When an actor makes a theatre company his home for 12 years, chances are he has a strong sense of what it takes to make it in the business. Patrick Galligan is no exception to this supposition.
And if there are two things you need to know about the man who plays Lord Leonard Aster in Peter and the Starcatcher, a play about how a lonely frightened boy became Peter Pan on stage at the Royal George Theatre until November 1, 2015, it is this: He’s deeply passionate about the communal bond that exists with an audience and he loves the challenge of upping his performance ingenuity thanks to the great artists he shares the stage with at the Shaw Festival.
Whether appearing in the classics or new works, Patrick Galligan is a performance centre piece in every new project he embarks on.
▓ I ▓ N ▓ T ▓ E ▓ R ▓ V ▓ I ▓ E ▓ W ▓
Is acting an art that anyone can succeed at with training or are there natural traits one must possess to excel in this discipline?
I believe to be an actor you need a gift, an innate talent. That in itself is not enough as you need technique, discipline, determination, a sense of humour, among other things. But without it, it ain’t going to happen.
It’s hard to say what that gift is because it can appear very early in life or arrive at a later stage, it can be fully formed and ready to go or it may need to be nurtured and patiently developed.
But we’ve all seen it. And we’ve seen when it isn’t there.
Marlon Brando once stated that acting is the expression of a “neurotic impulse.” Do you believe this is true?
Is acting a “neurotic impulse” as Brando says? Maybe. It certainly was for Brando and it cost him dearly. No doubt he was a genius. He had the gift.
But there was something about Brando’s approach to the work that was very destructive. I recently read Peter Manso’s biography of Brando and was stuck by how sad his life was. His selfishness, his narcissism was so damaging to the people and art he professed to love that his life served as a warning to me.
I think everyone needs to know they are part of something bigger than their interests alone, a greater good. As Dylan said: “you gotta serve somebody”. For me that’s the key and it seems to channel that “neurotic impulse” into something constructive.
Who is more important to the production, the actor or director?
Well, I don’t think you can have a play without an actor. Or at least I haven’t seen it happen. But you can have a play without a director. I just wouldn’t want to be in it.
The actor/director relationship is the most important in the theatre, in my opinion.
As an actor, I will come into rehearsals with my own ideas and choices about my character and how I want to develop him, but I am completely dependent on my director to edit and shape those choices.
The director sees the big picture, the actor can’t. In my world the pecking order is: playwright first, director second, actor third. When everyone honours that, it works best.
When you flip through a script searching for a character that you may audition for, what criteria catches your eye?
At this point, the thing I look for most in a part is something that challenges me, that will make me go outside of the comfortable, that will take me into new territory.
I think there is a danger when you’ve been at a company like Shaw for a number of seasons to become complacent, to do things the tried and true way. This is creative death.
I believe it is an actor’s obligation—as with any artist—to constantly re-invent the way you work. If you like to work analytically, rooting yourself in the rational arc of your character’s journey, making your choices only once you understand the ideas of the play (this, by the way, is the way I often work with the classics), try being impulsive. Try getting out of your head and act purely physically or emotionally.
You may drive your colleagues a bit crazy, maybe even find yourself going down the wrong path. But you may find something really exciting and end up a better, more versatile actor as a result.
Tell me about a role that you played where something went horribly/laugably wrong on stage but you/cast covered up the best you could.
I was doing a play in Toronto a number of years ago and it happened on opening night.
At one point, I was to jump off the top of a large set piece, over a hand rail and land on a catwalk (all in an attempt for my character to impress another).
Well, while in mid-leap, my foot caught the rail and I fell with some force and crashed on the set. There was a gasp from the audience and as I got up I looked at my stunned scene partner and all I could think of to say was “Sorry!” so I did.
We got through the rest of the show without incident, but I was so embarrassed by my gaffe that I figured I owed my leading lady an apology then and there.
What stage actor ranks on your list of all-time favourites.
Wow, that’s hard. I guess it’s easier to answer who I learned the most from.
There would be a few: Douglas Campbell, Seana McKenna, Jim Mezon, Ben Campbell, Goldie Semple, Gina Wilkinson, Joe Ziegler. I could go on, and on.
What do you think the secret is to longevity in this business?
I would say a fundamental love of the work, a strict sense of discipline, an intellectual curiosity and, maybe most importantly, a sense of humour!