A Coalisland man has hit the Big Apple to pursue an acting career, however, despite being miles away, he will never forget his roots.
Seamus O’Farrell, from Creenagh Road, studied at Ulster University, Coleraine, but later moved to New York in January 2017, to take part in professional acting training at the renowned Maggie Flanigan Studio in Manhattan.
And, since then, the former St Patrick’s pupil has enjoyed success, performing stand up comedy last year at The American Irish historical Society on Fifth Avenue, at the annual theatre festival in the Bronx, as well as on stage with local comedian Shane Todd in New York.
He explained: “New York is such a huge city but it has a great sense of community almost, I feel like there are opportunities around every corner!
“I performed in a play written by Seamus Scanlon called The Last King of Galway, directed by Don Creedon and starring seasoned performer Peter Cormican. The play was part of a theatre festival ‘Puttin on Your Shorts’ an annual theater festival in the Bronx. I performed stand up comedy last year at The American Irish historical Society, and this St Patrick’s weekend, I opened for Shane Todd as part of his Hero Tour in New York.
“My stand-up acts focus on being an Irish person living in America and about growing up in Tyrone, my memories of the Troubles and how I was 11 when the Good Friday agreement was signed.”
The youngest of six, Seamus went to St Patrick’s Primary School in Dungannon where he got his first taste of performing.
He continued: “I had to take on the challenging role of the inn keeper in P1 for the nativity play and in Primary 4 I took on the role of the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. I attended secondary school in St Patrick’s College in Dungannon and was always performing and doing impressions of teachers, celebrities and politicians. I wasn’t quite the class clown, more of the school clown! I recall in third year, when the time came to select subjects to pursue for GCSE, my drama teacher Mr Kelly called me out of Maths class…I thought what have I done now! But he told me - you have to do Drama for GCSE.
“I really enjoyed Drama out of all the classes I studied. We went to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers for a school trip and I said to Mr Kelly: “Imagine that was your job, that would be unreal!”
However, after his GCSEs, Seamus was unsure about where his future lay, so he decided to pursue A Levels in ICT: “But it just wasn’t for me I didn’t feel happy. So I quit my ICT course and went to South West College in Dungannon and went to study Media Studies which got me back into my creative side. It was some of the happiest and care free times of my life. We produced and starred in a short comedy film and then also a short documentary about Autism as well. I went on to study Media in the University of Ulster in Coleraine in 2005 and again really enjoyed my time being creative.
“When I graduated from university in the summer of 2008 I had a creative void to fill, so I called into the Craic Theatre in Coalisland and got a part as a soldier in their production of Freedom of the City directed by Joe Morgan. I then fell into a cycle of doing nothing for a while then pursuing something. However I had the acting bug again; I knew this is what I wanted to do.
“I started writing some comedy in the meantime and I performed some stand up in The Pavillion in Belfast then in the Halfpenny Bridge Inn in Dublin. Since the summer of 2008, I had been working as a part time postman around Stewartstown and Ardboe. I started taking Acting classes in Belfast and was looking at doing some professional training in Dublin.”
However, Seamus’s friend recommended the Maggie Flanigan studio in Manhattan one of the top acting studio in the United States.
He added: “I had always wanted to live in America for a while and had now decided at 30 it was now or never if I wanted to be serious about being a professional actor; I had to train and what better place? So I was on holiday in September 2016. I stopped by the studio I knew I had found my artistic home.
“I came back to Ireland and began the application process and by November I had been accepted.”
Since then Seamus has grown so much in all aspects of his life; however he remains proud of his Tyrone connections and is frequently in contact with his family and friends.
He added: “I feel I have come full-circle as I have recently finished writing a short comedy film about an Irish man trying to be an actor in New York with all the mishaps that entails! I am hoping to shoot this over the summer. Last Tuesday night I also performed at the Irish American Writers and Artists Salon at Symphony Space on the upper West Side of Manhattan celebrating its 8th Anniversary. Based around the theme of education I did stand up comedy and talked about how it was education that brought me to the United States to study at Acting school and also of my time in school in Northern Ireland growing up as a child of the peace process with my own funny spin on situations I encountered.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself walking around the greatest city in the world pursuing my dream.
“But don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing and the struggle is real but it’s totally worth it!
“I have never been as happy and I feel so lucky to have this chance to make my dream a reality and I never forget home and that County Tyrone is where it all started for me; and I thank God for that!”