With the vision to further the European cabaret arts, Karen brought together a number of European-born cabaret artists living in New York City in the spring of 2003 under the banner of Kabarett Kollektif. The group’s debut performance occurred at the venerable Duplex Cabaret with musical direction by Doyle Newmyer and featured Germans Karen Kohler, Theo Bleckmann and Dirk Weiler and American Gina Leishman. The debut drew considerable praise from audiences and critics alike, and artists were inspired to further the venture.
In January 2004 the group expanded to include nine members from six European countries (Germany, France, England, Belgium, Canada and the United States). In October, the Kollektif mounted a month-long series at Mama Rose’s in the East Village, presenting new works each week for duo, trio and full ensemble: Introducing the Kollektif, Noise & Smoke: Hits of Weimar Berlin (with Karen Kohler and Dirk Weiler), Paris Nocturne (with Frederique, Marni Rice and Jean Brassard), and Foreign Currency: Songs for Our Time. In the spring of 2005, these shows were reprised at Mama Rose’s and a fifth new work, Berlin-Paris Express (with Karen Kohler and Greta), was debuted at the new Midtown hotspot, The Encore. In the fall of 2005, the Kollektif took up residency at Helen’s Hideaway in Chelsea to reprise its three most popular shows with Micheline van Hautem joining the cast.
Kohler and the Kabarett Kollektif were the cover feature of the September 2005 issue of Cabaret Scenes magazine.
In January 2006, the group received the New York Nightlife Award for “Unique Cabaret Performance” at the Town Hall, NYC.