Q&A With Butler Native & Playwright Sarah Kosar About American Debut of ‘Mumburger’ at Carnegie Stage

Tiffany in Mumburger is gay but it’s not something that is discussed as an issue in her relationship with her parents because it isn’t an issue. It’s a part of her but it’s not the thing that defines her in her life or her story in the play. The more we see LGBTQ people having agency within a range of stories, the more we can all see ourselves reflected back.

Off The Wall Productions and Carnegie Stage present the American debut of the newest play from Butler County native, Sarah Kosar. Mumburger is on stage from March 1-16 in Carnegie, Pennsylvania – and opening night has already sold out. The show is billed as:

Tiffany’s mum is killed by a Birds Eye truck on the M25. There’s family to call and a coffin to order, but first she has to talk to her dad – and for some reason that’s the toughest thing on her to-do list. Meanwhile, an oozing paper bag appears, holding a dying wish that will either bring a father and daughter together, or drive them further apart. ​In her surreal play about grief, parenting, and alternative meat, Kosar asks how far we can be pushed by love and obligation

I had the chance to do a Q&A with the playwright, Sarah Kosar. She also hosts an interesting podcast, Kin, that you might find worth a listen if you enjoy my posts about my family tree research. Sarah is currently based in London, but maintains her ties to Butler where some of her plays are based. Sarah’s responses are terrific. I’m not typically a fan of surreal theatre, a reaction tied to my anxiety disorders and I thought her willingness to talk about it was great. I was also struck by how much of an impact studying performing arts at the CLO had on her career. Sarah now lives fulltime in London with her husband where she continues to write and pursue a range of creative activities. Annd I highly recommend the episode of Kin where she discusses a Instragram image of her own tattoo that was shared by a stranger – with that stranger.

Sarah Kosar
Photo courtesy of Sarah Kosar

Your Name: Sarah Kosar

Your Age: 31

Your Pronouns: I, She, Her

Your Affiliation with this production: I am the writer of Mumburger. Mumburger had its world premiere at The Archivist’s Gallery in London in 2016 where I was the Inaugural Writer-In-Residence and it later transferred to the Old Red Lion in 2017. This is its American Premiere.

How do you describe your identity? I am an Italian-American Londoner. I’m a playwright and recruiter for startups.

Please tell us about your very first impression of Pittsburgh: I should clarify that I do know you grew up in the region so feel free to talk about your childhood impressions of Pittsburgh.I grew up in Butler, Pennsylvania, about an hour out of Pittsburgh. As a child overdosing on MTV and VH1, I was obsessed with pop stars and artists and cities. There was a clear narrative arc: “if you don’t fit in, you go to a city, you find your people and you live happily ever after.” I was determined to do that too (and I did!).

I didn’t fit in all that well with my peers so going to Pittsburgh was my solace. I remember always thinking Christina Aguilera came from around here too…and I thought about how one day they’ll say that about me. My Mom, Phyllis was so incredibly supportive of my dreams to work in the arts, she drove me to Pittsburgh three nights a week when I was in high school to take classes at CLO Academy in singing, dancing and acting. It was an immense privilege, not afforded to many but one that I can honestly look back on and say I made the most of. To this day, driving over the bridges into Pittsburgh fills me with hope. It really has been central to my dreams of becoming an artist. London fills me up in the same way. I can’t wait to drive over a Pittsburgh bridge very soon!


But through theatre and dance and singing I realised really quickly that if someone was different from you, it would only improve your life by listening and ultimately learning from what they have lived that you haven’t.

What Pittsburgh creators – writers, musicians, poets, etc – have influenced your work? Is there anyone with whom you’d like to collaborate?Andy Warhol has been a huge inspiration and I even got married at The Andy Warhol Museum. I feel so lucky to be working with Off the Wall and an entire female team for Mumburger. What Ginny Wall Gruenert has created with Off the Wall is pretty extraordinary and I feel so lucky to be a part of this season. I was blown away by Robyne Parrish’s production of Grey Gardens at Front Porch Theatricals this summer and am thrilled she’s directing Mumburger. Ingrid Sonnichsen taught me acting growing up so it would be amazing to work with her again and I have a big love for the work City Theatre and all the Pittsburgh theatres do. I also adore Pittsburgh Drag Queen Sharon Needles!

Please tell us about the first LGBTQ person that you knew and what impact they had on your life.One of the beautiful things about theatre is that it brings a wide range of people together. I started performing in theatre from a young age and It was clear to me that there were kids around me who felt differently. But we didn’t have all the words for it at the time. We didn’t talk about it. But through theatre and dance and singing I realised really quickly that if someone was different from you, it would only improve your life by listening and ultimately learning from what they have lived that you haven’t. I work to surround myself with people that make me a better person and challenge me to grow and expand my thinking.

You co-host a podcast called ‘Kin’ so after I listened to a few episodes, I decided to see if we have any kinship ties. Family tree research is my hobby and I have hundreds of Butler County family members, including my maternal grandmother who grew up in Herman. I saw a few surnames that look familiar, but no direct relationships. I also see we do not have many mutual friends on social media. I expected to find at least one distant relationship and several social media connections – what does that say about kinship? Kinship these days is something I think we can all create and choose. We’re not stuck with family or friends. We can move and create new groups. Kin represents the people that understand you the most or share a unique experience/perspective that others might not. Of course we have our biological family which is a very strong tie, but sometimes other things can connect us just as deeply.


Your play ‘Mumburger’ has its American debut at Carnegie Stage this season. The play is billed as a surreal examination of grief Terms like surreal and visceral permeate the press about this show and your playwriting style. What was your first exposure to surreal storytelling? Why does it resonate with you?I’ve actually always struggled to define my work and surreal keeps coming up from critics and folks that read my work. I would say that my playwriting style is the only way that I can write rather than following a specific movement/genre. I like to have a metaphor at the centre – I like to think of it as thoughtful entertainment. You can watch my plays on face value and enjoy the story but if you want to dig deeper the layers are there for you to peel back. For example, Mumburger is about a father and daughter that have to decide if they are going to follow their wife/Mum’s dying wish by eating her. Peeling it back, it’s about how do we digest grief, how does it live in our bodies and affect us.

Art that snaps me back into the moment or that I can feel a reaction in my body (whether that’s my gut, my arms, my head), that’s what inspires me and finds its way into my writing.

In another interview, you told the writer that your job is to keep people grounded in the ‘now’ of the audience perspective – that you want people to be immersed in the experience of the play and have a ‘gut reaction’ to it. Please expand upon that perspective.We have a surplus of entertainment. We watch anything anywhere and we’re often double or triple screening. Theatre is entertainment where you’re asked to leave everything at the door and be present. No phones, no talking, no getting up and moving around. I think, or at least I use, entertainment as a way to escape from the day to day anxieties and uncertainty of the world. When writing a play, it’s so important to me that what I’m writing and what we see on stage could only be told in a room with a bunch of strangers where we watch people pretend to be other people. That it makes us feel more alive and understand each other better.


Art that snaps me back into the moment or that I can feel a reaction in my body (whether that’s my gut, my arms, my head), that’s what inspires me and finds its way into my writing.

As an adult with anxiety disorders and a complex trauma diagnosis, I cannot put myself in that sort of situation. Most surreal art is too sensory overloading for me so I do better with a streaming experience I can turn on and off if I need a break. How can surrealism connect and engage people who cannot trust in that immersive experience and don’t want to do so? Or is it simply just not for us?I would define my work as black comedy with a gooey metaphorical centre. I don’t want it to necessarily be an overload of sensation, but more like a focused experience that means you are fully focused on the story and not thinking about your everyday. I also think it’s important to have support in a theatre for folks that may find things uncomfortable and an easy exit without judgement.

When I read that the deceased mother in ‘Mumburger’ sends her mourning family the titular sandwiches, I immediately thought about the ties between grief and food especially the casseroles that show up when there is a death in the family. What sorts of Western PA rituals around grief and loss have influenced your plays?You’re right that people bring practical things, most often food, to help those with grief. When you are swimming in a loss, it’s the simple things that are hardest to move through and that’s why I think food features so much around grief and loss around the world. There is something about food as a way to fill ourselves when we feel empty.

You created your own residency at The Archivists Gallery in London. Women are usually not encouraged to seize opportunities, much less create them in empty spaces. What would you suggest to a writer reading this Q&A who thinks “I’d like to do something like that aka create a residency” ….I’ve gone through a lot of rejection in my life and there was a big switch when I was walking to work one day where I just said to myself “that’s enough of putting others in control of your narrative, of waiting for them to crown you as talented.” I started a spreadsheet of rejections and set myself a goal to get as many as I could. As long as I’m getting rejected a lot, I’m putting myself out there a lot. And thinking about the odds, surely if I had 200+ submissions over a year at least one or two would come through. I would encourage writers to do the hard work of writing, rewriting, getting feedback etc and when you feel happy with it, put it out there. Now it’s vital that it’s not just quantity, but quality and quantity. Do the research of who you are writing to and think about why you really want to work with that theatre. Don’t give up.

Going back to your Butler County experiences, that’s basically considered ‘Trump Territory.” The Butler chapter of PFLAG closed in 2018 meaning there is not a single LGBTQ resource in the entire county. Yet, these are the Q&A’s I’ve done with LGBTQ folks with ties to Butler County. There is hope and magic and determination to be visible to the larger community. How do creators like yourself reach back to this community and support marginalized neighbors?I’m sorry to hear about the Butler chapter of PFLAG. It’s so important in small towns that there is a forum for groups that find it hard to see how they feel represented in the world. For me it’s about what we each can do to propel change. I can continue to be vocal and clear on my views both personally and within my plays. For example, Tiffany in Mumburger is gay but it’s not something that is discussed as an issue in her relationship with her parents because it isn’t an issue. It’s a part of her but it’s not the thing that defines her in her life or her story in the play. The more we see LGBTQ people having agency within a range of stories, the more we can all see ourselves reflected back.

What is your love song for LGBTQ youth? I am absolutely obsessed with King Princess and adore her song 1950. What a banger.


Where can readers find you on social media?

Website: sarahkosar.net

Twitter: @SarahKosar

Instagram: @sarahkosar6

Thank you!

Thanks, Sarah.

Tickets for Mumburger range from $5-35 and are selling quickly so gets yours soon. Off the Wall productions is known for producing innovative content created and led by women. I don’t think this show will disappoint. And remember – Carnegie has some great local restaurants AND free parking so it makes for a very affordable night of provocative and unique theater.

Mumburger Pittsburgh