Karen Allen Baxter
Managing Director, Department of Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre
Karen Allen Baxter started her career as an arts administrator at the legendary New Lafayette Theatre, Harlem, New York. Since then she has produced concerts and managed reggae artists Bob Marley & The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, and Burning Spear. She also co-produced the Grammy-nominated soundtrack album Reggae Sunsplash - A Tribute to Bob Marley. From 1987 to 1999, she produced the Annual AUDELCO Awards which honor excellence in Black Theatre.
Before coming to Rites & Reason, Baxter was the executive director of the Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop (FSWW), one of the oldest Harlem-based playwrights' laboratories. She came to FSWW at a critical point in its history and, through her management skills, was able to stabilize and grow the institution. As Producer/Managing Director , Department of Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre, Baxter produces all of the productions and programs. These have included film/stage-veteran Ossie Davis' Sybil, Mule Bone by Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes (which was presented on Broadway by Lincoln Center, NY) and The Disappearance by award-winning novelist Rosa Guy, adapted and directed by veteran actor Ruby Dee and Elmo Terry-Morgan (which was also produced at CrossRoads Theatre, NJ); the RI, NC and CA tours of Heart to Heart: Ain’t Your Life Worth Saving?; Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas; The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza (fully produced at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago and at the Fountain Theater, Los Angeles). Ms. Baxter also produces The Black Lavender Experience – Theatre and Conversation Sparked by Queer Artists of Color; and the Africana Film Festival. In October 2014, she curated the exhibition at the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Black Experience at Brown.
She studies the West African language, Bambara and worked with the Trilateral Reconnections Project with the University of Cape Town, SA, Brown University and the University of the West Indies. Ms. Baxter also teaches a course, Art and Civic Engagement that explores public art, communities, social and cultural identity, democracy and power structures and sits on many boards and committees including the executive committee of Brown’s Creative Arts Council; and Innovative Solutions, RI.
She chaired The New Lafayette Theatre Project, NYC; and currently chairs the SonEdna Foundation, Ms. Baxter holds a BS in sociology from the City University of New York, a Certificate in Arts Management from Harvard University, and a MS in Arts Management from Lesley University. Ms. Baxter was awarded a 2-year scholarship by August Wilson and completed the Minority Business Executive Program at the Amos Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College.