company). You might have also seen her on stage as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, Chorus in Camelot, Constanze in Amadeus, Sybil in Private Lives, and Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank as well as six shows with the British Sm’Isles comedy troupe. She was also the recipient of a Provincial Excellence in Teaching Award and an Alberta Centennial Medal for excellence in Arts Education, both earned while living and working in Fort McMurray!

"I am so thrilled to finally be back in Fort McMurray! It's been too long. When I left Fort McMurray for Calgary in August 2005 I cried every day for a year I missed it so much. My children, parents now themselves, were born, raised, educated, and met their husbands here. I have had the amazing career that I have had only because of the opportunities my family and I had here. I started teaching at Thickwood Heights Elementary School, but moved to Westwood Community High School the year it opened. My memories of the students I worked with are so wonderful and I am thankful that I have been able to keep in touch with so many of them over the years! Acting and directing for the Cheepiyak Theatre Company, the Keyano Theatre Company and my Wayawitmayihk Theatre Company, while attending all my kids' things and teaching full time, kept me busy but ridiculously fulfilled! My life-long friends all come from here and some still live here. Fort McMurray is my hometown."     


What has been the most rewarding about working on Spoon River Anthology?

"Without a doubt the most rewarding part about working on Spoon River Anthology is the relationships I have developed with the whole team. I have loved working around the table unpeeling the layers of all these characters with each actor sharing personal connections and sharing their research. I have loved all the laughter in the rehearsal hall even as we tackled numerous challenges or felt the raw emotion of some of the characters. I have loved the "can do" attitude of each and every member of this cast and watching the immense growth from rehearsal to rehearsal! I have loved the close collaboration with the Set & Lighting Designer Alison Yanota and the Costume Designer Melissa Mitchell...two amazing talents and wonderful human beings! I have thoroughly enjoyed working with our Stage Manager, the warm and meticulous Barry Cook and our Assistant Stage Manager, my awesome friend (and former student) Angela Fenton!
I really look forward to seeing our work come to life with the addition of the numerous, unbelievably gorgeous costume pieces designed by Melissa Mitchell and built by Melissa and Lyndsay, the props created by Alison Yanota and Emily, and Alison's lights! Shout out to Scott for expertly accomplishing my minimal Sound Design! Production Values!!!"

The most challenging?

"The transitions!!! Thank goodness I scheduled lots of time to rehearse them! Thank goodness for this cast and SM team!!!"

What has surprised you?

"How the 10 cast members immediately became a happy, supportive ensemble! Immediately. The first day."



"I did not pick the play... I was hired to direct it! At first, I struggled to find my connection, but then I realized that the characters' connections to Spoon River mirrored my own  connection to Fort McMurray: In many ways, you can never go back, but it is woven into the fabric of your life in such a profound way.  For that reason..."





Preview: April 27, 8:00 pm
Opening: April 28, 8:00 pm
Show dates: April 29, May 4, May 5, May 6, 2017 8:00 pm

Tickets available at

Genre: Drama
Rating: Appropriate for all audiences

In the fictional small town of Spoon River we are introduced to the ghosts of the people that were once its inhabitants who took their secrets to the grave. While exploring the evocative story, both the sad and humorous sides of life are portrayed in the haunting performance with fetching ballads and the free verse of Edgar Lee Masters.

“A dramatic presentation reduced to its simplest terms… moving and beautiful… An evening of astonishingly stirring emotional satisfaction.” – New York Post

“A glowing theatre experience… A brooding and loving American folk poem brought to life on a stage.” – The New York Times