I have worked with Karen Braun for the past six years. I have been her student, as well as an actor and dance captain in her Teen and Main Stage productions at SoLuna Studio. I have been a part of twenty shows of Ms. Braun’s, such as “Rent,” “Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party,” and “In the Heights” to name just a few.  From the time I was thirteen, to now at the age of eighteen, Ms. Braun has pushed me to come out of my shell, try new things, and challenge myself every step of the way.

Unlike many directors and choreographers I’ve worked with, Ms. Braun always brought something new to the table. She brought her own original concepts and ideas to every production, whether they were classic shows or lesser known contemporary works. She has re-shaped my view of theater and its limitless capabilities over and over again with each production.

Speaking more specifically to her work with immersive theater, as an actor I had never been very comfortable with audience interaction; however, her concepts and direction with musicals such as “Carrie,” “Cabaret,” and “Pippin,” made it feel very natural to form this experience with audience members. She brilliantly turned a small black-box theater into a high school, a raunchy Berlin night club, and a larger than life circus, creating dazzling and thought provoking experiences for the cast and audience alike. She took these shows and molded her own vision from scratch, while staying true to the original works. This is what she does best.

As a choreographer, Ms. Braun is no different. She creates original choreography, while often still keeping true, or paying homage, to the original choreographer’s style. For instance, she choreographed much of “Pippin” in the style of Bob Fosse, while also keeping true to her own style. Throughout various shows she has touched on different styles of dance, such as contemporary, hip-hop, and modern. I have been tapped as the Dance Captain for six of Ms. Braun’s shows and can easily state that one word that always describes her choreography is “passionate.” Her passion for dance is easily seen in every move as it is intricate, and often stylistic, while expressing true, heartfelt emotion. It challenges her performers and adds entirely new dimensions to her productions.

Ms. Braun believes in the necessity of “smart actors.” Therefore, she has instilled in each of her performers the goal of finding their own take on their character away from merely a carbon copy of other people’s portrayals. She has trained me in the techniques of Meisner and Laban, helping me to find greater personal connection and depth in each of the characters I have tackled. Her emphasis on originality and being true to oneself as an artist makes her shows an absolute joy to be a part of and to watch.  

While all of the success she finds in her productions can easily be attributed to her originality or creativity, I also attribute it to her fierce dedication and work ethic. Once her mind becomes set on a project she becomes almost obsessed, striving to create more than a show, but an “epic” piece of art. She works tirelessly with her creative teams to create the best overall production and never arrives at a rehearsal less than 110% prepared. This is a quality she proudly instills in each and every one of her actors and students. I can say with full certainty that my work ethic in terms of theater, and even in school, would not be what it is today without Ms. Braun. With every show she set the bar for her expectations and challenged us to meet them, rise far above them, and to match her own work ethic and passion.

Ms. Braun’s vision, work ethic, and passion combined have formed remarkable shows on the SoLuna stage and I know her work in the future will be nothing less than extraordinary.

-Alyssa Paciullo (Student/Actress/Dance Captain 2012 - 2017) 

Karen Braun is nothing but supportive. She challenges her casts, her production team members, and her students to be the best that they can be. She welcomes exploration and failure, whilst still providing a soft place to land. Creativity flourishes when you are around her and she may even provide you an experience that can change your life and allow you to find your true passion. 

My time with her, watching her as a producer, director, choreographer, teacher, and mentor all at the same time, was truly life changing. With her by my side I was able to helm a production with myself as director in high school. It led me to no longer want to pursue a career in performance, but in directing and management. I went on to study Arts Administration at Wagner College and have simultaneously worked multiple internships on Broadway. 

-James Collins

After 5 years of working at Soluna Studio, I can attest that Karen Braun has proven to be an inspiration to all she has worked with. She has the ability to command a room and motivate people to work harder. These skills make any show directed by Karen truly remarkable and phenomenal.

-Danny Passadino (Musical Director 2012-2017)

I've been working with Karen for 4 years now (2013-2017), but have been doing theatre for 8 & 1/2 years. Out of all of the directors I have worked with, Karen has been by far my favorite. As a director Karen is fun, but also knows how to get stuff done. She is the only director I have worked with that takes the time to do character development, and talk about the history & importance of the shows that we are working on. Karen is one of the best directors to work with because although she gives you blocking & stage direction, you as the actor are free to make any choice that you seem fit for the character, which is not something a lot of directors do. Since working with Karen, not only do I feel that I have learned how to expand myself as an actor & explore my characters on a deeper level, my dance technique has definitely improved & helped me become more prepared for college. I could not thank her enough for helping me become the performer I am today. 

-Haley Licata 

Karen Braun's directing at Soluna Studio served a really important and special purpose in my artistic growth. Karen directed me in many shows, but I also had the opportunity to work, choreograph, and direct alongside her. Through these experiences, I learned to take risks I would have never thought of taking, interpret ideas in new and different ways, and treat people with respect. Karen respects all of her actors and truly works with them to create complex and thought-through characters. She pushes her casts to their potential while bringing them together into a family. Karen taught me that a strong work ethic will take you far, and I would not be the actor or worker I am today without her. 

-Anastasia Wofle 

I have learned so much from Karen Braun. Not only has she made me a better performer, she has also taught me how to be a professional. I've worked with Karen for a little over two years (2015-2017) and every minute I've spent with her has been a learning experience. Every single person who is lucky enough to be under Karen's tutelage, leaves being stronger and more hard working. The most important thing I have learned from her is that if you want something to be great, every single member of the group needs to put in the work. Karen will never let there be a weakest link. She makes everyone she works with strive to be better, and to rise above the expectations of others.

-Mia Donneruno 

I have spent 5 (2012-2017) years working with Karen as both a director and a choreographer. Growing along side her from when I was entering high school to eventually leaving for college was an amazing experience that I would not give up for anything. Karen puts an incredible amount of dedication and work into everything she does. She respects each and every person who walks through her doors and makes everyone feel comfortable to be themselves. Her ability to take a musical that has been done thousands of times before and always make it unique is inspiring and her aptitude for handling so many different things at the same time is unbelievable.  Karen was able to direct, choreograph, and costume multiple shows all while running a business. She truly puts her entire self into everything she does and I am so grateful that I have had the pleasure of both knowing and working with such an incredible woman. 

-Kaylee Spano 

I have had the pleasure of working with Karen Braun for the past three years (2014-2017). I first met Karen when I auditioned for SoLuna Studio’s production of Rent in the summer of 2014. After seeing her dedication to her work and her drive to present audiences with the best show she could, I knew I wanted to continue working with her. She has tremendous creativity when it comes to developing characters and giving each production her own unique interpretation. I have never met another director as devoted as Karen. Not only is she an amazing director, she is also a remarkable person and teacher. In the past three years, I have learned more about the performing arts with Karen then in my entire acting career. There is no aspect of the theatre that Karen is lacking superior skill. From casting to dance and choreography to costumes and everything in between, she delivers brilliant experience.

- Jenni Whitfield

I have worked with Karen for about 4 months (since May 2017). I have been doing theatre for 7 years now. Although this may only seem like a small amount of time to work with a single director, every day I work with her I learn something new. Karen has by far been my favorite director to work with. She not only teaches us about theatre, but also about leadership and teamwork. Many things Karen has taught me are valuable life lessons that everyone should learn. My first show with Karen was Pippin. I went into that show having no previous dance experience. She worked me and the whole cast so hard and we all went out better dancers than we were before. As a director, Karen pushes us to surpass our expectations of ourselves. My favorite thing that I have done with Karen was history day. History day is when each person in the cast has to research the history of the show. This was the first time I had ever done anything like this. It helped me find my character and what the show meant to me. Karen gives so much and works so hard every day. She has been an amazing influence on me and I’m sure many others would say the same

-Isabella Donneruno

I've been working with Karen Braun since May 2015. My first show with Karen was American Idiot. When I first started with Karen, I was pretty shy, awkward, had very little stage presence and could barely dance. That summer I started to see a change in myself due to Karen constantly pushing the cast to do our best work. She never let us say that we couldn't do something without trying it and that definitely changed my outlook as a performer. After American idiot, I took a small break but came back to be in Legally

Blonde with her. This show was completely different from any other show I'd ever done. I grew so much as performer through this show and being able to work with Karen. She was able to build my confidence in myself up and I became more comfortable on stage than I ever imagined I would be. Even during my freshman year of college, Karen helped me as performer from 3 hours away. She helped me with my song and my nerves for my first collegiate level audition, and I wound up getting a callback. My last show with Karen was Pippin. Karen's direction and choreography in this show made it not only a beautiful show, but a very challenging show. At 19, I know I still have room to grow but Karen has shown me that if I put my mind to it, I can be a better performer than I ever thought I could be. My growth as an actor, singer, and dancer can definitely be traced back to Karen Braun and her incredible work. 

-Lorelei Amato

I have been working under Karen Braun’s direction for about five years (2012-2017). Over this time period I have learned an innumerable amount of professional information as well as life lessons. Karen taught me everything from proper and versatile dance techniques to how to develop an efficient work ethic. Karen provided myself as well as every other person working under her with opportunities to learn from her while also encouraging an environment that promoted self reaching and self discovery. 

-Tyler Mooney

Karen Braun has a unique creative energy – a fire burning within her heart and soul. This to me is the mark of a true artist. She must create – she needs to create – she wants to live her life as a creative artist and as a theatrical director.

When I first saw Karen six years ago or so I passed right by her in her theater lobby – she was so young – I thought she was an actress in a show – she was quiet and unassuming – yet – all the while she was the Artistic and Executive Director of her own theater business – a risky business to be in – especially at such a young age.

I was astounded by the energy and precision in her productions. There were no flubbed lines, no missed steps and the cast sang with an energy and enthusiasm that reflected Karen’s.

Still, it was not easy for a young lady to steer a ship rife with challenge after challenge. There are always squeaky wheels that required oiling – there were those that loved her and there were malcontents. There were the inevitable financial difficulties that those in the arts incur.

Karen overcame them all through sheer will and although she took her lumps – she never quit and she continued to blossom and to grow her wings. Her productions became more and more impressive as she produced shows on a small stage that other theaters had not even tried before her. She was innovative and structured at the same time.

I see Karen today and she is filled with the same creative core she had when I first saw her, except now she has a new sparkle in her eye. I can tell she is ready to take the wings she grew and to fly with them to new creative heights. She has matured – she has learned – she has adjusted – she is ready.  Karen Braun will be a successful director at a professional theater one day. I wish her well and I will be there to witness her passionate creations.

John Passadino

President - Productions By Passadino Multi Media

Executive Director = SEE Saw Comedy Repertory Company

I have been working with Karen since 2012 and she has made a second home for me since I started with her. Karen both taught me how to grow as an actor as well as a person. She taught me both the most basic and complex parts of acting from creating your character, to becoming the character and having that person live in your mind and body for a full performance. Karen has been a motherly figure to many of her students and has showed them how hard it is to work as an actor and performer in this world today. She developed each and every one of us to be a mature adult and whenever she tells us to jump we never cease to ask "how high?" Karen is an extremely dedicated director and choreographer. She always puts her blood, sweat and tears into every show she directs. As well as being a dedicated director, she is original. She has never copied a production and creates a fresh new production of the show to where it gives the whole plot more meaning and makes it more surreal. Karen teaches us to never give up and teaches through her own personal experiences and I am so privileged to have been able to spend the past 5 years of my life with her.

-Justin Autz (Student/Actor 2012-2017)

Karen Braun is by far one of the most inspiring people I have ever worked with. After spending six years with Karen from being cast in multiple of her many shows to directing side by side, I can safely say she has given me more knowledge and motivation then any other theater professional I have worked with. Karen is driven, creative and always looking to push the limits. No matter what the task at hand may be from choreographing, directing, or even taking on a role, she always puts 110% into it. Karen has not only taught me various skills from dancing to acting but how to be motivated in my everyday life. I know that no matter what field I work in I can contribute a piece of my work ethic to her. Working with Karen over the years has been an absolute pleasure

-Greg Pepe (Student/Actor/Assistant Director/Assistant Choreographer 2012-2017)

Three years ago I had sought Karen Braun's theatre out specifically because of the well-known community she had constructed, “SoLuna Studio, where the sky’s the limit.” The time was at a pivotal point in my career, as I was beginning a Masters program in Drama Therapy at New York University. I was in need of a creative outlet that I knew would promote and facilitate my creative needs as well as reestablish what I already knew and was pursuing professionally, theatre’s ability to connect people by forming strong relationships to others and the outside world. This was a time for me, when I was taking hold of my life and reestablishing my legacy, a theme for me, for many of the actors at SoLuna, and for Karen. 

The productions she chooses are methodical, themes that are brazenly important to the community inspiring actors and audiences to flock to the call. Within the past three of the five years SoLuna has been serving the Long Island community, I had been involved in the productions of RENT, Big Fish, First Date, and PIPPIN. Within these particular shows, the theme of personal precept and legacy, what each person leaves behind in the world, is uplifted. This is a question many chase, the perception that is reflected back when we are long gone. She has tapped into this theme within many of her productions as well as other themes that are universally questioned. 

Karen is a skilled researcher into the dramaturgy of each production she directs and how it coincides with Long Island stories in her community. RENT, the effects of the AIDS epidemic and how it touches on the current opioid epidemic on Long Island, Big Fish and her utilization of the on stage Alabama family comparative to the real life Long Island theatre family who portrayed them, Cabaret and the connection with the current political climate, First Date in relation to the surplus of Dating Applications and the change of dating norms in the 21st century. Karen Braun not only heavily researches her material she also encourages her performers to do the same. She hosts a history day for each of her productions, holding her performers and creative team to task by sitting them all in a circle for a rehearsal and having each person presenting research, engaging in an educated discussion. She asks the question how is your production an important contribution to the world and your community.

Karen is known in the Long Island theatre community as a pied piper for the adolescent and young adult population. Although this is not her exclusive population, this is one of the only community theatres on Long Island that the youthful population specifically gravitates toward. She has the ability to hold a group on the verge of new experiences, intuit their needs, harness their skills, and hone them into a constructive craft. She takes her own personal experience as a young theatre professional and translates that into a language that all young professionals can understand. Her empathic technique is a model of leadership. The performers she works with, many in pursuit of a professional theatre career are challenged to utilize their theatre experience to construct a deeper narrative for themselves, strengthening character and personal development in tandem. While the outcome of the play is high priority for her, it is evident that she goes above and beyond in regards to the wellbeing and care of her performers by empowering them to be thoughtful through artistic endeavors.

For me, she was the perfect usher into the drama therapy world. She is a personal guide for me and I look forward to seeing how she emboldens her own future. 

 

Samantha Jurman 

LCAT-LP

Drama Therapist, Kid Esteem Social Learning Center and Creative Arts Center

I have known Karen Braun since January of 2015. I first met Karen in my audition for Legally Blonde: The Musical, my first show at her theater, SoLuna Studio. From the very beginning, I felt the professionalism, drive, and passion that Karen has for her work and her performers. She has a focus that is unparalleled, and she has a true gift in direction and choreography. Before I met Karen, I hadn’t been in a show in four and half years, and was very rusty in the world of theater. Because of Karen, I have been given some of the most amazing roles and opportunities that have not only challenged me as a performer, they have challenged me as a person.

Karen has helped me understand what it means to be a performer; she taught me what performing is. Under Karen’s direction as a director, I have learned incredible techniques, strong points to focus on in each of my characters’ presence and story, and besides this one important lesson, Karen has taught me to be a strong, in the moment performer. She has taught me to be a true, authentic, and honest performer and to embody the character that I am performing as, and to be true to what I feel. She is encouraging in that she wants each performer to create the character for themselves, and not to copy or mimic anyone else who has played it before we have. Karen also makes sure that we know that it’s okay to make mistakes in the process. This is not only encouraging, it makes me feel safe in the environment to be the character and to try different things. Despite this, she has taught me acting techniques with group and individual exercises that help you create the backstory, emotional ascent and descent, relationships, internal struggles and triumphs, and physicality of your character, even if they don’t have any of these. One of the most important lessons that she taught me during my first show with her was: “Never say I can’t, Say I will.” This is a phrase that has stuck with me throughout all four shows that I have done with Karen because it pushes me to never hold back as a performer, or a person, ever again. This phrase came in complete need during this summer’s performance of Pippin, when Karen taught me one of my new favorite things, the aerial ribbon. At first, I was terrified to try it, and thought that I couldn’t. However, Karen pushed me to try it, and I was chosen to perform two aerial sequences in Pippin. I felt confident, real, and strong because of Karen’s faith in me. She is a true talent in the direction of a show, and, if given the opportunity, I would not hesitate to jump at the chance to perform under her guidance and direction in a show.

As a choreographer, I am in awe of her passion. Each dance that she choreographs is intense, emotional, and real. Under her direction in choreography, Karen has taught me how to be a strong dancer, she has also taught me great and effective warm-up techniques that I use every day outside of the theater. Every time I go into a rehearsal session with Karen for choreography, I know that I am in for an amazing and beautiful ride in dance. She is a true, and passionate dancer and it shows in her work. In each show that Karen choreographs, every dance has passion and intensity. I am so proud to have been a part of four shows that Karen has choreographed, and I would again, jump at the chance to be in a show under her choreography if given another opportunity.

My overall experience with Karen Braun as a director and a choreographer has been absolutely amazing, life changing, and a true gift in my life. She is not only an incredible director, choreographer, and performer, she is an amazing person to have as a mentor and a friend. However, despite all of this insightful knowledge I have learned from Karen, one thing that Karen has given me is something that I had lost a long time before I came to her studio. She gave me back hope and confidence in myself as a performer and as a person. I owe Karen more than I could possibly say. Not only has she given me hope in myself as a performer, and as a person, she has given me friendship, guidance, direction, confidence, strength, and a family in SoLuna Studio. I can’t even begin to thank her for everything that she has done for me over the past year and a half. The people that I have met and become friends with, the amazing opportunities that she has given me, and the incredible shows that she has directed and choreographed, she has taught and given me so much. She is a true gift to the world of theater, and I can’t even begin to thank her being an incredible person to have in my life.

-Samantha Fanning 


My name is Nicholas Caron. I have been at SoLuna since 2013, and I have been working directly under Karen since 2014. I once had an educator tell me when you become a performer you have a "tool belt", the tool belt symbolizes areas you strive in that could be put to use during a show. I truly believe my "tool belt" was very bare before my time at soluna.

I entered SoLuna strictly as a performer, a rocky one if that. Throughout the many years I've spent under Karen's direction I went from strictly a mediocre performer to a Choreographer, Costumer, Assistant Director, Dance captain, Confident Performer, etc. My "tool belt" filled up quickly with tools that could carry me in many aspects of theatre and that is all thanks to Karen Braun. Karen not only gave me tools for theatre but everyday tools that made me stronger, determined and more confident as a person.

My overall experience at SoLuna can't be put into words. It's hard enough to justify how important this studio is. I have been there for four years, spending as much time as I possible could. Every time you walk into SoLuna, it is a chance to grow and learn in a safe environment that challenges you to make your own choices, be smart actors, and don't be scared of being yourself. If I hadn't had the chance to work at SoLuna I don't think I'd still be performing- this studio encouraged me to be creative in my own unique way and fearlessly make art.

I have known Karen Braun since we were both teenagers doing theatre together on Long Island. As high school students, we constantly talked about one day opening our own studio, where we could create the same supportive, safe, and welcoming community that we had been lucky enough to find as teens.

Ten years later, we have that studio. We opened SoLuna Studio in Hauppauge, NY in July of 2011, and we have worked together every day since to make it a positive, productive, and educational environment for all of our students. As owners, Karen and I both take on many varied responsibilities in the day-to-day operations of the studio – but the task Karen is most passionate about is working with our high school and college students.

In addition to her many other responsibilities, Karen directs the teen and main stage productions at the studio. Over the course of the six years since we’ve opened the studio we’ve had countless high-school and college aged performers enrolled at the studio, and it never fails to amaze me how quickly Karen can form a bond with each of them. The teenagers who do a show or take a class at the studio consistently come back to keep working with us because of the love and support they find in Karen. May of our students have been with us since our first year, and some since the day we opened because they feel they have found a home – a place where they feel supported and accepted not only as performers but as people. All of that is because of Karen’s ability to balance being a director and teacher with being a mentor, a support system, and a friend to each student who comes through our doors.

Like all teenagers, many of our students have or are currently going through difficult times in their lives. Through some of their most difficult days, they enjoy coming to rehearsal because they know they will have the opportunity to practice the art the love in a positive and safe environment thanks to the culture of support Karen has created amongst our teenagers. Our students think of each other as and act as family directly because of Karen’s teaching. She values teamwork and acceptance above all, and done an incredible job passing these values on to our students. I can sincerely say that our students are better performers and better people because of the dedication and love Karen brings to her work.

-Megan Rabba (Vice President/Director of Education at SoLuna Studio 2011-2017)