Griffith College and Leinster School of Music and Drama (LSMD) alumna, Majella Flanagan, has been performing, directing and teaching for more than 20 years. When she’s not teaching, she’s directing. And when she’s not directing she might be singing, acting or recharging in her garden or on her kayak. Read on to hear how she’s fulfilling her passion.
What is Majella’s background?
When Majella was growing up she always wanted to be on stage and loved performing. Majella started on stage at a young age as an Irish dancer with her mother’s infamous Simpson Daly School of Irish Dancing. In her youth Majella danced at countless feiseanna and travelled around Europe dancing and singing at festivals. Even in primary and secondary schools Majella played leading roles in annual musical stage performances.
Majella became involved with various local theatre companies’ musical societies and pantomime groups in Athlone in her early years and later with Ballinasloe and Castlerea where she enjoyed performing. One of her first jobs was working as an entertainer and performer with Shannon Castle tours where she trained at Bunratty Castle and worked at Dunguaire Castle, Kinvarra. While she really enjoyed this work, it was seasonal, so after three seasons, she decided to move on. Love, marriage, children and a job at Athlone Credit Union took centre stage for a number of years, but she still got involved with as many musicals and stage performances as she could in that time.
Despite her part-time involvement in musicals and other acting and singing activities, her passion to make drama and singing a full-time career was never far from her mind. She went back to school at the Royal Irish Academy where she studied singing with Dr Veronica Dunne and she also studied associate speech and drama. Majella then moved on to the Leinster School of Music, now part of Griffith College, where she fell under the auspices of Bernadette Garvey, an inspiring teacher and mentor, who has since passed away. With Bernadette as her guide, she passed her exams in acting and performance and became a licentiate of LSMD. Majella now works full-time as a director and teacher!
What is The Majella Flanagan Theatre Company?
The Majella Flanagan Theatre Company, which operates in Athlone, Roscommon, Ballaghaderreen and Castlerea, teaches young people between the ages of four and 18 the skills of acting, singing and dancing. While one of Majella’s goals is to help young people learn their craft and develop a love for it, she is equally committed to helping them build confidence, increase social skills, make friends and relieve stress.
What are Majella’s new private teaching services at the Athlone School of Music? Who are the students? What areas are covered?
The private lessons are connected with the Majella Flanagan Theatre Company. There are many different reasons why the students come to these classes. Some are looking to take the various exams in drama, etc., while others are there to build their confidence and have fun. Her instruction involves everything from preparing students for exams in LSMD, to speech & drama, musical theatre and solo acting.
What is the appeal of LSMD’s syllabus and why has Majella chosen it for her students?
The syllabus is quite broad but, at the same time, very focused. By sticking with a syllabus, students learn specific pieces and are given the tools to help them perform in a confident manner. This tuition and learning helps students to perform to a higher standard of achievement and enjoyment.
For Majella it’s so fulfilling to see children develop confidence and improve their communication skills through singing and acting. There can be children who are a little overconfident and who may need to learn how to improve their listening skills and communicate more effectively with others. Some children can be so nervous that they are afraid to make eye contact or speak when they start their lessons but, without even realising, they come out of their shell as the lessons progress.
The learning and confidence-building that she teaches through LSMD instruction and years of experienced teaching isn’t just for the youngest students. Teenagers who start classes with Majella also greatly benefit from her instruction in the same way that the younger children do. The most important thing for children and young adults who struggle with communication is to be patient and learn in a small group setting that allows for a safe place to engage without too much 1:1 pressure.
How much of Majella’s time is spent performing versus teaching?
Majella tries to take on one or two performances a year. She recently finished Ragtime in Loughrea. She hopes to be participate in Castlerea Music Society’s 50th anniversary musical of Titanic which will take place in April 2018. While she works professionally as a teacher she likes to get out with the amateur circuit. Majella feels the amateur circuit in musical theatre and drama plays a vital role in communities country-wide. As she says, “Without amateur theatre the world would be a very sad place indeed.”
What are Majella’s longer-term goals?
Majella’s long-term goals are to seize the day, have fun and live life to its fullest. To be a good mother, wife, sister, aunt, friend and teacher. To do her best every day to make a positive difference in all she encounters.
Are there any specific performances or activities happening for Majella at the moment?
Majella just finished directing Fiddler on the Roof at Colaiste Chiarain in Athlone, which took place earlier this month. She is directing the Christmas panto Beauty and the Beast which will take place in Roscommon the 5th and 6th of January 2018. She is also casting and directing Snow Queen with the Castlerea Musical Society Stage School in February 2018. If that wasn’t enough, she’s also directing four one-act plays and a concert which will take place in May and June 2018.
What else is Majella up to in her free time?
While Majella already seems busy enough, she finds the time to hop onto the boards, garden, immerse herself into a good book, manage her three dogs, and spend time with her husband, son and daughter. You might even find her on her kayak going for a paddle.
What advice does Majella have for people who want to start their own business in acting/drama?
“Stay focused. Don’t give up. Talk to people in the industry and business but always stay true to yourself. Follow it up and seek advice. Have faith in your own ability and don’t lose sight of what it is you want to achieve. Be careful about who you confide in. Love many and trust few and always paddle your own canoe!”
How can you find Majella?
To get in touch with Majella, find the Majella Flanagan Theatre Company on Facebook, email her at [email protected] or call at 086 3824545.
If you have a story you’d like us to share with other alumni, or know of a Griffith graduate whose story we should share, please get in touch at [email protected].
Also, please remember to join the Griffith Alumni Network!