Ryan Parker

Top 40 Under 40 2017

Photography Aaron Pedersen

Age: 36

Job Title:  Actor, Photographer, Teacher and Musician

Why He’s Top 40: As a performer, he’s contributed to the theatre community for the last 17 years by mentoring scores of up-and-comers locally and globally

Ryan Parker’s seen the best of Broadway in New York City and is convinced that the best of Edmonton’s drama scene is on par with its Big Apple counterparts. But there’s one key difference.

“In New York, they’re not running a show for three weeks, but for up to three years sometimes,” he says.

Lacking steady paycheques, Edmonton thespians have to wear as many hats as possible to eke out a living. Parker’s done just that, having built his own photography studio and creating headshots eye-catching enough to warrant attention from renowned New York City portrait photographer Peter Hurley. Then there’s the Be Arthurs, a ukulele cover act he started on a lark and wound up touring internationally. The band won a Sterling award for its live soundscape for the Citadel Theatre’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors. Or his appearances on APTN’s May Contain Nuts and CBC Radio One’s The Irrelevant Show. Parker has the talent to reap dividends from these pursuits, but he stresses a relentless adherence to his goals as key.

“When I start to think about why I’ve been successful, it comes from drive and passion,” he says. “Once I get an idea in my head, whether I start a ukulele cover band or convert my garage into a photography studio, I work as hard as I can and won’t give up until it’s a reality.”

He’s also given back as a sessional instructor at MacEwan University by teaching an audition boot camp for theatrical newbies hoping to land those critical first gigs, an initiative he started in 2009 with fellow actor and Top 40 under 40 alumnus Farren Timoteo. He’s also been active with Project Oaks, a not-for-profit agency dedicated to reducing the stigmas associated with mental-health problems.

“We need to talk about [mental illness] instead of something we need to shut up about or get over,” Parker says. “There are a lot of people who were close to me who aren’t here anymore. If it were more talked about and accepted, those people would still be here. But we’re slowly stepping forward.”

But for all his successes, given the nature of his professions, Parker maintains that humility goes a long way towards maintaining a healthy perspective.

“There are ups and downs regardless of how successful you are,” he adds. “Keeping grounded is the best way to stay sane, especially in this business.”

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