Drama alumna Beth Graham named new Lee Playwright in Residence

BFA Acting grad becomes sixth Lee Playwright in Residence

Erik Einsiedel - 23 June 2020

This September, award-winning playwright Beth Graham (BA ‘95, BFA ‘98) returns to the University of Alberta she left as a BFA Acting grad in 1998, now as its new Lee Playwright in Residence. Over the next three years, Graham will work alongside the BFA Acting students, developing an original work commissioned exclusively for their graduating class, and whose world premiere will take place as part of the 2022-23 Studio Theatre season.

The chance to work with the next generation of theatre artists, back in the same space where she herself trained, presents unique opportunities for Graham to explore her ideas. “The U of A is a place to experiment, take risks and learn, all of which is crucial for a playwright’s work,” she says. “I’m also looking forward to collaborating with the Edmonton dance community and exploring new methods of creation and storytelling, since I’ve always been intrigued by performances that combine movement and text.”

The Lee Playwright in Residence Endowment was established in 2005, and was the first of its kind among Canadian universities. Since then, it has been dedicated to the creation of new Canadian plays and to the development of emerging and established Canadian playwrights. Graham is the sixth playwright of the program, following Calgary playwright Meg Braem whose new work Chrysothemis was developed for the BFA class of 2020, but was postponed amidst the COVID pandemic.

Graham is also the first Lee Playwright in Residence from Edmonton, having amassed an impressive list of credits to her name since graduating from the U of A in 1998. Her work has earned her the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award (twice), Sterling awards, Betty Mitchell awards, and has made her a finalist for the Governor General’s Award (The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble) and Carol Bolt Award (The Drowning Girls, co-creator). Edmontonians will also know her from her work with Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre and Catalyst Theatre, both of whom she has served as artist-in-residence.

Recognizing that she enters her new position during some very unusual times — especially for theatre which requires an audience — Graham remains focused on the future, optimistic about the stories she’s inspired to tell.

“How do I create plays when there is no audience? Reflect and dream,” she says. “Dream of what the future might look like and of how we might tell this next part of the story. When the time comes for people to gather, the arts will be much needed to inspire, to document and to reconnect people.”

For more information about the Lee Playwright in Residence program, visit the Department of Drama website.