Karen Zacarías

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 8, 2009

Welcome to the first in an occasional series of profiles about the people who bring Washington's weekends to life.

Karen Zacarías, mother of three children younger than 8 years old, begins her day by serving breakfast. Then it's a book read, shoes on, car seats buckled, a song sung, kids dropped at appropriate locations, a kiss goodbye.

Once that routine is complete, she will shower -- finally -- and become her other self: the 39-year-old woman who has emerged as one of Washington's most successful and prolific playwrights.

The one who completed five full-length plays the year her youngest was born.

Who had four new plays staged within eight months last year.

Whose works have been seen at some of the nation's most renowned theaters, including the Kennedy Center and Chicago's famed Goodman Theatre.

Whom Variety called "a writer of comedic skill."

The one who'll watch anxiously tonight as the curtain at Arena Stage rises on the world premiere of what she believes to be her finest play yet, "Legacy of Light."

The one who knows what you're wondering: How does she do it?

"I haven't slept in a really long time," she jokes on a recent morning, having rushed into a cafe across from Arena's rehearsal space 10 minutes late and frazzled. Her voice is hoarse, as always, but her smile is unflagging.

The truth is, she didn't think she could do it.

Then she considered the alternative: "It was the difference between losing my creativity," she explains, "or kind of losing my mind."

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