By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
It takes something special to follow one’s dream, and there are two Douglas College students that have undoubtedly got whatever it is. Enter theatre and stagecraft program mates Paul O’Shaughnessy and Andy Johnson. On top of school and work, these two have spent the last few months taking on the endeavor of not only co-writing, but outright bringing their original play, One Man Show, to the stage. O’Shaughnessy, Johnson, and their assistant stage manager Tommy Challoner spoke with us about the upcoming production.
[“Andy and I] are both first year stagecraft,” O’Shaughnessy begins, “so it was like my first exposure to theatre last semester when… I worked on Dancing at Lughnasa. One of the actresses… [whom] I really enjoyed—her role and her performance—kind of inspired me to have a go [at my own play].” O’Shaughnessy’s decision was set it stone once he learned of the Douglas Student Union’s funding process for original student productions:
“I just came up with the idea [after that]… to do a show about producing a one man show.
“I co-wrote [One Man Show] with Andy, and I’m directing. We really don’t have a lot of experience doing shows, but we thought we’d learn as we [went along]. We’re all learning something new—[for instance,] I’ve never directed anything before. I got the opportunity to watch a director last semester on Dancing at Lughnasa, so I picked up a few pointers. We’re trying to do it right as well, so certainly [we] don’t want to cut corners—we wouldn’t learn… it’s a lot of work.”
Putting their own play together has of course been a staggering experience in bringing, not just O’Shaughnessy and Johnson, but their entire cast and crew, into the realism of putting on an original and independent production. However, through all its inevitable trials, there have been a number of positive learning experiences along the way.
“When Paul asked me if I wanted to be assistant [stage manager],” starts Challoner, I said, ‘sure, I’ll do it!’ There [was] a lot of paperwork… I wasn’t expecting it to be as much at the beginning… but I was still willing to do it because I have faith in their project.”
“We were kind of worried [at first],” Johnson explained, “but the turnout’s been really good. A lot of actors [auditioned, and lots] of [students] in our own class have come out and volunteered [as well].”
O’Shaughnessy further elaborated on the casting process:
“We have 14 characters, so we cast 11 actors…. I would say two-thirds of the actors from our first and second year program auditioned. We ended up having too many to choose from—which is great!”
When it came right down to the core of writing One Man Show, the partners had this to say:
“I’ve done a little writing before, but nothing to this scale,” says Johnson. “It was kind of a shock to sit down for four months and just work on one thing and then re-do scenes over and over again. Certain scenes, we went in knowing we were going to shorten them, and then they ended up being twice as long as they were before.”
“I think the other challenge for the writing is knowing when to stop, because we could’ve carried on… but you’ve got to stop at some point,” O’Shaughnessy added. “One thing we’ve done, which we think is a bit unique, is in the first act, we have auditions, and [the director and producer] can’t decide [between] two actors—so [at] the end of the first act… [during] intermission, the audience votes on who gets the role, and that affects the second act.”
O’Shaughnessy and Johnson have created something delightfully fun with One Man Show. It’s twist on what O’Shaughnessy calls “writing from what you know” has made the production process a one of a kind experience for the co-writers and their team. However, after this upcoming set of shows, it won’t be over yet. The two have also applied and been accepted into this year’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival, which will take off in September.
For now, see below and check out the One Man Show Facebook page for more details.
What: One Man Show
Where: Douglas College Studio Theatre, Room 4140, New West campus
When: Wednesday May 9–Saturday May 12
Cost: $10 General ($7 Students and Seniors; Matinees)