THE Maguire sisters, from Rathpeacon, are very keen on acting careers, with three of the four of them involved in theatre and determined to make it in a notoriously difficult field.
Two of them, Julie and Pattie, are the first siblings to train on the Bachelor in acting degree at The Lir Academy at Trinity College Dublin. Sally is studying drama at the CIT Cork School of Music, while Alice is the odd one out, working as a teacher in Dubai.
Julie, 25, is the eldest. From a very young age, she has been involved in drama, starting at the Montforts at just three years of age. She then went on to the Performers’ Academy, run by Irene Warren and the late Bryan Flynn.
It was while training under Regina Crowley at the CIT Cork School of Music that Julie experienced a turning point.
“Regina is an amazing teacher. I discovered that acting is a real art form,” she says.
“When you’re in your teens wondering how you’re going to go through life, I found that drama was a way of me getting to know myself. I feel most at home on the stage.”
Describing herself as outgoing, this former secondary school student at St Angela’s College enjoyed drama as an extra-curricular activity. Then, in 2011, she was accepted to work for a summer with the National Youth Theatre in Dublin.
“Sixteen of us were brought together from all over the country. At the end of rehearsals for It Only Ever Happens In The Movies, I knew I wanted to pursue acting as a career.
“A couple of years later, I was at home one Friday night when an aunt texted me to ask me if I was watching The Late Late Show. Saoirse Ronan was on and Danielle Ryan (founder of The Lir Academy, which had just opened.) I thought it would be a great way of staying in Ireland to train there. For a long time, my ultimate dream was to be an actor working and creating work here. The dream also involved working at the Abbey.
“So I went to The Lir Academy and had an amazing three years self-exploring and learning how to create with people.”
Julie recalls “really growing into myself as a person”. When her studies were over, her first professional job was at the Abbey playing Kitty in a production of Anna Karenina.
All Julie’s dreams were coming true, including sharing the stage with some of her idols, such as Derbhle Crotty and Declan Conlon.
Nevertheless, while Julie landed on her feet after graduating, she is all too aware that she is involved in a tough industry.
“You put yourself out there constantly and go to auditions where you get knocked back. That’s how it is.”
Julie moved to London to broaden her horizons but, as often happens to actors when they leave Ireland, she was called back for work. In Cork, she worked with writer and actor, John McCarthy, delivering a reading of a piece he wrote at last year’s Cork Midsummer Festival. She also did a show for Graffiti Theatre Company.
Now living in Hackney in London, Julie is starring in the English premiere of On McQuillan’s Hill in the Finborough, a small pub theatre in West London. After that, “who knows?” says Julie.
What is her advice to her drama-obsessed siblings?
“Some of the best advice I got was that, when you’re working at acting, life is great, you’re doing what you love. But when you’re not working, that life has to be great too. Your life can’t revolve around waiting for the phone to ring. The phone won’t always ring. I’ve had months where I’ve had to work in offices or as a receptionist or doing waitressing. For me, it’s all about having a routine and a great group of friends.
“And I’m very lucky to have a great family. My advice is to make sure your life is about more than your work.”
Pattie, 19, followed a similar path to Julie, starting off in the Montforts and then the Performers’ Academy. She then did acting classes with Ann Barry at CIT Cork School of Music.
While in fourth year at St Angela’s College, Pattie successfully auditioned for the National Youth Theatre and was part of a production at the Peacock, the Abbey Theatre’s smaller stage.
“That was the turning point. I wouldn’t say I was influenced by Julie but I did hear good things about The Lir Academy.” (She has been studying there since last September.) “ I decided I wanted to be an actor on my own.
“My parents are 100% supportive of what I want to do. I was unsure for a while. Acting is obviously a hard career.”
Asked what appeals to her about being on the stage, Pattie says: “I think it’s amazing that you can just transform yourself into somebody else.
“You have to understand (the character) and become them in a way and not be yourself for a while. I suppose it’s escape, but not in a negative way.”
At The Lir Academy, Pattie’s studies include exploring movement, physical theatre, dialect, voice and emotional responses.
Rent in Dublin “is crazy. I have no choice though if I want to be classically trained. Thank God I have supportive parents that are helping me.”
At weekends, Pattie comes back to Cork and works in the box office at the Cork Opera House.
“If I were to get theatre jobs, I’d hope to be based in Ireland. But London is always a possibility. I’ll go wherever the acting takes me.”