20 March 2024 / Events

In Conversation: The Conundrum of the Black Female Theatre Director (JOIN IN-PERSON)


Karen Tomlin’s research explores how both wider social histories and the structures of institutions have shaped perceptions of female black British directors’ skills, knowledge, expertise and interests within the field of theatre-making.  Deep-rooted perceptions of the black female body, identifiable in nineteenth-century discourses on feminine pathologies have informed not only the cultural othering of black women within society but within the institutional spaces of the creative industries.


This talk considers the significance of factors such as point of entry into the creative industries, influences, training, mentors and allyships, as well as the challenges of attempting to assimilate and sustain the performances and affectations often associated with the theatre director, as generated through the prism of whiteness. Tomlin proposes that black directors seek to become ordinary and through this, they will become extraordinary, retaining their own distinct and unique identities of not only being black but also British.


In Conversation events are informal sharings with theatre-makers and practitioners. Director Karen Tomlin will discuss her experiences and recent doctoral research on Black female directors.


Photos: Natalie Ibu & Amanda Huxtable


The Speaker

Karen Tomlin has worked as a Theatre Practitioner and Artist for over twenty five years. She initially trained as an actor, studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Working for theatre companies such as The Globe and The National Theatre. As a theatre director making work for theatre companies such as Paines Plough, Clean Break, The Gate, and Ovalhouse Theatre and the Theatre Royal Stratford East. 

She has extensive experience working within actor training conservatoires; these include Royal Central school of Speech and Drama, Arts Educational, Rose Bruford, RADA. Guildhall Drama School and currently at LAMDA. 


She is a qualified teacher in Post Compulsory Education ( University College London, Institute of Education) and has a Masters in Applied from ( Royal Central School of Speech and Drama). She recently submitted her doctoral research at Queen Mary University of London entitled The ‘Body Out of Place: The Conundrum of the Black Female Theatre Director.



STR lectures are free and open to the public. You don’t have to be a member, but it is essential to book to let us know if you wish to attend in person.


Venue Information

The lecture will take place in the Allen Room, located on the first floor.  Access via lift or stairs.

Venue details:


Transport information:

Bus Routes:  14, 19, 24, 29, 38, 176 all stop nearby.

Underground: The nearest stations are Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Tottenham Court Road.

​Mainline Rail: Charing Cross Station is a ten minute walk.

​Parking:  There is a loading bay just a few doors down and limited parking on surrounding streets. Bay parking with a maximum stay of four hours is just opposite. Nearby multi-storey car parks are in China Town and on Brewer Street.

​Cycling: Nearby Santander Cycle docking stations on Wardour Street, Frith Street and Moor Street. We have no on-site bicycle storage.





20 March 2024




St Anne's Church, Dean Street, London, UK