BY OLIVIA CAMERON – Stage lights and scripts are familiar to Royal Palm Players’ actress Karen Snyder, who enjoys taking part in the entertainment aspect of Boca Grande.
Before ever wintering on the island, Karen grew up in Rocky River, Ohio.
“As a kid I was always performing little skits for the family,” said Karen.
She studied education at Miami University in Oxford and was a part of Kappa Alpha Theta. Karen was an emcee for sorority events and took part in rush program skits. She partook in acting lessons during college but didn’t want a theatre career to be her main path.
After college, Karen became a teacher right out of the gate in Illinois. She taught English and Spanish for 14 years.
She was a teacher to students who were just about three years younger than her. At the age of 21, Karen was teaching high school students.
“I loved them, but it was challenging,” said Karen.
She felt that teaching kids near her age was a strange authority to have.
By the time her three children were born, Karen was a Catholic junior high school teacher, which she reveled in.
While in Chicago, Karen was an active member of their community theatre. However, she found more comfort inside character roles, stage management, and behind-the-scenes technical work.
Karen and her husband Richard, a former telecommunications company controller, also lived in Arizona prior to Boca Grande. The pair decided to give Boca Grande a try after hearing a friend’s opinion of the island.
Karen recalls the decision to move as a cherished whim.
“We came down, stayed at The Inn and then practically bought a house the next day,” she said.
The day after arriving, they were connected with a realtor and came across a house they couldn’t pass up.
They sold their home in Arizona and ultimately became seasonal island residents.
“It’s been a wonderful 14 years here. We’ve watched the town grow,” said Karen.
She recalled the change of pace from a quiet community to bustling streets, but sees nothing other than positive transformation of the seaside town and opportunity for local merchants.
Just 55 years later, Karen and Richard’s marriage has continued to thrive alongside the island’s community. With her involvement in the Woman’s Club and his past devotion to the child care center, they are proud to contribute to Boca Grande’s development.
Today, she enjoys acting in character roles with RPP. Her first show on the island, “Love Lost and What She Wore,” would spark her love for acting within the community.
Comedy play “Leading Ladies,” by Ken Ludwig, has been her eighth show with RPP, making her an active member of almost nine years. As character Florence, Karen played the part of an ailing woman looking for relatives to pass her inheritance to. Two struggling Shakespearean actors decide to pose as the nieces in drag, but Florence doesn’t pass away. In fact, her character seems to tease the audience with a fake death.
Karen looks back on the play as one of her most beloved performances. She thoroughly enjoyed her role and expected nothing less than dedication and amusing entertainment from the cast. Karen is glad to have been taken under the wing of RPP.
“The shows are almost like off-Broadway musicals,” she said.
New York City Broadway director Joshua Gold has brought their performance to the next level. Karen believes the hard work within the cast pays off and has consistently adored being a part of it.
Not only has Karen gone by a multitude of character names, but she is also known as ‘Grandma Lipstick’ to her family members. After kissing her first grandchild and leaving lipstick marks, the name stuck. But Karen’s nickname is also her pen name.
Around eight years ago, Karen began writing a book for each of her nine grandchildren. The stories would tell tales of Grandma Lipstick’s adventures with each of the kids and would conclude in a heroic way.
“Grandma Lipstick saves the day while getting lipstick on everything in the book,” said Karen. “It takes a year to publish each book. My last book is currently being published.”
Karen sells the published books in town and on Amazon. Each year, she holds a book signing at the Smart Studio. She appreciates the consistent support from friends who buy each book and is happy to give each of her grandkids a self-made momentum.
When she isn’t acting or publishing her series of children’s books, Karen keeps up with her spin classes. Between regular visits to the Banyan Tree studio and showing off her hip-hop moves on the “Spark Boca Grande TV” YouTube channel, she stays active. To lift islander spirits, the YouTube channel features familiar faces sharing bits of comedy and entertainment. Her video gives the viewer a look into her lighthearted personality and is sure to cheer anyone up during the time of social distancing.
Despite missing out on in-person interaction, Karen still thinks of the island as somewhere you’ll never be alone.
“You’re not living by yourself. You’ve got a community of people that know you and love you.” Everyone that passes by on the street is a friend to her.
After 14 years on the island, Karen hasn’t overlooked a minute of it. “There’s no place like Boca Grande.”