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Seamus O’Farrell finding his feet on the American stage

Seamus O’Farrell doing Stand Up at the American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan.


By Irish Echo Staff

Seamus O’Farrell’s story is both similar and different to that of many of his generation, the so called “Children of the Peace Process.”

On Good Friday, 1998 the Belfast Agreement was signed which brought an end to thirty years of conflict in the north of Ireland.

O’Farrell was eleven-years-old when that agreement was signed. His generation was supposed to reap the benefits of this new peace, new opportunities.

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Although today there is relative peace in the North, it still has lots of problems and is still deeply traumatized in what is a post-conflict state.

It has a high suicide rate among young men. Promised social and economic opportunities have not materialized. Indeed, the “Children of the Peace Process” have been failed by the political institutions.

Not surprising then that people look to humor to try and get through the bad times, and forget them to an extent. Comedy is a cure for all ailments they say, and O’Farrell, as witty as they come according to the man himself, believes this to be never more the case than it is now.

So it’s no surprise that he aspired for a career in entertainment.

This is where O’Farrell’s story differs a bit. Coming from a working class background, acting is not a common career, indeed quite the opposite.

The towns and villages around his native Mid-Ulster are surrounded by factories. It could have been quite easy for O’Farrell to settle into this life and ignore his artistic calling, He couldn’t do that.

In 2007, he starred in a short film “Getting Lighter.” This was his first film and he got a taste for it, but, unfortunately, opportunities were few and far between for the following year.

Having graduated with a degree from the University of Ulster in Coleraine in Media Studies he decided a career in the arts was where his future lay. In July, 2008 he auditioned to become a member of the Craic Theater, was accepted, and got to work making his stage debut in September, 2008.

Seamus enjoyed success on stage at the renowned Craic Theatre in Coalisland, performing in sold out shows such as Brian Friel’s “The Freedom of the City” and Martin McDonagh’s “Lieutenant of Inishmore.”

He also took on the role of great Irish patriot Padraig Pearse during the centenary celebrations of the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and delivered a hair raising rendition of Pearse’s 0ration at O’Donovan Rossa’s grave.

Like so many Irish families there is a connection to America. O’Farrell’s great uncle, James McCourt, served the United States in in World War II. He was General George Patton’s driver among other duties.

James has always been fascinated with America and hearing stories of his great uncle so when it came time to decide whether to train in the familiar safety of Ireland, or to risk it all and move to New York City, the choice was an easy one.

Despite success in Ireland, O’Farrell was not satisfied. There wasn’t sufficient opportunities for growth so he decided he needed to take action.

This resulted in his auditioning for a place at the renowned Maggie Flanigan Studio which boasts such notable alumni as Piper Perabo.

In the fall of 2016, Seamus began the Full Time Acting Program which he describes as completely life changing,

In New York, he has flourished under the tutelage of Karen Chamberlain and executive director Charlie Sandlan.

He played the lead in “King of Galway” by Seamus Scanlon which was part of the “Puttin on your Shorts” theatre festival which showcases the best new plays from playwrights from both Ireland and the United States.

Seamus also Performed Standup comedy at the renowned American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan where he performed with top Northern Irish Comedian and BBC star, Shane Todd.

Todd was so impressed with O’Farrell that he asked him to join him on his U.S. tour performing in the intimate Stella & The Fly venue on the Upper East side of Manhattan which sold out each performance.

O’Farrell has made quite the name for himself on the Stand Up circuit in New York which, no joke and no surprise, is one of the most grueling in the world.

As the Sinatra song goes: “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

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