30 September 2011
2 hours, 47 minutes
Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America, New York University
Marian Quinn was born in 1964 in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest child and only daughter in a family of five children. Her parents, Michael and Teresa Quinn met through family connections. Both were born and raised in County Offaly Ireland. They married in 1956. Her parents migrated from Ireland to Canada, then to London, England before settling in Chicago where her father, an English literature professor, taught at Loyola University.
Wanting to avoid what they perceived to be the insular Irish community on the south side of Chicago, Quinn's parents decided to settle on the north side. Acquiring another teaching position at a community college, her father then moved Quinn and the rest of the family to Rockford, Illinois in the late 1960s/early 1970s. In this suburb of Chicago, Quinn and her family felt somewhat displaced and alienated.
In 1977, at age thirteen, Quinn moved to Ireland and lived with relatives; she remained there for five years, each summer traveling back to the United States to visit her family. For her secondary education, Quinn attended one of the schools in Ireland ran by the religious order, Poor Servants of the Mother of God. After Poor Servants, Quinn studied English at University of College Dublin for a short time.
Quinn returned to Chicago and studied acting at the Piven Theatre Workshop, following in the footsteps of her brothers, Aidan and Paul, who attended the workshop as well. In the 1990s, Quinn settled in New York, acting off–Broadway in plays such as Mike Leigh's Ecstasy while at the same time, doing bit parts and minor roles in television (Law & Order) and film (Broken Harvest, Heavy). Frustrated and fed up with the lack of substantial roles, Quinn began to write, a passion of hers since childhood. Creative writing eventually led Quinn to develop her own screenplays, and ultimately direct, acquiring the creative independence she always wanted. In 1998, Quinn learned the mechanics and grammar of filmmaking while shooting Come To, a short film shot from the perspective of a hospitalized woman. In 2007, Quinn directed her first feature–length film, 32A – a coming–to–age story set in 1970s Dublin in which a thirteen-year-old girl receives her first bra and falls in love for the first time.
Quinn belongs to a family of actors and filmmakers that includes Aidan, recognizable from Desperately Seeking Susan, Benny and Joon, and most recently, the Prime Suspect television series (2011). Along with This is My Father, Paul Quinn directed Never Get Outta the Boat, and has several projects in development. An esteemed cinematographer, Declan Quinn has photographed a wealth of films including Vanya on 42nd Street, Monsoon Wedding, and Rachel Getting Married.
Quinn currently lives with her family in Ireland. Collaborating with producer and husband, Tommy Weir, Quinn has several projects in development for Janey Pictures, their production company.
Excerpt No. 1
Thoughts on Normalcy and Being an OutsiderDisc 2, 00:27–01:29
Transcription of Excerpt No. 1
LA: Yeah and maybe it's just the ones [Inside the Actor's Studio interviews] I've listened to but there seems to be a pattern.
MQ: I think it's probably also about being a little bit on the outside and being an observer and you know people always talk about being normal and I always say well I'm not normal. I know I'm not normal.
LA: Or define "normal."
MQ: Exactly. But I look at people and I think: Oh so you think you're normal? Is that what normal is? Because I know I'm not normal. I mean what is it? I say that to my kids, but they don't appreciate it. Look we're not normal. But that's how it was when I grew up. I knew we weren't. I knew we were really strange. Over here [in Rockford, Illinois], all of a sudden we were like the aliens. And then over there [in Ireland], I was an outsider. So yeah I suppose you get used to that kind of and you just get comfortable with the idea that well we're the same as everyone else.
Excerpt No. 2
Transitioning from Actress to Film Director by Way of WritingDisc Disc 2, 04:45–06:41
Transcription of Excerpt No. 2
TT: How did you make the transition from being an actress to a filmmaker, a director?
MQ: Well I was living in New York and working off–Broadway and doing some independent films, you know mostly little parts in films, but I was taken over . . . But I just got impatient. I just felt like I have stories to tell. I have things I want to say and I had thought that I would originally . . . that acting would be my expression of that but as a woman –– there are very few roles for women, as you know. And it was incredibly frustrating to wait for somebody else to give me a job. I used to do really well on the auditions I did get, I quite often got them. But it was like waiting . . . the idea of not being . . . having any control over your future or your destiny. And just the idea of waiting for your agent to call to say, "oh you can go in and meet these people." It was just frustrating. And plus I felt like I wasn't getting . . . like I said . . . onstage I had great roles, but in film, they were really small and upporting roles. So I thought well maybe I should write something then I started . . . because whenever I worked on a film, I was always really interested in what the director was doing and I was always looking to see how they shot it . . . and I suppose I had that sort of time because it wasn't a lead role where I felt like . . . although even in some of the bigger ones I was very interested in that. So then I thought, well I should start writing.
- Tanner Tafelski [TT]
- Linda Almeida [LA]
- Marian Quinn. Photo by higginsphotonyc.
- Marian Quinn (Standing) in a 1995 production of Mike Leigh's play, Ecstasy. Photo by Ron Reeves and courtesy of The New Group website at http://www.thenewgroup.org/9597.htm.
- A still from Marian Quinn's film 32A. Still courtesy of the Janey Pictures website at http://www.janeypictures.com/32A/Stills/.