Theatre Angel: 5 Top Tips with Playwright Sarah Kosar

“As a feminist, writer, artist and overall human,  it’s integral we question the status quo with work and ensure we make the best decisions for our production team and casts to enable everyone has a chance, voice and representation across our work.

Excerpt: 

CN: Women in the Arts- as a professional speaker on the topic of feminism, why is this close to your heart? How can we, as an industry, work towards greater equality and boost the passions, morale and opportunities for emerging (and established for that matter) female artists?

SK: The more stories we see with women at the centre, the less we will think the default for every story is a man as a protagonist. This is true not only for men, but everyone. Even as a woman, it’s easy to start writing something and think the main character is a man because that’s what we’ve predominantly seen. I think it’s also important to consider this in conjunction with other underrepresented groups and ensure that feminism is the beginning of the conversation and to also consider ideas of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

CN: What are your 10 Top Tips to Becoming a Playwright?

SK: 

  1. Channel your inner popstar and take the page like a stage without fear

  2. Write what you want to see on stage

  3. Don’t get it right, get it written

  4. Ask people you trust to read what you write and give feedback

  5. Be flexible and kind to yourself when taking on feedback

  6. Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite based on your own feedback, the feedback of others you trust and be open to the magic of the unexpected

  7. Do something that’s not writing to take your mind off the play and see it more objectively before doing further rewrites

  8. Figure out a way to get your play on (by yourself, with friends, collaborators, or anyone who is up for a challenge) and learn from how an audience responds to your work

  9. Call yourself a playwright in your Twitter bio

You can read more here: http://blog.castingnetworks.com/author/adaroy/

Sarah interviewed by IES Abroad

Sarah first came to London by studying abroad in London in 2009 in the IES London Theatre Studies Programme. Here she is interviewed on how she went back and made her life as a playwright and creative professional in London.

Excerpt:

IES Abroad: What is it like living in London? How did it feel to go back?

SK: Coming back to London was like letting out a breath you've been holding for a bit too long when your face starts to go all red. I felt relieved, excited, and unstoppable. If I could be in the place that I felt that I belonged in, I could do the things that were truly me without any hesitation. I absolutely love writing plays and channeling my experiences, questions, and struggles into hyperreal work, and I don't think I'd be as good at it anywhere else. Alongside writing, I'm very lucky to have the ability to work full-time growing companies with the right people as a Senior Talent Manager in the start-up sector. As writing is solitary and a slow-burner, it's great to channel my interest in making stuff happen in a fast-paced environment during my days. 

IES Abroad: What advice would you give to study abroad students who want to work or study abroad? Are there any challenges to consider? Are there tools or resources students should be aware of?

SK: I won't lie, it's an incredibly hard process to stay in London with a lot of visa applications, hurdles, and hopes involved, but more than anything, it's important to take advantage of your time and learn as much as you can. I always believe that you're not growing unless you're uncomfortable. So take chances, try new things, and when you feel worried or uncomfortable, that's probably a good sign that you're learning and living. Try to not think too far ahead while you're studying abroad, and be aware that a lot of your ideas and wants will change throughout, but you'll find yourself and the answers when you need to. 

IES ABROAD: Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

SK: Keep going. It's not a race!

- See more at: https://www.iesabroad.org/study-abroad/news/ies-abroad-alumni-advice-how-go-back-abroad-arts-culturist-sarah-kosar#sthash.7gLj0SJ8.hGJ6Ay2z.dpuf

Make Shit Happen, A Theatre Manifesto

Drama literally means action, so shit has to happen in every scene.

  •  Make the characters work very hard for what they want. Pull the rug out from under them when they’re getting close to their goals.
  • Every character has a different way of speaking and it’s usually not perfect.
  • Don’t repeat characters names a lot.
  • Don’t be broad. Be specific. Zoom in! The smaller, the more universal.
  • Plays are not about speaking and talking. They’re about shit happening.
  • Place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances or extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances.
  • A small choice or action can have great effects on a character.
  • We shouldn’t need a lot of background information to understand what’s happening in the moment.
  • Never make a character ask “what?” Unless they are literally hard of hearing.
  • Scenes are active - they’re conflicts and tensions, dilemmas and decisions, actions and reactions of your characters.
  • Don’t be afraid of giving your characters obstacles.
  • Write what you feel. Characters are driven by emotion to get what they want.
  • Every scene doesn’t begin at the beginning. Choose your point of attack!
  • Remember that people often don't say what they want to say - or say the opposite of what they think. What’s bubbling under the surface?
  • A reference that only 2% of your audience will get is alienating 98% of your audience.
  • What’s the most surprising thing that could happen in this scene? You don’t have to use it, but it’s good to know what it could be.
  • Characters must change by the end of a scene. However small, they'll never be the same again.
  • Write what you want to watch.
  • Write down an overview of the main events and actions that may happen in the scene ahead of writing it.
  • "Hot seat" your characters. Assume the identity of one of your characters and get someone to ask you questions about yourself.
  • Write a first draft with the internal critic switched off.
  • Don’t get it right, get it written.
  • Let the scene breathe and then revisit.
  • Rewrite it.
  • Don’t be afraid of cutting.
  • Use what works, destroy what doesn’t.
  • There are no rules, there is only what works.

MUMBURGER TO BE PUBLISHED BY METHUEN DRAMA, BLOOMSBURY

I started writing plays because my professor during my undergraduate degree gave me Blasted by Sarah Kane. I'm sure this isn't a completely unique experience, but because I was in a small town in Pennsylvania, this play and this idea of contemporary stories for the stage was alien.

I've got an obsessive personality and I quickly started researching more about Blasted and other things like it. The way I found more plays that spoke to me and got me intellectually erect was two ways; through googling Methuen Drama and looking for new plays from The Royal Court.

I would order them from London and get them shipped to State College, Pennsylvania binging on them like I would on other things I loved (Bell's White Pizza's with green peppers and feta, farfalle pasta and brownies with ice cream). As I started to focus more on writing plays, my dream became to be published by Methuen Drama one day.

One day turned into today, and I'm so excited to share that they will be publishing my new play Mumburger.

I hope I can offer and contribute a binge play reading session to someone else somewhere with my play. It's a real honour to be here and I guess it's not a coincidence that it's got food in the title. 

Working with Royal Court : Hello Pimlico

I'm super excited to be working with The Royal Court Theatre again! My new journeying audio play Big Body, Tiny Head is a part of Pimlico Playground at Tachbrook Street Market every last Thu & Fri of the month (28, 29 May, 25, 26 Jun, 30, 31 Jul, 27, 28 Aug) from 10am – 2:45pm

My play is about pigeons!

Pimlico Playground:


Short enough to experience on your lunch break, these six location-based audio plays by Royal Court writers will take you on an imaginative journey through your everyday surroundings, animating the space between Tachbrook St. Market and the playground.

Head to our market stall, grab an MP3 player and a map, and have a wander…

There's some awesome events part of the Royal Court Pimlico Market Stall, so be sure to check it out this summer.

More details in Royal Court Theatre's Press Release

Sarah to be a part of PLAY - 12 June 2015

10 brilliant Actors, 4 wonderful Directors and 4 excellent Writers will enter a room of Monday June 1st and they will be invited to PLAY.

10 days later on Friday 12th June, 4 brand new short plays will have their debut. Followed by a party and general merriment.

This is more than just a new writing night. 
Come along and see what the buzz is about. 

Tickets £10
Please email PLAYThe4tre@gmail.com to reserve or buy on the door. 
@PLAYthe4tre 

PLAY 1
Written by Miran Hadzic & Directed by Carla Kingham 

PLAY 2
Written by Poppy Corbett & Directed by Richard Speir 

PLAY 3 
Written by Sarah Kosar & Directed by Tommo Fowler 

PLAY 4
Written by Matthew Parvin & Directed by Polina Kalinina

The Company:
Jack Baggs 
Katherine Drury 
Rebecca Durbin 
Patrick Walshe Mcbride
Lewis Mackinnon 
Lowri Palfrey 
Lotte Rice 
Sam Rix 
Greg Shewring 
Tessie Orange-Turner 

Girls Make Shit Happen by Sarah Kosar

I was so honoured and empowered to speak before the screening of Tiny Furniture by Lena Dunham as part of the hugely important and inspiring film festival Bechdel Test Fest .

A clip of me speaking is on their facebook page here, and for my full feminist manifesto, please see below. 

Girls Make Shit Happen

by Sarah Kosar

Girls make shit happen. Because we have to. With a male dominated film and theatre industry and overflowing testosterone in executive power, women in the arts, like Lord Lena Dunham are paving their own ways. By holding the reins and doing it herself, Lena has spearheaded the importance and validity of a woman’s story. Through her cultural impact, she has inspired diverse groups of underrepresented women and groups to tell their own stories. 

As a playwright, I’m constantly writing things that matter to me and then trying to make them happen. In this youtube culture, there will be no magical ding in your inbox calling you to your success or your Hollywood, you need to do it yourself. And by being the force making your own stories happen, you can have the full vision and authority to not let the higher ups dilute the truth you want to tell. 

As women, we are told our stories aren’t valid, aren’t going to make money, and aren’t interesting to the other half of the population. That there isn’t room for us. It’s easy to think that women still don’t hear this in 2015, but it lives in our memories from meetings and coffees with the gatekeepers from years or even days ago. We need to block this influence and tell ourselves that there is room for us, because Lena and many other successful young women have. You can’t think about the other woman that might have done your thing “first,” you just need to do it. This habit doesn’t stop when you get successful - Anna Sale, creator and host of podcast Death, Sex and Money felt that there wasn’t room for her to do her own show after the success of Sarah Koenig’s Serial. But she pushed that criticism and locked thoughts in her head aside and made shit happen. And it hit the top of iTunes charts. 

We can argue that women’s stories are coming to the forefront of television with shows like Girls, Orange is the New Black, New Girl, The Mindy Project, and so on but this is only the beginning. We have proof that art with women at the center does make money. And a lot of it. Our biggest challenge is to fight the thoughts or ill-conceived beliefs that there isn’t room for us because there is. 

So how do us girls make shit happen? 

It’s firstly about empowerment by women for women. We need to scream and shout for other women that are doing great things. Don’t hide our fandom for our friend’s great new play. Don’t not retweet just because you’re jealous. We need to be real fans of each other. And when we get big enough, we can guest star on each other’s shows (who saw Lena in Scandal last week?) and when we see a career that we want, we can follow the path of bread crumbs another woman has left behind. 

Last week I was listening Improv Nerd with Jimmy Carrane and was surprised to learn that Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent had been jealous of Lena Dunham and fanning out about her when Girls premiered. She wanted what Lena had; she loved her shame-pride. She was able to tell her story the way she wanted from the get go and under her control. Jill had pitched her own shows, but didn’t land any of them. It was really surprising that to me that a woman who has had years of experience in TV as a staff writer on Six Feet Under and showrunning United States of Tara, was seeping jealously at someone who just entered the business. Why couldn’t she do it too? Jill looked at Lena’s bread crumbs and saw that with a proven hit of an independent, it’s much easier to get your own show. Jill then made her feature, Afternoon Delight, winning her a best director at Sundance, and with her award in her armpit, she pitched Transparent and got it. Now Jill was able to take a stab at Dunhaming. With a huge hit, and a best series Golden Globe, Jill Soloway took a page out of Lena’s book and made shit happen.

My advice for any woman is that instead of constantly refreshing to see how much better a female frenemy of yours is doing and feeling that they have a spot that should or could be yours, just make shit happen and carve your own spot. There is room for us all. And I’ll retweet your project if you retweet mine. 

As women, we must keep making shit happen to tell the stories that matter to us because if we don’t, no one will be doing it for us. More women were nominated for screenwriting awards in the 30s and 40s than in the past twenty years and we need to change this now. Take a page out of a woman’s book that inspires you and use it. It’s not stealing, it’s empowerment. Ask women you look up to for advice or suggestions on how to navigate your own career route. You’ll be surprised, but more women want to help each other than you think, because the closer we can get to equality, the better it is for everyone. We are storytellers and in solidarity, we must continue to fight for feminism in the arts. 

If you’re also a writer out there, let’s all keep writing women, keep them talking to each other (not just about men) and tell the many complicated, loving, terrifying, hilarious, beautiful and disturbing truths about what it means to be a woman today. 

It's also posted on the fabulous blog PUCK here.

Speaking at Tiny Furniture Screening as part of the Bechdel Test Fest

As a feminist, I am delighted to be speaking about Lena Dunham and female writers paving their own careers in the arts before a screening of the wonderful film Tiny Furniture as part of the Bechdel Test Fest.

Come along on Wednesday 25th March at 4pm if you can! 

Remember - write more than two women in your work that speak about something other than a man. 

All details in the link below: http://bechdeltestfest.com/

Spaghetti Ocean to be performed as Live Lunch Reading at Royal Court Theatre

Full press release and details below from Royal Court Theatre. Hope to see you there!

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A season of new plays by up-and-coming writers will be performed live as lunchtime readings every Friday over 6 weeks.

The six promising writers were all part of a Royal Court writers group who were challenged to write a completely new play, from scratch, in one summer.

The writers Luke BarnesClara BrennanSarah KosarNessah MuthyMay Sumbwanyambe and Chris Thompson worked together over the last five weeks in a new collaborative format, sharing ideas, reviewing each other’s work and going to museums and galleries for inspiration.

Associate Director of the Royal Court Theatre, Lucy Morrison said:

“I believe writers need an outlet to express something immediate, free from the time-lag that a full production can bring. These writers have courageously put any ideas they came with to one side to come up with something completely new. They have searched their souls and trusted their talent to write a play to be shared with a live audience in a matter of weeks.”

Bring along a sandwich and listen to a new play, performed live in your lunchbreak.

Fri 26 Sept, 1.15pm
The Girl Who Looks Up at the Stars
by Luke Barnes

A play about dreaming, grafting and making it big in a small town.

Luke Barnes’ credits include The Saints at the Nuffield Theatre, Weekend Rockstars at Hull Truck, Bottleneck at Soho Theatre and UK Tour with HighTide, Eisteddfod at HighTide Festival, Chapel Street at Edinburgh Underbelly and UK Tour, A Wondrous Place at Royal Exchange Manchester and UK Tour, Beats North at Roundabout Edinburgh with Northern Stage, TSU and Curious Monkey with a UK Tour, and Weekday Nights with NYT at The Unicorn. On television, his credits include Minted with Rare Day for Channel 4.

Fri 3 Oct, 1.15pm
Spaghetti Ocean
by Sarah Kosar

A play about coming home, gluttony, and a bathtub.

Sarah Kosar is an American playwright living in London. Sarah’s full length play Hot Dogwas produced at The Last Refuge in 2013, and received its US Premiere in Florida in May 2014.

Fri 10 Oct, 1.15pm
For God Sake Bless This Food
by May Sumbwanyambe

A play about injustice, hero worship and a life lived in the shadows.

May Sumbwanyambe’s credits include The Road to Damascus, which was shortlisted for the Channel 4/Oran Mor Comedy Drama Award. In 2012 his play Back Home Contemplation was shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award.

Fri 17 Oct, 1.15pm
Burn
by Chris Thompson

A play about fluorescent lights and love.

Chris Thompson’s most recent play Albion will open at the Bush Theatre later this month. His debut play Carthage premiered at the Finborough Theatre earlier this year. As a winner of the Channel 4 Playwright’s Scheme he is currently Channel 4 Playwright in Residence at the Finborough Theatre. In his previous career, Chris was a social worker.

Fri 24 Oct, 1.15pm
Beastie
by Nessah Muthy

A play about escape, infamy and hyper-sexualisation.

Nessah Muthy’s recent credits at the Royal Court include Gastronauts (co-written) andHungry, as part of the ‘Lost in Theatre’ strand of Open Court. Other theatre work includes:Sucker, commissioned by Old Vic New Voices, This is Not a Slog, a collaborative, mobile exhibition of three walk installations, commissioned by Carissa Hope Lynch and Ovalhouse, Pickaninny, longlisted for the Bruntwood Prize 2013, Nazma, produced by Kali Theatre for the ‘Twelve’ project, at Tristan Bates Theatre, and Freya and Mr Mushroom, which was commissioned by The Building Site Theatre Company and Southwark Playhouse as part of the ‘Hotel Confessions’ season. On screen, her credits includeEastEnders: E20.

Fri 31 Oct, 1.15pm
Kid a Kidder
by Clara Brennan

A play about dirty money, arts patrons and career suicide.

Clara Brennan’s most recent credits include the play Spine (Winner Fringe First, Herald Angel), which premièred at Edinburgh this year and runs Soho Theatre this autumn. She has film and TV series in development. Her plays include RainBud Take The WheelI Feel A Song Coming OnHi VisThe Wing and Spine. In 2012, she was awarded the OffWestEnd Adopt a Playwright Award for her new play The Vendor. Clara won the Channel 4 Playwright Award and is resident at the Soho Theatre for 2014. Her fourth play for the award-winning company Theatre Uncut opens there in November.

The newly refurbished Royal Court Bar & Kitchen will be serving lunch pre and post show.