Karen Cogan is this year’s Theatre Emerging Creative and part of our Foundation Programme.
Below we find out more about Karen and her position in the Theatre Industry.
I trained at RADA and when I left, I found myself feeling uncreative. I didn't see a place for me in the industry. I started writing a couple of years ago. My first play won The Stewart Parker Award in Ireland and has received great support and collaboration from fellow artists and that has helped enormously.
Drip Feed, my second play, vomited out of me fast, in a period of frustration. I felt tired of the conversations around female writers and characters. The phrase ‘strong women’ is used often. There’s no onus on men to be ‘strong characters’ at all times. I wanted to write a complex queer woman who reflects the mortifying lengths we can all go to to be loved, to be seen. I wrote Drip Feed in a haze, over a few days because the need to get the story out was quite frantic so the fact that it was shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award and is being produced by Soho still feels a bit like a fever dream. It is being developed for television, along with other original ideas I have pitched since Drip Feed opened some doors. It looks like an overnight shift but it comes off the back of 6 years of feeling incongruous in the industry.
I recently took my play, Drip Feed to Edinburgh for a month and the response has got me thinking about the dearth of female LGBTQ+ stories. Drip Feed is a solo play about a woman in Ireland 1998 obsessively in love with her first girlfriend. She takes us on a grubby odyssey through 90s Cork, family challenges, clubbing, egg mayonnaise sandwiches, wild infatuated love and a violent stew. I received so many messages from LGBTQ+ women saying what it meant to them to see a gay woman take centre stage in a story and how unusual it still feels even in 2018. People stopped me in the streets of Edinburgh to say how rare and how good it felt to see a queer woman in a spotlight.
One woman wrote to me after the show, to say that when she saw a queer woman take the spotlight and tell a complex story, she felt a weight lift from her shoulders that she hadn’t known she had been carrying.
I am hugely fired up by the work being done to facilitate people who have traditionally been ostracised from this industry to step forward into the theatre and screen industries and take positions of power. I am also a facilitator and regularly work with young people to encourage them to find their voice and step into worlds they could feel excluded from. I was recently asked if I think women have a responsibility to write their own stories. I encourage other women to write often but there is a need for fundamental change in the system. Theatres need to lift marginalised stories up and out of the peripheries and into big houses.
We need a paradigm shift in the amount of women being programmed on our main stages and it is on everyone's shoulders, not just those who have been marginalised.
As a facilitator, many of the most exciting young performers and theatre makers I have ever worked with have come from backgrounds that make the challenges they need to overcome steep, in an already tough industry. Many young artists are facing deep systemic racism, gender inequality, ableism, homophobia and transphobia. Women’s stories, in their whole spectrum of complexity, remain underrepresented on stage and screen, let alone the stories of LGBTQ+ women. It is so key to show young people across all races, bodies, sexualities, genders and creeds that their stories are deserving of a platform, a poster, a front page, an audience.
Lifting marginalised voices up is a vital act, and an act of protest. There is heavy weight bearing down on the next generation and every story that we tell or enable that speaks to a marginalised young person is a weight lifted off, a little bit of damage redressed. So, we need to enable stories that struggle to find a platform. If you have a story you’re afraid to tell beating in your heart, tell it, write your story, record your voice, and sign your words.
Raise your voice up and as the wondrous Clare Perkins roared in Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s ‘Emilia’ at The Globe, let’s ‘BURN THIS WHOLE F***ING HOUSE DOWN’.
Cork, 1998. An obsessive odyssey through the city.
Dancing on tables, 3am breakfast rolls and waking up, polluted, on the wrong person’s doorstep.
Brenda and her ferocious best pal are part of the city furniture.
But one of them is realising that she's got it all, all of it, horribly wrong and it might be too late.
Drip Feed is an infectious, dark comedy about the messiness of being young(ish), female and queer in 90's Ireland. Drip Feed is the second play by the Stewart Parker Award winning and Verity Bargate award nominee Karen Cogan. It received rave reviews in Edinburgh and was picked by The Guardian, The List, The Irish Times and The Independent as a play not to be missed.