IT’S a very busy time for producer and Keakil native Jen Coppinger, as she prepares for the upcoming season of shows at the Cork Everyman Theatre.
Jen, the youngest of seven children, hails from Lisheens, Kealkil, where she grew up with her brothers and sisters, mother Breda and her father, Michael Coppinger.
‘My father was a cattle dealer, and while there was no history of anyone in my family working in the arts or theatre or anything like that, I think my father’s business really helped me when I started producing plays. Of course, I’m not suggesting that Skibbereen Mart is in any way the same as the Abbey Theatre!’ Jen told The Southern Star, on one of her frequent trips home recently.
‘But just as in cattle dealing, producing is all about gaining people’s trust and proving to them that you are not going to sell them a pup. You have to show that you believe in your show, first and foremost.’
After starting her schooldays at her local Coomhola National School and then attending Scoil Ard Phobal Bheanntraí, Jen went on to study philosophy at Trinity College. ‘Before I started college I was drawn to directing because I’ve always loved stories and storytelling. When I was in college, I became very involved with the dramatics society and I learned how to produce. So, I suppose you could say I did a major in producing and a minor in philosophy.’
Jen’s love of the theatre was nurtured when she left for college, but what about her time growing up in West Cork?
‘I had no access to the theatre at all in West Cork. It wasn’t until we went to see The Merchant of Venice with the school that I saw my first play. I think my first professional play was Medea while I was working at the Abbey,’ Jen recalled. However, these days she is not only producing plays, both at home and abroad, she is also the project manager for Booker Prize winner and Laureate for Irish Fiction, Anne Enright.
‘I am delighted to be working with Anne. The job is really about supporting her during her Laureateship. Anne is asked to attend a lot of events, and when she took up the post she decided that there were two things that are very important to her.
‘Firstly, to get more work by Irish writers known abroad, and also to shine a light on more short story writers,’ Jen said. Right now Jen is getting ready for the new season at the Everyman in Cork where she will be producing a number of plays.
‘I am producing Luck Just Kissed You Hello by Amy Conroy, by HotForTheatre which comes to The Everyman on November 4th and 5th, and then Autumn Royal by Kevin Barry, produced by Kevin Barry. It premieres at The Everyman on January 30th.’
Jen is also on the board of the National Association for Youth Drama and was very proud to ratify the Glengarriff Youth Theatre.
‘I would love to see the youth of West Cork being able to get more access to theatre, there is a lot more available these days, but I am delighted to see the likes of the Glengarriff Youth Theatre providing access to plays and to the arts in general. It is a wonderful example of what can be achieved,’ said Jen.