Roxana Ortega - San Francisco Theatre days and beyond

I met Karen in San Francisco, in the year 2000, doing the first play I was ever cast in called “Naked Truths.” It was an ensemble movement piece about eating disorders and, yes, it was as terrible as it sounds. But the gift of it was meeting Karen. 

I admired her immediately. Funny. Smart. Talented. Driven, but somehow totally laid back at the same time. I wanted to be like her. 

We did another S.F. play together -- Sunday on the Rocks, which, thank god, was a complete 180 from our prior nightmare. When she moved to go to grad school, she referred me to take over her day job as an Art Buyer at a digital marketing agency called Digitas. I didn’t even know what an Art Buyer was. She was so savvy!

She eventually went to N.Y. I eventually went to L.A. We talked on the phone and saw each other when we visited each other’s coast. It was always easy, fun, as if no time had passed. But time had passed. I watched her become a wife, a mother, a successful actress. She was beautifully ambitious. She always made me laugh and always laughed at herself…how she lost things, how she had “weak ankles”… She was a mess and together at the same time. 

I admired her. 

In September of 2015, my husband and I met her for a drink in New York. She had just had spinal surgery and showed up in a bright white neck brace, but somehow still looked N.Y. cool. At the restaurant, she kept grabbing her side and jokingly asking, “What organ is this?” We ordered rosé and googled organs, laughing. She somehow made everything, even a pain in her side, a delight. 

A few days later she texted me to say that pain was cancer. 

She said that our meet up that day was like a kind of bookmark for her life. I cherish it so much. Throughout her fight, we got closer. We exchanged silly videos and ridiculous made up songs. I was in awe of her humor, her will, her creativity, her grace.  

I admired her. 

I always admired her. 

And I always will.