Sophie Cairns is a playwright and stage manager, currently based in London. In her teens, she moved into a Foyer after a period of unstable, temporary living situations and moved out at 19 to study a BTEC in Performing Arts in Cardiff. She went on to study writing for the stage at Goldsmiths, and now works on immersive theatre productions like Secret Cinema as well as writing and consulting on scripts.
She’s passionate about helping people to tell their stories, and has shared her skills with our Pass It On community to enable young people to write 10-minute plays. In her three-part series, she focuses on building characters, creating dialogue and setting the situation. We wanted to hear more about her skills and experience, and her tips for writers just starting out!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
“I left home at 16 and after a period of having no stable place to live, I was advised to contact the the Foyer and I was fortunate to be given a flat there. It was such a relief, and I made some good friends there. I stayed until I was 19 and then moved to Cardiff to go and study a BTEC in performing arts.
“Now I’m a stage manager for theatre and a playwright. I trained in writing for stage at Goldsmiths and worked at Madame Tussauds in the Chamber of Horrors and at the London Bridge Experience as a scare actor. It taught me how to run an event, look after an audience and keep up actors’ morale. I moved into stage management and immersive theatre, and now I work on interactive shows for companies like Secret Cinema.
“I also write and script consult on immersive shows. People come to me with an idea, a theme or a narrative, and I advise them, do some research and help them with their event.”
What do you love about your job?
“I love being able to tell stories. Everyone has a story to tell, and I love working with people to facilitate getting those stories on their feet. I love the buzz of theatre. It feels great when a show comes together. Every new show is like a new family. It’s very inclusive.”
What skills do you need to do your job?
“For stage management, it’s about being meticulous with detail. You need high energy because it’s a physical job, and an ability to stay calm under pressure for live shows. That comes with time - it grows with you as you get more experience. It’s amazing how you can keep your head while things fall apart. The audience must never know!
“For writing, all you need is to pay attention to the conversations that are going on around you. Any bus journey, bus stop, or overhearing in a shop queue. There are always funny things and characters you can draw into your writing.”
Tell us a bit about what you’re creating for Pass It On - what can we expect?
“I’m creating three videos about how to write a 10-minute play. The structure is very popular at the moment and it’s great for people who haven’t written plays before. Lots of places are willing to put on a 10-minute play, and it’s a great way to find your feet in the writing world.
“The first video will be about tricks and tips for writing a 10-minute play, and about characters. The second will be about dialogue: how do you write two people having a conversation and make it natural? The third one will be about what you can do with your 10-minute play now that you’ve written it. I’ll give advice on who to approach in the industry about your work and how to start getting your play on its feet.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our community?
“Have a go! A lot of people think they have stories to tell but don’t know how to write - there isn’t any secret to writing a play on the page. You don’t have to have knowledge of form and structure. You can figure it out as you go.”
Sophie is currently writing a play about a female teenage protagonist and the issue of young people and hidden homelessness. You can find her on Instagram @sophie_cairns
If you’d like to find out more about how you can contribute your skills and talents to our community of young people, we’d love to hear from you! Contact [email protected] for a chat.