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(Georgina Beaty in Shape of a Girl)
By Stephen Hunt
In a profession where being able to cry on cue is considered the gold standard, actress-creator Georgina Beaty performs in a way that is positively revolutionary. She thinks her way around a stage.
The 20-something daughter of a pair of University of Calgary academics, Beaty has been popping up on Calgary stages for several years now in a variety of plays. Some, such as Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show or her one-person show Squeeze Machine are her own (and her colleagues) creation, while others, by award-winning playwrights such as George F. Walker, Catherine Banks, Eugene Stickland and Joan MacLeod have showcased her as an actor to watch.
Those roles have included playing a developmentally disabled young woman (in Banks’ Bone Cage), a schizophrenic (in Walker’s And So It Goes), and an emotionally challenged teenage girl in MacLeod’s Shape of a Girl.
“Her interpretation was beautiful,” says MacLeod, of Beaty’s work in Shape of a Girl. “She found some things (in the character) I hadn’t seen before. It just felt true.
“She’s isn’t afraid of being unlikeable (onstage) sometimes,” MacLeod adds, “and that makes your heart break even more when her character wises up and then you’re really, really on her side. She really goes there.”
Downstage artistic director Simon Mallett recently directed Beaty in Walker’s And So It Goes, and produced Highway 63 as part of Downstage’s Uprising Festival several years back.
“She’s a versatile performer,” he says, “who is already finding herself in demand across the country as an actor, and she’s also a passionate and skilled theatre-maker.”
For Beaty, it’s just as interesting to play a character in someone else’s play as it is to create one herself.
“I find it fascinating to play (characters with) a completely different mental process (than my own),” she says.
“I find it quite a treat to get to be just acting and not producing or writing as well,” she adds. “When I’m given a role, it’s just such a treat to really get to focus on that one character, and to work just from the impulse in that place.”
That thoughtful approach to craft surfaces in Beaty’s theatre work in another way as well, as part of an ensemble who create, produce and market their own original work.
That would be the Architect Theatre, the group of artists behind the creation of Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show, a 2009 collaborative creation that has had several critically-acclaimed runs in Calgary and also was produced at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto.
Beaty and the group spent several weeks in Fort McMurray in early 2009 doing research, and created a show that was one part love triangle, one part docu-drama set around the lives of a group of young people living and looking for love in the oilsands.
This summer, the Architecture Theatre are doing a residency at Passe Muraille in Toronto, where they’re working on their new show. tentatively called The CN Tower Show (it will debut in Passe Muraille’s 2012-13 season).
“We’re looking at the period of time in Canada when the CN Tower was built, the late ’70s,” Beaty says, “and a lot of the idealism and huge dreams that were going on at that time.”
Just as inhabiting the interior universe of a damaged character takes a bit of doing, so too does removing your actor hat and trying on new ones.
“It’s very different,” she says, “because my brain is half in analytical writing, dramaturgy mode and then I jump back into the creative world.”
And while acting is her primary focus — she studied it at University of Alberta and Studio 58 in Vancouver — like all creative personalities, she appreciates getting the opportunity to flex as wide a variety of creative muscles as she can.
“I’m really happy to have both incorporated into my career so far, because it does use a different part of your brain and your intelligence and it’s satisfying in completely different ways, but (also) really complimentary.”
Of course, a stage life is not a Ph.D. thesis. Next up for Beaty: a stint in the Okanagan, playing Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the Caravan Farm Theatre outside Kelowna, a glorious, rural outdoor venue that is a bit of a midsummer night’s dream itself.
“It’s (Caravan) quite beautiful,” Beaty says, “so I think that will be quite a nice summer place to be.”
This article first appeared on The Calgary Herald website on June 1, 2011.