ORion Productions founder Sinéad O’Riordan: “The lack of strong female roles and the hugely competitive nature of the industry inspired me to establish my own production company.” O’Riordan, a Dublin-based actor and producer, works in both theater and film. She recently produced and acted in the Irish tour of playwright William Mastrosimone’s The Woolgatherer and starred in the 2013 indie film The Bible Basher.
O’Riordan comments on acting for stage and for film. “Really I would approach both the exact same,” she says, “and apply the same techniques for both. Once I am given a script, be it a theatre or film piece, then I will read it once and let it settle. I will read it a second time and let it settle, and on the third read I start to have an image of the character forming in my head. Sometimes I will look at a blank wall just to envisage what that character would look like and indeed what traits they may have.
“I will then start to develop various physical idiosyncrasies or work on certain physical attributes that the character is given from the script. Does she have a limp, is she heavy, frail, etc. I then work on different vocal ranges and try to give my character a voice.”
Internet Streaming for Accents
“Of course this is all dependent also on where the character is from, as you would use different parts of the nasal passage and palette, etc. for different countries. I tend to stream radio stations from where that character is from to familiarize myself with the accent. In The Woolgatherer, for example, Rose was from South Philadelphia, so I streamed some Philadelphia stations to help me with that. I then get working on the background of the character and build a character profile and history. In The Woolgatherer the author gave certain key notes about Rose, i.e., she was religious, she had an alcoholic father, she was institutionalized a lot of her life, so based on this I would just sit down and write out her life history.
“So by now I would have a good idea who my character is, where she is from, how many siblings she had, memories she may have. There are different challenges associated with each discipline, to be honest. In theater everything is live and organic and I love the adrenalin rush and feelings that this can evoke. There is something so intimate and exciting knowing you are standing in front of hundreds of people who came to see you. You can feel and taste that energy all around and this can feed you and your performance. If you make a mistake then you just run with it.
“Of course, in film the director can yell cut and you get to perform it all over again. But film is wonderful also, and the energy on a film set is so much different to theater, but equally as fulfilling and exciting.”
O’Riordan established ORion Productions “…with the aim of creating my own work and allowing myself to pursue my passion for theatre and film. Orion is a prominent constellation named after a hunter in Greek mythology and I wanted a name which reflected her passion and determination to pursue something which I loved.
“If I believe in something I will go after it wholeheartedly. I want to work with the best and attract the best to my company. I figure if I can be a good producer and produce work that is of a very high caliber, then I can attract great talent to work with me.”
Positivity Breeds Positivity
“I also had some very negative experiences in the industry where my confidence and self esteem was low, especially when somebody told me that I had no place in the arts, so I promised myself once I created the company that I would only try to work with positive energies and with people of the same mindset as myself, and never again allow myself to be bullied by those who think they know better, when they actually do not. I turned the negative into positive. Positivity breeds positivity.”
“The Woolgatherer was my first time in an actor/producer capacity. Initially it was hard switching hats, but I soon became accustomed to it. It was the most amazing experience to date. I feel that this was when I was born as an artist. I developed a wonderful friendship with the playwright of The Woolgatherer, and we still regularly email each other. He gave me some information on the character Rose, which wasn’t included in the script, and he sent me the most amazing inspirational letter which I included in my program so that the entire industry could read it.
“What a true artist and gem William Mastrosimone is. I admire him hugely. Luckily that production garnered five-star reviews and had sell-out shows. Working as a producer and actor can be mentally draining, especially a couple of weeks before the show, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I view acting and producing like putting a baby into a crèche. Nobody will look after that baby/production as good as yourself, especially if you are in it, so this keeps me motivated at all times.”
“I aim to create high quality professional productions with intensely driven characters which allow all aspects of the human condition to be explored. Strong female roles that resonate with audiences and bring an awareness of important issues, both social and personal, to the public. For Rose in The Woolgatherer, it dealt with real issues that hinted towards Rose’s mental health and institutionalization, but there was also some welcomed humor in this highly intensive cavalcade of emotional and psychological journeying.”
O’Riordan proudly quotes one reviewer: O’Riordan’s portrayal of the anemic Rose, with her enamoring twitch and constant itch due to a psychosomatic rash, wholly embodied the on-stage character. The unrelenting strength of such characterizations was nothing short of mesmerizing.
“Prior to The Woolgatherer, I played Carol in Oleanna, a college student who believes she has been sexually harassed by her professor. It takes a bite out of political correctness gone wrong and the failings of the teacher/student relationship.” A review of this play states: Sinéad O’Riordan delivers a very strong performance throughout, achieving an awkward fragility in physicality and voice in the first scene which belies her confident, punky appearance and manages to play upon a knife’s edge of fragility and feistiness. Her performance makes Carol’s complexity and apparent fickleness utterly convincing.
“Later this year,” says O’Riordan, “I am producing and taking the lead role in the highly controversial The Motherfucker With The Hat where I will play a working class Bronx addict. Again, very real issues that audience members can hugely resonate with. This will be a European premiere and I am so excited about it.
“First seen on Broadway and nominated for six Tony awards, it is full of fiery, funny and apologetic characters. It is an honest mash-up of poetry and profanity by master American storyteller Stephen Adly Guirgis. I will produce it with my working colleague Andrew Lynch, who will also play the leading male role of Jackie. In fact, it was Andrew who brought the play to my attention. It is sure to set tongues wagging, but hey, if you are not willing to do something controversial then you are in the wrong game.”
Pre-Production for The Good Sinner
“On the film side of things,” says O’Riordan, “I am in pre-production on a feature film called The Good Sinner which is written and will be directed by my Kerry filmmaker Maurice O’Carroll. And I just wrapped filming a TV promo called Seanchai which we are hoping to get commissioned. In fact, we will be pitching it to US networks also, as it revolves around Irish mythology and reinvigorating the Irish culture.”
The entertainment community in Ireland has not been immune to the anger and bitterness sparked by the recent economic downturn in Ireland. Opportunities and funding for actors and filmmakers can be limited, even difficult to find. “To be honest,” says O’Riordan, “the situation hasn’t affected me hugely. I established my own company with the intentions of creating my own work and not having to depend on others to give me work. So while there may be a lack of funding in the arts, I was never receiving this funding anyways, so I am used to standing on my own two feet and trying to be innovative in ways and means of creating the funds for my productions. So it hasn’t really affected me.
“Now, saying that if you are applying for funding, it just means there is a lot more competition out there and you need to be creative in ways of showing the funding bodies that you and your productions are worthy of the bobs. I have a few projects that I have submitted for funding, but I am already hatching plan B for when they say No. In this industry there is anger and bitterness but I try to steer away from it all.”