Empower Her* Voice Theatre Collective introduces… ‘Spotlight: Female-Identifying and Non-Binary Voices in Theatre.’ This is a new series of interviews, released monthly, to broadcast the emerging and established voices of female-identifying and non-binary creatives within theatre.
Introducing Sarah Isaac
Sarah studied philosophy at King’s College London and was a member of the Royal Court’s writing programme and Kali Theatre’s Discovery programme. She was a finalist for the Park theatre’s Script Accelerator Course and has been longlisted for the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh award for new writing and the Sultan Padamsee Playwriting Award. Recently, she was chosen to take part in “School of High Tide” and is currently under commission at Kali Theatre.
What was your first experience watching theatre?
It was a musical. My mum took me to see “Fiddler on the Roof” for my birthday.
What was the first play to make you want to write plays?
When I first read “View from a Bridge” Utterly heart-breaking and beautiful in equal measure.
Why theatre for you? Why is it the right form for you?
I just love the physicalness of it. There is something about “live” theatre that’s so emotionally engaging and fulfilling.
What influences your writing?
My family, my friends, my peers.
Which playwrights have influenced you the most?
There’s so many! Arthur Miller, Caryl Churchill, Edward Albee, Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, Tanika Gupta, Rukhsana Ahmad, Yasmin Reza, David Hare and Duncan Macmillan.
How has the theatre industry changed over your time working?
I think post BLM there is a real momentum for change in terms of “representation”, diversity, and making new stories. I think in the coming months and years, we will see a real renaissance of plays finally being allowed a “space” in British theatre, that they just didn’t have 10 years ago.
What’s the hardest play you’ve ever written and why?
It’s the one that I am currently writing! I think when you’re writing a play it’s constantly shifting and transforming- so you’re always trying to get to the version that does justice to the story and the characters.
Are there ideas and themes that you keep coming back to?
The “family” and the things people do to keep their families together, especially parents. As a second generation immigrant, I am acutely aware of all the sacrifices my parents made to get me here. Love and Family are huge themes for me.
What advice would you give to a woman wanting to work and write in theatre, but without obvious access streams?
Write to theatres. Write to playwrights. Write to directors. Write to everyone that you possibly can and ask if you can work with/for them. As an industry there are so many theatre-makers that would love to help and engage with emerging writers! Apply for every writing festival/competition on BBC
Writersroom and London Playwrights Blog and just keep on making work that you believe in and that you love. Don’t think about the obstacles. Be resilient. Be passionate. And you’ll get there!
Do critics and other creatives presume that you are writing autobiographically, because you are a woman?
Yes all the time! Wait till I write that play about Archangels- then hopefully it will stop!
What was it like writing for Kali Theatre?
An absolute joy! I was very fortunate to take part in their annual Discovery programme for emerging playwrights where writers are mentored by working theatre professionals to develop their work and take part in a final showcase for the theatre. It was an incredibly inspiring and nurturing environment to be part of.
Have you written in other forms?
Yes short stories and screenplays.
What are your top tips for emerging female playwrights who have not had formal training?
Watch as many plays as you can and then read as many as you can. If you can attend any of the brilliant playwrighting programmes that theatres put on ( for free) do it. It’s a brilliant way into the industry and you will supported and mentored by some fantastic folk! I was extremely lucky to have attended Kali’s Discovery Programme, The Royal Court’s Critical Mass Programme and Park Theatre’s Script Accelerator Course.
If you could go back to the beginning of your career, what would you tell yourself?
Don’t let rejection get you down. Write every day even if you don’t feel like it. Trust your instincts- work with people because you respect their values and how they “operate” in the industry. Don’t be afraid to walk away from projects/people if you think your integrity is being compromised.
What are you writing next?
I’m currently under commission at Kali for a double-bill that’s coming out next year!