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Laura wyatt okeefe actress

Wednesday, 10th June, 2015 6:05pm

Name: Laura Wyatt O'Keeffe

Age: 26

Location: London

Family: Mom, stepdad, hundreds of cousins, 15 aunts and uncles, couple of grandparents, just a huge clan

Pets: No, but I love dogs.

Favourite thing about Cork: The people. I just constantly meet people in the city, and everyone wants to have a chat.

Least favourite thing about Cork: The weather. We could do some scientific experiment where we could generate constant sunshine.

What would you change about Cork: Bring in pub theatres. They can really generate a huge audience.

"Art is so important to the public, and the public is so important to art. It's interesting to see stories that maybe aren't told that often. These things are in all of my work. Even though, a lot of it is dependant on how much funding it gets, it still has that essence of asking the questions, and having a conversation with Cork audiences, or women, or anyone. Just having a conversation with people. I think it's very important that it's true, and worthwhile, and giving something back, letting the person know they're in good company."

Laura sees the importance of conversation through her art. She was bit by the acting bug early on in her life, with the help and support of a family member.

"My aunt is a director, Marion Wyatt, and she was teaching. I was about three or four when I went to one of her classes, and I absolutely loved it. Then, she was doing a production of 'Men Should Weep' when I was about five. I went and auditioned for a part, and loved it. That's what really got me started, and gave me the confidence and encouragement."

Currently living in London, her acting, writing, and producing career proceeded to the next level at the end of her Drama and Theatre Studies honours degree in UCC.

"I just finished my degree, and I had written 'The Life of Johnny'. I made it with a friend of mine, Paul Sherlock, who works for the Cope Foundation. We both directed it, and put it on in the Firkin Crane for eight days, and gave the money to the Sexual Health Centre Ireland. The Granary came to me and said it was a good piece. After that, I started making more and more work, and started using the justmakeit title. When you produce, write, and act, rather than saying those things over and over again, it's just easier to put it under one label."

Now operating under justmakeit productions, she will be returning to Cork to her old college, where she remains very connected to Ger Fitzgibbon, professor in Drama and Theatre Studies, who taught Laura and proofs everything she writes.

Her return to Cork is for a show in collaboration with the Cork Midsummer Festival at the Drama Lab on Saturday 19 June. She is preparing a new show, 'Jean, Where Memories Live'.

"It's kind of fascinating to grow old. We're living longer because science and medicine are delaying the inevitable. So it's like we're in corpses that are beginning to decompose. In my older relatives, something happens, like a stroke. All of a sudden, it's like half of them fall out of their bodies, or half of their brains have shut down. They're not the person I remember them being.

"I feel like we don't have that conversation because we're scared of it, or we don't know. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose yourself to Alzheimer's, or dementia, or just problems with memory. You're not able to speak up anymore, or even able to stand up, and not having anyone to speak to about it. That's why Jean came about.

"We're currently workshopping the piece, and I'm working with another woman, directing while she stands overview. It's been really, really lovely and collaborative. We're working with a lot of women, as well. We wanted to show what it's like to grow old as a woman as well, and what that means about appearance, and fertility, and those cycles that happen."

Laura is excited to return home to Cork, as she feels a strong connection to and enthusiasm for our city.

"I love Cork. Every time I come home, there's another new company, or something more exciting happening. It's really fun at the moment, there's an energy that feels exciting. It's really brave; people are trying new things and seeing if they work, or if they don't."

Despite living away from home, Laura remembers that the most important thing to be is positive and enthused about what she does.

"Even with noone knowing who you are, or if you don't have a lot of money, or if you can't find a venue, it's just about keeping it going, and not doing it in a way that isn't fun anymore. You have to remember why you're doing it. It's not you and your personal journey, or any ambitions that you have. You have to say something with the work you want to do. That's nearly the biggest challenge; remaining happy and bubbly!"

Her biggest inspiration is the people she takes with her on her path in life.

"I've been so lucky with the people I have in my life. My mother and grandmother are incredibly strong women, and my aunt, Marion, is probably the best person I've ever met in my life. I've had a wealth of really strong female and male role models in my life, they're really happy and generous people. I've had that all the way along; people with strength and ambition. It comes back to that challenge: remaining grateful and happy, and glad that you get to do this. It's not easy, but the people you take along with you are the people that make you."

Laura's advice to aspiring actors is to not to be hung up on being good.

"It's about the audience, or the person you're working with. Whoever you're playing is not going to be your character in ten years, or one year, or however long it takes for somebody to come along and take it. The character and story belongs to the audience, and it's about telling that story. I think it takes the pressure off, and it helps when everyone has a good time. Look for the truth in something, and try to tell the story in a more exciting way. Believe that there's something more there, and that the words have more to offer."

To find out more about Laura and her work, visit justmakeitproductions.com.

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