Shaw Festival 2016
Niagara-on-the-Lake/ 1-800-511-SHAW

by Joel Greenberg

Full disclosure: I have been following Patrick Galligans acting career since I first saw him play Jim in Tarragon Theatres production of The Glass Menagerie. That was in 1997. For the past 13 seasons (he took one year off to perform in the Toronto production of War Horse) I have watched Galligan perform in a wide range of roles at the Shaw Festival. And only two years ago, I had the enormous pleasure of directing him in Studio 180 Theatres production of NSFW. So, what is it about this actor that continues to interest me?

Now in his mid-50s, Patrick Galligan harnesses a passion and energy that combine to generate exciting theatre, both for him and the ensemble members that are fortunate enough to play scenes with him. And though he joined the Shaw company at the age of 40, a relatively late entrance, Patrick knew that was where he hoped someday to be. If I can get into that company, I might become a better actor,better came in gradations, he would have surpassed his own expectations. he recalled when we spoke some time ago. And if Galligan is intensely focused, good-humoured and possessed of a grounded ego that serves all who work with him. In NSFW, there were two fairly inexperienced members of the cast with whom he worked closely. It was thrilling to watch them grow in confidence as Patrick gave them every opportunity to experiment and to learn from his greater experience. His work ethic, his generosity and respect for company members enriched the project. I was curious to know more about his reflections having been at the Shaw for so many seasons. And dont forget that the season itself is a long one, typically running from February through to the end of October, and occasionally even longer into November.

The positives of working in a company like the Shaw are probably obviousthe pay is decent and the plays are usually very good and often brilliantThere is a tight-knit community of actors that has lived, worked and socialized together for sometimes many years. At best, this can lead to a wonderfully harmonious ensemble that can produce some extraordinary theatre. Galligan is proof positive that this is one reality for a successful festival member. And not only has he gained from the many options offered by the Shaw, but he has brought the spirit of his experience with him as he has worked elsewhere across the country.

But as with anything, there is a downside. It can be very insular and sometimes you feel cut off from the rest of the worldas an artist here, you can begin to crave outside influence, something to shake things up. In the winter between seasons I always try to get theatre work outside of Shaw.  Which is when and why Patrick was available to join Studio 180. In fact, our rehearsals began as his season at the Shaw was winding down, so he was doing a lot of driving as fall was threatening to become winter.

Patrick Galligan is one of many multi-talented actors in Canada, to be sure. But his personal warmth, immediacy and commitment set him apart. He is an actor you always want to work with because he brings himself so wholly and unselfishly to the project. And at the same time, as generous as he is, he has the technical and emotional capacity to carve out the space that he needs to continue adding to his arsenal.

It is not at all surprising that Patrick represented the acting company when the festival was engaged in hiring its new Artistic Director. (Jackie Maxwell will be leaving the post at the end of this season and Tim Carroll will be replacing her.) I anticipate seeing Patrick in future seasons taking on roles that will continue to feed and challenge him. At the same time, the company will benefit from his kind and thoughtful attention to newbies who will arrive filled with an energy that is the domain of the very young. And for those among them who take the time to watch and to listen, Patrick Galligan will be the inspiration that can lead them forward.

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