The Leader Arts interview: Cora Fenton

Former sports scientist playing a winning hand at the acting game

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

The Leader Arts interview: Cora Fenton

Cora Fenton

Born in Limerick, I grew up in Flemingstown, near Kilmallock, but went on to pursue both my primary and secondary education in Kilfinane.

Later, I went to John Moores University, in Liverpool, obtaining a Sport’s Science degree there. Thereafter, I studied at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, where I received my master’s degree in the same discipline. After graduation, I came back to Ireland to work as an Exercise Physiologist, in the University of Limerick, testing fitness levels. It was a fantastic job working with elite Irish athletes and county players.

From a very early age, however, I was interested in becoming an actor.

Indeed, my Dad was involved in the local drama scene when he was young, and both my parents always loved attending plays. In fact, my mum has returned to acting with the local Hillside Players in recent years. I loved drama in school and my parents enrolled me in an after-school drama class. I was hooked from then on. My first role involved playing the largely unknown character of an ‘alien’ in our local nativity play. I went away to study but when I came back to Ireland my Mum signed me up to the same Hillside Players drama group in Ardpatrick for their annual production. I had six lines in that first play, (two of which were ‘Oh no’!), but I loved the experience. I continued to take part in productions for a number of years eventually moving on to Cork to train in theatre performance.

Today, I work as a professional actor fortunate enough to have been employed by some wonderful theatrical companies down through the years.

So, I would encourage people to follow their dreams and their passions, be it in acting or otherwise. I would also encourage people not to be afraid of changing careers and trying new things. It takes hard work and dedication to work full-time as an actor, director or producer. As well as theatre I, also, love the medium of film and TV. I have written for children’s theatre and would love to write something for myself in the future. Indeed, I hope to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next August. I was lucky enough to go there in 2014 and it was amazing. In all, I saw some 36 shows in just six fun-packed days.

It is certainly difficult for people working in theatre to obtain more than short term contracts.

It is the nature of the business, therefore, that there will always be more people looking for work than positions available. Instead, you have to be prepared to get out there and to produce your own work, in order to survive financially. I was lucky, in that my parents guided me when I was younger, and subsequently, supported my career decisions. They put me through college, and while they were probably secretly horrified when I decided to chuck-in my ‘day job’, in order to pursue my dream of acting, they supported and encouraged me nonetheless. Today, I love the thrill of the audition, the buzz of getting the part, the rehearsal process, experiencing the play from page to stage, the character work, and the ‘fight or flight’ nervous excitement of opening night. This still remains my main focus, today; but I have also, sat in the director’s chair. Moving forward, I would like to pursue this aspect of theatre still further.

Playwright John Sheehy and I set-up CallBack theatre, back in 2001, so that we could produce plays that excited and interested us.

Creating our own work is very important, allowing us to monitor and quality control it. It also enables us, as artists, to be seen, and of course, it provides us with employment. Typically, John works as writer/director for CallBack while I work as actor and producer. Since its inception, CallBack has toured all over the country taking in various festivals and venues. We are now primarily focusing on producing and touring new work written by John Sheehy, including the critically acclaimed; ‘Set in Stone’, ‘Men Without Souls’, (for Limerick City of Culture), ‘The Hole’, and the award winning, ‘Fred & Alice’. The latter production is back on tour in October, performing at Friars’ Gate Theatre, Kilmallock, on Saturday 1 October and The Everyman Palace Theatre, in Cork, between 3-7 October, this year. Larger productions will première at the same venues in 2017.

For the moment, I will be performing in ‘Arsehammers and Bonfire Night’, written by Claire Dowie, and directed by John Sheehy, at Friars’ Gate Theatre, Kilmallock, on Thursday, May 19.

We will, then, be taking the same show to Òran Mór Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland, to perform at their hugely successful ‘A Play, A Pie and A Pint’ lunchtime theatre, there, between 23-28 May. In addition, CallBack theatre will be presenting ‘Dorothy DoLittle’s Magical Adventure’, a fun educational puppet show for children about healthy eating and exercise, also at Friars’ Gate Theatre, on Saturday June 25 at 3pm.

When touring around Ireland I get to discover and explore some wonderful places, people and artistic venues.

In fact, I loved to travel when I was younger. I went to America on J1 visas taking in Long Island, Connecticut, and Florida, while working during the summer. I did the usual student jobs: waitressing in cafés and restaurants, working as a cleaner, and bar worker, even filling diesel into luxury yachts. I have also been very busy over the past few years, but travelling is something that I do want to pursue again.
I would love to buy a camper van and travel all over Europe, perhaps as a travelling show company. Indeed, this is yet another aspect to love about what I do!

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