Actors are used to stiff competition but the theatre world is especially intense – Edmonton-based actor and playwright Beth Graham competed against 250 others to earn not only a spot in the 2013 Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre program, but also the lead role in the program’s production of The Penelopiad.
The program, established in 2008, provides both professional development for actors and the chance to star in a production at the end of the program. Each year, the selected actors spend four weeks in Banff studying everything from stage combat to script analysis. There are voice, speech and movement classes, in order to improve their stage skills, even if they won’t necessarily need that particular skillset for that year’s production. The cast spends one week training in Edmonton before starting five weeks of rehearsals, followed by the play itself.
“We get to go up to this isolated place and concentrate on the development of our craft, so you kind of get to be selfish in the best possible way,” says Graham. “It’s excellent to have this opportunity to focus on your own self-development and becoming a better actor.”
This year, the program’s first all-female cast will perform The Penelopiad, a novella by Margaret Atwood. The story is based on Homer’s The Odyssey but focuses on Odysseus’s wife Penelope, played by Graham. While other roles in the play involve singing and dancing, Graham’s part is dialogue-heavy, ensuring she’ll put her speech training from the program to good use.
The Penelopiad runs from March 30 to April 21 at the Citadel Theatre.