About Megan Cohen

Megan Cohen is a playwright, opera librettist, performance artist, game writer, and multi-tasker based in San Francisco.
100+ scripts onstage worldwide already under my name, but let's do more.

Current Work

Opera

I'm thrilled to announce that I've been commissioned to write the libretto for a new chamber opera through Houston Grand Opera's HGOco "Song of Houston" initiative!

Megan Cohen rehearsing a play for the San Francisco Neo-Futurists at Boxcar Theater

(Megan onstage. Photo: Adam Smith)

For our HGOco commission that's set to premiere in 2021, my collaborator the brilliant composer Nell Shaw Cohen and I are creating a feminist rodeo opera. (Yup, I said a Feminist. Rodeo. Opera.) A feminist rodeo opera. A. Feminist. Rodeo. Opera. With the visionary musician Nell Shaw Cohen.

This year for research we traveled to Texas and spent a week immersed in the culture and activity of the massive Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show.

While there, we were able to interview some amazing contemporary female athletes who compete at the world champion level.

Now I'm taking the inspiration of their hard work and tenacious achievement, and creating a fictional story about the women of contemporary rodeo. Yeah, okay, I'm pretty excited.

Theatre

Meanwhile, as a playwright, I'm working on a new full-length script called Truest. It's about two sisters on a vengeance spree, and feels like Sam-Shepard-Meets-Thelma-And-Louise after 4 shots of espresso and 3 shots of rum, but also it's a comedy.

Eliza Shea and Karen Johal in "Truest" at American Academy of Dramatic Arts, 2016

Truest started with a fun first reading as part of the Custom Made Theatre's "Undiscovered Works" series in San Francisco in February of last year.

Then, it headed to Berkeley Rep in June for a developmental residency at The Ground Floor.

In December, director Jessica Holt led the new draft through a vibrant workshop production with the New York Acting Company at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC. (More info).

Development on "Truest" continues, and in April 2018 I enjoyed a bracing table read of a fresh draft of the script. Soon I'll be announcing the dates for an upcoming public reading of the next draft. Grateful to all the artistic partners who have danced with this play along the way!

Immersive

Megan Cohen Headshot

This is how I look at someone who I like.

In other collaborative news, I continue on the year-long journey of serving as Head Writer for the quarterly immersive series Music/Scene at PianoFight!

As story lead on this production which brings together dozens of local musicians and theatermakers to create a unique performance format for each edition, I love experimenting with new ways that we can inspire each other.

While planning the next iteration, I remain hugely grateful to the playwrights Gabriel Bellman, John LaMar Elison, Marissa Skudlarek, Jeanie Ngo, Katharine Otis, Adrienne Price, and Jasmine Woods who have joined me in 2018 so far to contribute their words and visions, with more folks to come in months ahead.

Stay in touch and find out where to catch upcoming performances on the show calendar page!

Recent Work

American Opera Initiative Festival presents Three New 20-Minute Operas!

Over the past year and a half, I discovered writing for opera, and working as a librettist has now become a highlight and focal point of my practice.

It was a joy to collaborate earlier this year with the wonderful emerging composer Nathan Fletcher on "A Bridge for Three." We created that 20-minute work as a commission for Washington National Opera, brought to life in Jan '18 through the "American Opera Initiative" program at the Kennedy Center!

I had the wonderful good fortune to work under the mentorship of Pulitzer-winning librettist Mark Campbell on that project, and hope to put those lessons to good use on my upcoming libretto for HGOco.

In 2017, right at the start of my opera journey, I was awarded "Best Librettist" by Opera Theater Unlimited for my original drama Full Moon Bender, created in their 48-hour opera festival.

Because we live in the technologically advanced future, you can watch a video of that 15-minute short right now. Here's the piece featuring beautiful work from collaborators Brian Ciach (Composer & Pianist), Kathleen Normington (Director), and sopranos Autumn Allee and Emily Schmeichel-Frank:

Earlier in 2017, I developed and premiered Thirst Trap, my new solo show, in San Francisco. Part story and part stunt, it was 45 minutes of wild work around endurance, resource management, and fate. It was a treat and a gift to return to my performance art roots for an audience in my hometown and to balance my myriad artistic collaborations with this solo project where I bore embodied responsibility for all the choices onstage, collaborating only with an audience of witnesses.

The past couple of years have been really active and full of diverse types of work:

In 2016, I recruited and led a team of 24 top-notch Bay Area theatermakers to create the serialized theater format Better Than Television, a television-inspired live show complete with fake commercials, real theme songs, and other surprises including Trigger Warning, a cathartic examination of gun violence in America. Also in 2016, I performed new solo work as a featured artist with Hatch Performance Collective, a group that devises site-specific events in non-traditional spaces around the Bay Area.

In 2015, I had scripts seen on three continents, and enjoyed a wonderful World Premiere run of my feminist vaudeville play The Horse's Ass and Friends, directed by Ellery Schaar at Repurposed Theatre in San Francisco, CA.

In 2014, I launched my solo performance Take Me Home: a One-Woman Odyssey, based on Homer's epic adventure poem, with runs in SF and in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was honored with the "Keep An Eye On" Emerging Artist Award from Theater Bay Area, my ensemble (Neo-Futurists) was named "Best Theater" (SF Weekly Readers' Poll) and "Best of the Bay" (SF Bay Guardian), and my monthly event (Saturday Write Fever) was named "Best of the Bay (Humor/Improv)" by San Francisco Magazine. Personally, I was called "one very insightful and confident woman with a devilish sense of humor" by Huffington Post.

"Take Me Home" at the SF Olympians Festival

(Photo: Paul Anderson)

In 2013, I was profiled in the Sept-Oct 2013 issue of Theater Bay Area Magazine, and SF Weekly named me one of "11 Bay Area Theater Artists to Watch."

In 2012, I first became the most frequently-produced female playwright in the San Francisco Bay Area, a title I still (to my knowledge) hold, with 100+ productions and readings  (and counting) in front of audiences since Jan '09. So, that's pretty neat.

In 2011, The San Francisco Chronicle called me a "Local Luminary," and The SF Bay Guardian's "Year in Theater" awarded one of my shows "Most Memorable Food Fight."

In other words... it's been a pretty sweet couple of years, art-wise. You know, if you like that sort of thing.

Which I do.

My greatest artistic inspirations are playwright Tom Stoppard (for the challenge), artistic director Charles Ludlam (for the style), experimental ensemble Forced Entertainment (for the imagination), and actor Madeline Kahn.  All the roles in all my plays are written for Madeline Kahn.
Megan Cohen asking Dionysus to Bless her Performance of Take Me Home: A One-Woman Odyssey

(A favorite moment from "Take Me Home.")



My mentors and teachers have included Carl Weber, Ehren Fordyce, Cherrie Moraga, Craig Slaight, Norman Kline, and James Kass.  A high school dropout, I earned a B.A. with Honors from Stanford University ('05).  I've eschewed the M.F.A. route in favor of learning directly from audiences, and from fellow artists young and old, with voices both known and new.

My plays have been performed across the U.S. and in the U.K., in venues ranging from Midtown Manhattan to small-town Montana. Despite the fact that only 26% of produced plays are written by women, I've had over 100 scripts onstage before the age of 35.

As a performer, I have appeared onstage hundreds of times with companies including The San Francisco Mime Troupe, No Nude Men, and American Conservatory Theater.  Among other things, I've played... two different executioners (both male)... a talking bear... a perfect woman made in the image of Aphrodite... an asthmatic hunchbacked albino mother... and even Princess Salome (yes, of the seven veils, and no, it wasn't a comedy).  I have showcased original solo performance at venues including Zeum, The Marsh, San Francisco Theater Pub, La Peña, The Garage, and Salon San Carlos.

As a charter member of the San Francisco Neo-Futurists, my hometown's branch of the 25-years-running national ensemble which creates non-illusory performance, between Dec 2013 and Jan 2015 I wrote and performed almost 40 original works as part of the rotating cast of the ongoing show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes). After fruitful collaborations with fellow Neo-Futurists from NY and Chicago, I stepped out of the ensemble in 2015, becoming one of the first alums of an SF company I'm proud to have helped build.

What My Work Is Like

Critics and theatermakers have described me as "upsetting," "refreshing," "an Absurdist," "a natural Brechtian," "a ruthless innovator," "a highly engaging raconteur," "relentless," "hilarious," "a sociopath," "a genius," "urgent," "pointless," "often humorous," "smarter than I remembered," "cute with a chewy gunpowder center," "poignant and very, very funny," and "really... something."  Watching my pieces onstage, they've claimed to witness "the death of God," "the death of fun," and "fun."

Audience members have laughed, wept, gasped, stormed out, thrown actual cash at the actors, sat quietly, jumped onstage to dance, and said some very nice things including "I needed that," "Don't tell my girlfriend, but I liked your play better than hers," "I would die to have written that," and "I am coming back again tomorrow."

If you've seen my work, and would like to tell me what it was like for you, please do! Audiences are my heroes.
My Natural Habitat is Wallpaper.

My natural habitat is wallpaper.

Game Writing and Narrative Design

I love writing games and interactive narrative, and specialize in projects for mobile and social platforms like iPad and Facebook.  My favorite projects are close collaborations where I work with a team to create an immersive and compelling fusion of narrative design and platform mechanics.

Right now, I'm working on the dialogue for a chatbot! Chatbot design is an exciting new field, with a lot of possibilities. In the recent past, I created interactive text and photo adventures for the launch of the app Sequel, and wrote quests and stories for the mobile game Westbound!, a pioneer-themed adventure full of cowboys and saloons, with over 100,000 5-star user reviews. I also worked on the content team for Thred, a new visual mobile platform from Will Wright (designer of The Sims).

If you're seeking game writing or interactive content, please start a conversation with me via Email megan@megancohen.com or Twitter @WayBetterThanTV

Dramaturg & Writing Coach

Croquet

I am also the 2013 Dolores Park Croquet Champion.

I've worked in dramaturgy at super-established places like Tony-winning American Conservatory Theater and OBIE-winning The Builders' Association, with a specialty in new play development. Past projects include dramaturging the world premiere of Bone To Pick & Diadem by Eugenie Chan for Cutting Ball Theater (where I was formerly the Literary Manager), and the world premiere of Failure 2 Communicate by Valerie Fachman for Performers Under Stress.

I am mostly retired from production dramaturgy, but still love working one-on-one with playwrights.

I am available for private consultations (in person or online) to support the development of new scripts, and offer personalized writing coaching for authors at all levels. If that sounds cool, contact me and we can start a conversation about your writing goals and what we can do with the budget you've got! There's almost always something 🙂
If you're seeking coaching or dramaturgical support, please get in touch via Email megan@megancohen.com or Twitter @WayBetterThanTV

Science Facts About Me

Dislikes: Jerks, bullies, the fact that over 20% of American children live in poverty.
Likes: Nachos, not being dead.