Arciero an ardent Penelope for Inis Nua


At just 23, Adair Arciero has ample time to consider what types of acting projects can best inspire her spirit, but no matter the endeavor, she has deemed her love for theater unconditional. Through Sunday, the resident of the 1600 block of Tasker Street is pronouncing her passion by channeling a similar sort of unflinching affection, portraying the lead character in “Penelope.”

“She embodies loyalty, beauty, hope and compassion,” the recent Point Breeze transplant said of the unwavering wife of Odysseus, whose participation in the Trojan War leads suitors to look to land her hand. “As I strive to add more roles, I’m going to remember the lessons from the show.”

Arciero is adding to her acumen through Inis Nua Theatre Co., which is staging the Philadelphia premiere of Irish playwright Enda Walsh’s 2010 tragicomedy at The Prince Theater. A modern retelling of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” the script, which won the Fringe First Award at the ’10 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, finds four covetous courters striving to encourage Penelope to abandon belief in her beau’s chances of survival, with Odysseus having been gone for 20 years.

“I often grappled with that sense of remaining with what’s familiar and going after what’s new,” Arciero said, noting the appealing nature of would-be winner Burns’ most provocative plea. “For her, Odysseus represents reality and the world, and she’s willing to wait for those. She knows that she needs to accept the good and the bad and forge a balance. That’s the truth of it all.”

Tabbing the patient paramour as the symbol of “the every woman,” the thespian added that despite perceptions fostered over centuries of claims that Penelope lacks faults, the titular character is “very much flawed.” She develops a steadfast approach to life through honing discipline and possessing a relentless disposition, boons that Arciero contends anyone can accumulate.

“I understand how difficult it can be to hold on to hope, especially when alternatives are trying to push us in different directions,” she said of the chief theme of the ancient text and the contemporary creation. “I’m very appreciative of what Enda is doing within the work because when I consider ‘The Odyssey,’ it’s easy to see that Odysseus is the main person who is acquiring awareness of the world, but in ‘Penelope,’ she’s the one who is expanding her knowledge and growing stronger.”

Having not known an extraordinary amount about the loyal lover, Arciero now considers her an inspiration not only for women seeking commitment in any circumstance but for all individuals who hope to hone belief in their abilities to confront and conquer fear.

“Here she is, trying to understand the world around her, and she has definite concerns,” the performer, whose participation is helping Inis Nua to offer another compelling look at authenticity, deception and the search for identity, said. “There are contrasts, too, as she is among a culture teeming with violence and yet she finds herself consumed with love. She is ready to face her surroundings and does so with such admirable energy. I’ve loved playing her.”

The North Carolina native began to nourish her love for acting as an elementary school learner, transforming customary book reports into delightful exercises by performing as characters from her assignments. Through a Spectrum of the Arts summer camp, she acquired her inaugural morsel of theater’s power, and the aftertaste has proven everlasting.

“I loved the idea of using my imagination and calling on different approaches to make people laugh,” Arciero said of her initial perception of an artistic journey. “As I matured, I wanted to take on more challenging work and see what I could make of my enthusiasm.”

The energized entertainer cited “The Sound of Music” and “Kiss Me Kate” as pivotal high school productions, with the latter, in which she played Lilli Vanessi/Katherine, the endeavor that concluded for her that she could pursue acting as a career. She chose the University of the Arts to influence her aspirations, dubbing coming to Philadelphia “a dream come true.”

“It’s a great city for teaching someone responsibility,” Arciero said of the metropolis. “I’ve had tremendous experiences here, and I’m excited to become even more involved in the scene here.”

Prior to “Penelope,” the actor considered her role as Elle Woods in The University of the Arts “Legally Blonde” production her 15 minutes of fame, with turns as Mary in 11th Hour Co.’s “The Life” and as Ophelia in the Scranton-based Rev Theatre Co.’s “Hamlet” also highly educational, with her Shakespearean duty prompting a laugh as she recalled how taxing it was to go crazy each day. She credits copious exposure to Shakespeare with intensifying her drive, as his canon allows for so much language-based exploration and emotional immersion. While again celebrating the Bard appeals to Arciero, she is keeping herself completely open to taking on diverse projects, noting that musical theater helped her heart to blossom as a performer.

“There is so much potential in the theater world, and so many people have such amazing ideas,” she said.

Enamored with their energy, Arciero, with interests in film, music and photography, yearns to collaborate and create with her peers, ultimately hoping to helm the formation of an arts collective. Dance, tennis, time with family and friends and yoga also appeal to her sensibilities, making her, like Penelope, someone whose appreciation for life demands a diligent understanding of persistence.

“I’m a huge advocate for being involved and active,” Arciero said. “I’m young but I never expect those qualities to change. I have to be learning in order to create something that I’ll be proud of and that can teach others.” 

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