While many lovely Fringe shows featuring out-of-town performers stay with here just a short duration before moving on to other places or into the ether, we have a rare opportunity to reunite with Irish expat Laura Flynn and her show Get Your Shuffle On. This charming, eccentric storytelling show is about celebrating yourself in all your beautiful awkwardness. Flynn is currently performing the show this weekend and I wanted to catch up with her to find out how she came up with the premise and how life in Montreal has been treating her.
Rachel Levine (RL): What is the premise of Get Your Shuffle On? I remember Patrick Swayze played a role.
Laura Flynn (LF): It’s from my imagination, growing up as an only child and living with my grandmother. Basically, it’s about the use of my imagination to escape reality and how the exploration of that is self discovery. I was impossibly and still am obsessed with Patrick Swayze. I touch on him because of my insecurity with guys. I would escape into this scenario with Patrick Swayze to compensate for the lack of attention I had in my real life. Otherwise it is about my grandmother and the major influence she was in my life. She was both low-key and a strong character. She knew me very well and I knew her very well. I come from a town, Dundalk, where everyone knew each other’s business, but she kept to herself. She was happy playing Patient (a form a solitaire) and smoking her cigarettes.
RL: Can you tell me how you developed the concept?
LF: It changed a lot. I thought of the title first (“Get Your Shuffle On”) more than anything. I love dancing. I’m not a trained dancer, but I can make up dances on the spot and get a public to look at me. I use dance to escape and get attention. Anyway, I came up with the idea, with an iPod shuffle and the audience would have a choice of songs on the way in. That was my idea to begin with. Anyway, it developed with a deck of cards and that there’d be teams and I’d improvise in relation to that. But, I realized very quickly I had a deadline for the show, and I had to structure it more. Initially, I developed it on my own, but closer to the Fringe, I contacted Marie-Hélène Côte to be the director. I wanted someone I trusted and felt comfortable working with, someone who understood me. Marie-Hélène does street theatre and physical work. She was great. She knew which story I could build into the show and was part of the creative process. I was initially thinking big high tech things and I’m glad those ideas went out the window.
RL: Have you had the opportunity to bring the show to other places? Is it connected to the remount?
LF: Unfortunately, at the Fringe, I didn’t get to filming it. Tonight, it’s being filmed with the idea of sending it to festivals and traveling with it. It’s a small set, so it is easy transportable, but it’s only been in Montreal. After finishing the show at the Fringe, I knew I wanted to do it again. The Fringe is great. It’s great for planting the seeds of the show. It was my first solo show and there were a lot of challenges for me as an artist in relation to production and getting a script together. I knew by the end of the Fringe I had a good show. Also, since I have grown as a performer as an artist as well, I wanted to be able to give the timing to the show it deserved and take the time to explore it more. There aren’t major changes, but even me as a performer, I’m more at ease on stage and with the public. I’m remounting it as way to explore it further and pass on my message to more people.
RL: What brought you to Montreal and how as your experience been?
LF: I first was here for a sabbatical. I was at university learning French and came over to be a language assistant. That was thirteen years ago. I spent the summer of that year in Montreal and it was my first experience of the Fringe and I had the opportunity to live in the Mile End. All those things put into my head that I wanted to come back. Now, I’ve been here for four years. I love the culture and the cross between the French and English side of things. I feel people are very much welcoming and intrigued by my background. A lot of people are like, “You’re Irish! It’s grand!” Within the arts, the English theatre part of things, it’s been very welcoming. People are happy to know someone from elsewhere has come to Montreal. I don’t know whether this is a big thing, but Thomas Darcy McGee from Confederation, is from up the road from me in Dundalk.
RL: Many people involved in Montreal’s English theatre come through the professional programs at Dawson, Abbott, or even Concordia. What has been your experience in integrating into the theatre community?
LF: When I came four years ago, I got involved with the improv community, at Montreal Improv and at Theatre St. Catherine. I studied theatre academically back home, and I had great experiences in Ireland. But it’s mainly within the last year, even since September, that I’ve been trying auditions and all that here. It’s early days to comment. One thing to add is that I have an artistic counsellor at Yes, Montreal. They offer a great service there. My counsellor has been a super support to me. She gives me homework every time I go to her. Also, I want to mention The Morning After the Life Before with Ann Blake and Lucia Smyth. It was wonderful. I know Ann from Gallaway. We studied in the same masters and they contacted me to help with promotion for the show. Seeing the show itself, it blew me out of the theatre. For me, it was motivational, just a wonderful piece.
RL: Are you working on anything for the future?
LF: Nothing in stone yet. I have an idea that’s in the idea process. I would love to do a musical. I say musical… but then it will turn out as Shakespeare. I don’t know. My initial plan for Get Your Shuffle On, it went from night to day. This is the way things go.