Frances Wright

About Perihelion

Karyn Traut

Jefferson Film Project

Recent Productions


Karyn Traut


Rehearsing Showing Your Gold, 1997

Playwright: Maker of Plays

In today's theatrical world, playwrights are too often taken to be simply writers of plays. As such, playwrights are not expected to direct, produce, design or in other ways bring the production to fruition.

A playwright literally is a maker of plays; the word "wright" means "maker." Making the play means writing the script, putting the ingredients of the production together, directing the actors as well as coordinating other technical directors and sometimes even acting in the performances. As Jean Cocteau wrote: "A theatrical piece ought to be written, presented, costumed, furnished with musical accompaniment, played and danced, by a single individual. This universal athlete does not exist. It is therefore important to replace the individual by what resembles an individual most; a friendly group."

Karyn performs in this tradition, the tradition of Cocteau, Shakespeare and Moliere, playwrights in the fullest sense of the word.

"I believe that if we nurture the creative spirit in the young, in the community, in all individuals, we will be able to find a way to deal with whatever life throws at us. The creative spirit is our most important survival trait."

A profile of Karyn Traut appears in the Spring 2002 Endeavors magazine, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Although not a believer in pre-destination, Karyn acknowledges that her parents met in a production of a play. At the age of six, she herself performed in the world premiere of Maria Sierra Martinez' autobiography, at Arizona State University, That's the Way Life Is. During her early childhood in Arizona, she grew to have a deep appreciation for the desert, the red-rock mountains and the Native American people of the different tribes. Although Karyn was born in Avon Park, Florida and resided there for only 6 weeks, she has always had a fervent attraction to large bodies of water. When, at the age of 15, her family moved to Malibu, California, to a house in which the ocean literally came under the living room at high tide, she felt she had returned to her roots. Years later the sand and ocean became later reflected essential elements in her work. The college years at Berkeley in the '60's brought to her a political sensibility and an acute appreciation for the difference between what is experienced in an event and what is later reported in the press. The same years brought a husband and two remarkable sons. It was not an easy task to stay in school and have children at the same time. Her grandmother moved in during the birthing months and remained during the summer, so that Karyn could work at the pool as a swimming instructor to help support her fledgling family. In addition to child care, her grandmother shared her own memories and perspective from the early 1900's which contrasted interestingly with the explosive innovations of the mid '60's. Eleven years in Venice, California, followed, during which she pursued her MFA work at UCLA in theater and raised her imaginative sons while her husband got his Ph.D. in molecular biology at USC. Following her MFA, she worked as a playwright and wrote screen and teleplays "on spec." Her plays were performed in the non-profit theaters of Los Angeles and Pasadena, while she did administrative work and some writing for a small educational film company in Malibu and later arts employment work at the Pasadena Community Arts Center. Through it all, she and her family, along with her parents, renovated a small beach house. In 1978, she migrated East with her husband and now teenage sons. They motored the distance of I-40 (which in August,1978, led just short of their destination, Chapel Hill, North Carolina) in their Volkswagen bus. In one week she managed to reverse her family's 200 year state by state migration to the West Coast.

In Chapel Hill she has created theatrical productions, one of which was produced off-off Broadway in 1984 with co-producer Peter Hardy, now of the Essential Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. She has taken two additional productions to New York City in small venues, taught playwriting at the Artscenter in Carrboro, and Duke University continuing education. Beginning in 1989, she taught in the Medical School at UNC-CH in the 2nd year Humanities and Social Science selective. She began team teaching in the Theater and Medicine selective for five years then created the selective: Performance, Culture, Art and Healing in the mid '90's. In 1989 she was awarded a North Carolina Artists Fellowship to attend the Headlands Center for the Arts as North Carolina writer-in-residence. The Headlands residency was pivotal in developing her vision of utilizing inter-arts in theatrical performance. It was also the culminating moment in helping her decide to establish her own theater so that she could be in charge of production, integrating as many of the arts as fit the vision for the play. Productions of her plays have been given around the state and readings of her work have been given in Tennessee and Georgia. Her passion for doing theater is matched only by her passion for spending time with her four dynamic grandchildren.


Karyn Traut: C.V.

Writer, Playwright, Director, Producer

Founder, Artistic Director and CEO Perihelion Theater Company 1987 to present

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Dept of Social Medicine

School of Medicine, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill 1989 to present

Carolina Speakers Bureau: “Thomas Jefferson; Brother’s Keeper”
Speaking engagements 1999 - present
Consultant to Jefferson Hemings Scholars Commission - 2000


A.B. English Literature, University of California at Berkeley,1967
M.F.A. Theater Arts, Specialization in Playwriting, UCLA,1970


Producer's Diploma, Feature Film Producer; Hollywood Film Institute; 1999

Independent Filmmaker, Certificate of Completion as Cinema Director and Line Producer; 1999


Grants and Awards:

North Carolina Humanities Council Grant to Perihelion Theater Company for tour of Alligator and Ellis, 1991.

North Carolina Humanities Council Grant to Perihelion Theater Company for production of Alligator and Ellis on television, 1991-93.

Orange County Arts Commission Grant, to Perihelion Theater Company for production of Shelter, 1992.
North Carolina Arts Council New Works Grant, to ArtsCenter in Carrboro for production of Saturday's Children, 1988.

North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship for residence at Headlands Center for the Arts, North Carolina Writer in Residence, 1989.
North Carolina Playwright's Fellowship: Honorable Mention for Phoenix Rising, 1990.

North Carolina Artist-in-the-schools fellowship for Residency in Roxboro, 1993.
North Carolina Artist-in-the-schools fellowship for Residency in Goldsboro, 1991.

UCLA Donald Davis Playwriting Contest -- winner (shared), 1969.
Story Creative Awards, 1971 (honorable mention).                                                                              

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Plays written by Karyn Traut
produced by Perihelion and other companies

BERKELEY BROCCULI,1999 Perihelion Theater Company, Literary Performance, Café Loon Loon; New York City. 1998 Perihelion Theater Company Literary Performance presentation; Caffé Driade, Chapel Hill, N.C

PHOENIX RISING,1998 Perihelion Theater Company full-staged production;
WestEnd theater of the ArtsCenter, Carrboro, N.C.

SHOWING YOUR GOLD,1997 Perihelion Theater Company Literary Performance presentation
Caffe Driadé, Chapel Hill, N.C.

ATR and THE NAMING OF NAMES, 1995, Perihelion Theater Company production at PSI Theater in the Durham Arts Council, Durham, N.C.

THE HUMIDITY MAID, 1994, Perihelion Production, Gerard Hall, UNC Campus, Chapel Hill, N.C.

HOUSE UPON THE SAND, 1992, Perihelion Production, The Forest Theater, UNC Campus, Chapel Hill, NC.

SHELTER, 1992, Perihelion Production, The Community Church, Chapel Hill, NC.

ALLIGATOR AND ELLIS, 1990-91, Perihelion Production, The state of North Carolina, several cities.

ALLIGATOR AND ELLIS on TELEVISION, 1993. Special video production produced by Perihelion in association with UNC-TV.

SATURDAY'S CHILDREN, 1988. (A play spiraling around the life of Thomas Jefferson), The Arts Center and Perihelion Production (neé Eccentric Circles Theater Company of North Carolina) The ArtsCenter, Carrboro, NC.

THE WOMAN AT FARMER'S MARKET, 1987, Perihelion Production, The ArtsCenter, Carrboro, NC; The Women's Inter-Arts Center, New York, NY.

REMEMBERED MUSIC, 1987, (A play drawn from Karyn's experience interviewing Frank Lloyd Wright as a high school freshman) Perihelion Production, The ArtsCenter, Carrboro, NC
The Women's Inter-Arts Center, New York, NY.

KENNEDY'S PLAY, 1984 (An AEA approved showcase) Traut Company, The Cubicolo, 414 W. 51st St., New York City.

"Now I know what it was like. I never understood before by watching only docu-dramas."...High School Student from Detroit who attended the play with his class.


SHELTER, 1980, (About life in Venice, California during the '70's) Carolina Regional Theater First Stage Production. Actor's Canteen in Cherokee, NC; presented also at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C.1980.

VENICE SONATA, 1978, (Earlier version of Shelter)Greenhouse Productions, Fifth Street Studio Theater, Hollywood, CA presented also at Pasadena Arts Center Theater, Pasadena, CA. 1978.

OZMA OF OZ, an adaptation, 1977, Synthaxis Theatre production, The Agape Playhouse, Burbank, CA. Synthaxis Theatre, Pasadena, CA.

JFK . . . A HOLE IN REALITY (now titled KENNEDY'S PLAY) 1976-77, Synthaxis Theatre productions, Synthaxis Theatre, Pasadena, CA.

VENETIANS BLIND, an MFA full staged production with original music by David Colloff, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, 1969.

BON VOYEURS, a one-act play production, One act plays: UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 1970.


Staged Readings of Plays written by Karyn Traut

ATR, 1994, NC Playwrights Festival, Pinehurst, NC

THE HUMIDITY MAID, 1993, NC Playwrights Festival, Pinehurst, NC.

KENNEDY'S PLAY, 1992, NC Playwrights Festival, Salisbury, NC.



1992, Darkhorse Theatre, Nashville, TN.

Greacian Goeke and Dalia Gamlieli:
                            1989, Headlands Center For The Arts, Sausalito, CA.


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HOUSE UPON THE SAND, 1990 Southeast Playwrights Project, Atlanta, GA.
PHOENIX RISING, 1989 Southeast Playwrights Project, Atlanta, GA.
RETURN TO EDEN, 1989 New Plays Rising, The ArtsCenter, Carrboro, N.C.

LIGHTHOUSES,1991 ArtsCenter in Carrboro, New Plays Rising presentation
of work begun and set at the Headlands.
THE LOTSA HOPE SHOW, (a five minute play about the war in Vietnam)
1987 Columbia Street Bakery, Chapel Hill, N.C.



University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Social Medicine, Adjunct Assistant Professor, 1991-present.

Performance, Culture, Art, and Healing selective, 1996-2000.

Medicine and Theater selective, 1989-1995.

Duke University, Durham NC, Deptartment of Continuing Education.
1989-1990, Writing for the Third Dimension
     1988-1989, Playwriting
The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC.
     Playwriting for Conflict Resolution
     Playwriting as Sculpture
     Playwriting: Fusing Form and Content
     Playwriting for the Living Theater

Artistic Director, Perihelion Theater Company.
Associate Member, South East Playwrights Project.
            1988-93 (New Dramatists of the South).
Coordinator and Founding Member of New Plays Rising.
            1986-88 playwrights co-operative at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC.
Co-Artistic Director, Carolina Regional Theatre, (Founded by Martha Nell Hardy).
            1982, a professional touring company (Now North Carolina Theatre).
Associate Member, Dramatists Guild,­ current.

Board Member
Triangle Arts Planning Consortium, 1990-91.
Carolina Regional Theatre, 1981-83.
Durham Theatre Guild, 1980-81.
West Coast Plays Magazine, 1978.
Synthaxis Theatre Foundation, 1978.

Playwright in Residence

1977-1978 Synthaxis Theatre Foundation, Pasadena, CA.


Conference Presentation:

"Theater as an Art of Healing," Women, Violence and the Arts of Survival Conference, Duke University, 1996.

Published Non-Fiction:

"Stayin Alive;" NC ARTS Spring 1992.
“Letting the Genii out of the Bottles;” Orange County Arts Commission newsletter 1999.

Drama Judge:

League for Innovation in the Community College.
National Student Literary Competition 1999-2000.

Playwriting Critiquer:

North Carolina Writers’ Network 2000-04.

Associate Editor:

Movieteen Illustrated, national teen magazine, 1960-61, Malibu, CA.

Special Delight

At the age of 14, Karyn, as a high school freshman at North Phoenix High School, interviewed architect Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West. This resulted in the play Remembered Music, 1986.


Questions? Write to Perihelion Theater Company, P.O. Box 208, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514

or, email


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