Actress, Performer, Dancer and Teacher
Petra Schovánková was born in the Czech Republic into a family of teachers. Her path led first to the faculty of education, where she received a bachelor's degree. But she fell in love with acting much sooner. Petra graduated as an actress at JAMU - Janacek Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno.
Before she moved to Canada, in 2021, she spent three years working as an actress on the stage of Czech theatres. She had nice opportunities in front of the camera in a couple of shows and short films. Petra is open to new experiences and is excited to learn whatever comes from European - North American cultural differences.
Can you tell us about your artistic journey in the performing arts and how it was influenced by your background in education?
P: My artistic journey took root in my childhood when I entertained my family, always trying to make them laugh with my silliness. I grew up in a family with a penchant for humour, a typical Czech trait, and this set the stage for my creative path.
My passion for acting began to flourish when I started taking singing lessons with an inspiring teacher who wholeheartedly supported my dreams of becoming an actress.
As my journey unfolded, I prepared to enter an acting school in Prague while also pursuing a degree in education. Eventually, I was admitted to the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, Czech Republic to further hone my acting skills. However, just a year after my graduation, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, casting a shadow not only on the theatre industry but on the world at large. Before the pandemic, I had the opportunity to perform in various productions across the Czech Republic. Towards the end of 2020, I decided to embark on a new adventure and applied for a Canadian visa.
Growing up in a family of educators laid the foundation for my journey into the world of theatre, a path that unfolded around the age of 14 or 15 with the guidance of my voice teacher. Opening up about my interest sparked a serendipitous connection with her actor friend, and together, we delved into monologues and various pieces to prepare me for the challenges of acting school.
Despite facing initial setbacks, I remained resilient and eventually pursued a degree in education, earning my bachelor's degree. This marked a crucial turning point that propelled me into a four-year acting program in the Czech Republic. In the fourth year, I immersed myself in student theatre, collaborating on numerous plays with both emerging directors and seasoned theatre professionals.
Upon graduation, I ventured into a three-year career as an actress, navigating through the trials of the pandemic, which brought about delays and cancellations in many projects. Amidst rehearsing a play in the city of Pilsen, known for its renowned beer, my plans took an unexpected turn. Confronted with uncertainty, I chose to embrace change and applied for a work permit to relocate to Canada in March 2021. And so, here I stand today, reflecting on the winding journey that has brought me to this moment.
You’ve had experience both on stage and in front of the camera. Could you recount some of the most memorable moments or experiences from your time as an actress in Czech theatres and shows?
P: Certainly, I would love to share some standout moments from my acting career in Czech theatres. Among the most unforgettable experiences was my debut on a grand theatre stage. Collaborating with an exceptionally talented team made it an incredible opportunity and a highlight in my journey.
I had the pleasure of portraying a captivating character with substantial depth in the play "The House of Bernarda Alba" by Federico García Lorca.
The play itself, with its timeless appeal centred on the lives of women, became even more extraordinary with an all-female cast. Undoubtedly, it stands out as one of the most powerful moments in my career.
Another pivotal juncture arose when I found myself at a crossroads in my professional journey. The choice between continuing as an actress or embarking on a new chapter in Canada weighed heavily on me. This contemplative decision prompted a reflection on the myriad moments I had experienced, particularly during my training. Exploring diverse topics, from the works of Malia and Shakespeare, provided me with invaluable learning opportunities.
It's worth noting that my training fostered a deep appreciation for the Meisner technique, crafted by Sanford Meisner. This approach marked a significant departure from the Stanislavski method we had been immersed in, adding another layer of richness to my artistic development.
It offered a fresh perspective on acting by emphasizing realism over the more conventional approaches.
What inspired your move to Canada in 2021, and how has your artistic journey evolved, including the challenges faced as a newcomer artist in Calgary?
P: The choice to move to Canada in 2021 was largely shaped by the persistent challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Intrigued by the idea of living in a different country, separate from my native Czech Republic, and fuelled by the encouragement and support of my family, who played a crucial role in facilitating the visa process, I took the plunge driven by sheer curiosity.
This leap has been nothing short of transformative, leaving an indelible mark not only on my personal journey but also fundamentally altering how I perceive and engage with life as a whole.
I am confident that this experience will intricately weave its influence into the very fabric of my approach to acting, adding new dimensions and perspectives to my craft.
Embarking on this solo journey in a new city has proven to be a transformative chapter, offering profound lessons in independence and self-reliance. These newfound insights are sure to shape how I approach the challenges of acting in the future. The vibrant people I've encountered and the dynamic environment of Calgary have served as wellsprings of inspiration.
Since my arrival, I've had the privilege of participating in noteworthy projects, including a dance performance for Sage Theatre's Ignite Festival and securing a role as an actor in ‘All Good Things Must Begin’, a Downstage Theatre production, in association with the Immigration Council for Arts Innovation.
Nevertheless, the most formidable challenge as a newcomer artist lies in building a network and forging connections within the industry. Starting anew means that my skills and talents are unknown, posing a significant hurdle to overcome. Balancing a full-time job while pursuing artistic endeavours, also adds another layer of complexity to the equation.
As a newcomer, mastering the delicate dance between securing visa status, ensuring financial stability, and cultivating an artistic career demands strategic decision-making and the building of unwavering resilience.
Could you provide insights into your approach to character development and the impact you aim to achieve?
P: My philosophy on character development is rooted in the aspiration to craft compelling personas that deeply resonate with audiences, leaving them inspired and fulfilled. Drawing inspiration directly from real people, I observe and learn from their experiences, aiming to give back through my portrayals, leaving them inspired and satisfied.
My process typically commences with a deep dive into the psychological realm.
I explore the character's psyche, considering their past experiences, family background, interpersonal relationships, and life history—a foundational layer for authenticity. Subsequently, I visualize the character's appearance and movements, ensuring a seamless integration of these elements for a holistic portrayal.
This method aligns with the comprehensive approach of the Stanislavski method, prioritizing an exploration of the character's internal world before addressing external facets.
Details such as posture, gestures, and facial expressions are meticulously considered to enhance the authenticity of the character.
Additionally, I delve into the character's speech patterns, especially if they possess a distinct voice or accent. While my vocal range is currently limited to an Eastern European accent, I embrace the challenges posed by English-speaking roles, recognizing that my accent may present obstacles. Nevertheless, I am determined to confront and overcome this challenge as I continue to evolve in my artistic journey.
What are your current artistic projects, and how has ICAI contributed to your growth, providing opportunities and support?
P: My introduction to ICAI came through my partner, who has a background in the theatre field and shared valuable insights about the organization. Without ICAI's support, I wouldn't have had the privilege of showcasing my work in the ‘Bodhi, Passion Sunlight’ exhibition at the Calgary Public Library. Moreover, they paved the way for my debut performance at Arts Commons, marking a pivotal moment in my career.
ICAI has played a pivotal role in nurturing my artistic journey, and I'm sincerely grateful for their unwavering support.
Currently, I am gearing up for another thrilling opportunity facilitated by ICAI—a role in a Downstage Theatre production featuring a collection of plays centered around environmental themes. This upcoming project, the most significant performance opportunity I've encountered in Calgary thus far, represents a significant milestone, and I eagerly anticipate the challenges and growth it will bring to my artistic endeavors.
Looking ahead, what aspirations and goals do you have in Calgary's vibrant arts scene? Are there specific stages or projects you are aiming to be a part of?
P: In the future, I aspire to grace the prestigious platforms of Calgary's foremost stages, such as Martha Cohen, Yellow Rabbit, and others. Being part of productions in renowned venues like Arts Commons and Vertigo would be a remarkable achievement. Additionally, I'm eager to delve deeper into the film industry.
Naturally, these ambitions come with their own timeline, involving necessary paperwork like obtaining the right visa and acclimating to the new environment. Yet, once all the pieces fall into place, I am enthusiastic about embracing new challenges and maximizing the exciting opportunities that lie ahead!