In The Haus: Karen Crone

In The Haus: Karen Crone

Karen Crone’s journey into the world of performance began in Rockhampton, where a dance class babysitting arrangement sparked a lifelong passion. Supported by her parents, Karen immersed herself in dance, singing, and musical theatre, performing in over ten major productions by the end of her secondary education. Influenced by Hollywood icons and live theatre, she pursued her passion, which has led to a highly-successful career as a performer in our Australian arts scene.

Throughout her career, Karen has been part of over 50 contracts with Queensland Theatre and has worked with and performed with legendary figures in the industry including royalty! Currently, Karen will continue her collaborations with shake & stir theatre company for their national tour of Fourteen. Karen’s journey is a testament to the power of storytelling and the importance of seizing every opportunity. Theatre Haus spoke with Karen about her career beginnings, inspirations, and the wisdom she has gained along the way.

We’d love to know more about the beginning of your career – where and how did you get your start? 

I grew up in Rockhampton, where there were a large number of dance schools. One afternoon when I was about three, my mother needed someone to babysit me, so she asked the lady across the road who happened to be a dance teacher. Beverly said she was happy to babysit me, but I would have to go to class with her. She had a daughter, Madonna who was the same age. That was the beginning of my career.

About six months later, I performed “I’m a Little Teapot” on the stage of the Buffalo Hall in the Christmas concert and since then performing has been a major part of my life. I continued to dance nearly every afternoon and all day on Saturdays to the end of my secondary education. I also did piano and organ lessons, as well as singing lessons. My mother was a keen fan of Hollywood movies, and she would write to the Hollywood stars as well as collect movie paraphernalia.

Mum and Dad both loved me performing and encouraged my enthusiasm. My Mum and Dad are both great storytellers. During my teen years, my classical dancing waned and I performed more tap, jazz, and song and dance routines. This led me to musicals. By the time I had left Rocky, I had performed in over 10 major Musical productions, and I had played the lead in half of them. I adored Doris Day and Lucille Ball, and around the same time, I was intrigued by the character of Frankie Doyle in Prisoner, played by our very own Carol Burns.

What or who were some of your early influences or inspirations that shaped your career?

I adored live theatre, and after doing a two-year intensive acting course at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), I auditioned for the Queensland Theatre Company and was successful. I joined the company in 1981 with the late great Alan Edwards at the helm.

I have been engaged in over 50 contracts with the company since those early days. I learned so much from watching from the wings the likes of Sheila Bradley, Noeline Brown, Margery Forde, the late great Carol Burns and Elaine Cuisack, as well as Duncan Wass, David Clendinning, Reg Cameron and so many many more.

Grin and Tonic were a very young company of players at the time, and they toured Shakespeare to all our
regional Queensland Schools. I remember seeing and meeting them at high School in Rocky, and was blown away by the idea of a traveling company of players. If it wasn’t for the vision of Bryan Nason we would not have Grin and Tonic, Strut and Fret and the amazing shake & stir theatre company today. I was inspired by the dedication of these practitioners to the art of storytelling, a craft that is embedded in our human DNA. None of us can do without stories.

What are some of the most defining moments or milestones in your career so far?
  • Performing for the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Her Majesty’s Theatre Brisbane in 1982 was pretty incredible. It seemed like a dream for a girl from a regional town like Rocky.
  • Touring the state with the show WAY OUT WEST in a circus tent, and meeting some of the characters I was playing.
  • Working with icons from my youth, like Carol Burns, Jon English and Jacki Weaver to name a few, only to discover they all suffered at times from the human condition of self-doubt.
  • Running my own entertainment business for more than two decades with three other actors. We provided valuable improvisational and character-based work for local actors, keeping them out of the front seat of cabs and out of the kitchens of restaurants.
What is a quirky fact about you, or something people wouldn’t expect about your story?

I had a knowing nod with Michael Jackson when one of my best friends, the late Wiley Reed played for him when he was touring here.

What are you currently working on and how has that creative process been?

I am currently working with the busiest and best theatrical company in the country, shake & stir theatre company. We are in the final weeks of rehearsal for the upcoming national tour of the smash hit show, Fourteen. It is an incredible rehearsal room with some of the State’s finest and funniest actors.

What’s in your rehearsal bag that you can’t go without? 

I always pack my lunch, and I always keep my script and the latest notes close by. I mostly wear black so at any point I could don accessories and props and perform.

Do you have a reading, teaching/advice, institution or resource that changed your life/perspective, which you’d recommend to others?

Don’t listen to respond, listen to comprehend so you can effectively respond.

What advice would you give to a young person today aspiring to walk in your shoes? 

Say YES often the smallest of roles can lead to your greatest achievements.

What are your future aspirations or projects that you’re excited about?

I am currently working on putting my Dads memoirs together, which is inspiring me to do the same. I would love to turn them into a podcast. I often am a guest on ABC radio and I would be very keen to work more regularly with the ABC, whether on radio one of their TV shows like Backroads. We are a country of characters.

Theatre Haus is the ‘home of theatre’, where, what or who do you call home?

My beautiful workers cottage in Red Hill has been my home now for more than a quarter of a century. It is fondly known as the station, with my two furbaby’s George and Pearl.

Don’t miss the legendary Karen Crone as she performs in ‘Fourteen’ at Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) until Saturday, 6 July 2024. For tickets, visit QPAC’s website.

Want to feature in our In The Haus series? Email [email protected]

Photos by Joel Devereux

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