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2021 Spotlight on Theatre
This page includes the full text of each of the featured individuals' reflections along with their bio and links to connect with them via their social channels. To return to the main Spotlight page with featured images, click here.
Click each Spotlight featured individual's name below to read their reflections on theatre and learn a bit more about them.
Please check back for additional reflections in the days and weeks ahead.
I’ve been lucky enough to work across a whole bunch of different storytelling platforms — from radio, to film, to fiction — but I always come back to theatre. Because, for me, theatre has always offered the strongest invitation to share. Lots of platforms do that but, in theatre, the invitation goes both ways.
Born and raised in Newfoundland, and now based in Vancouver, Adam’s 20-plus-year career in performance has taken him from coast to coast in Canada. West-coast highlights include Jessie Awards for his performances in Real Wheels Theatre’s CREEPS and Touchstone’s Kill Me Now. He’s also enjoyed critical acclaim for his solo show, Last Train In; and his ongoing work with All Bodies Dance Project. Outside performance, Adam has active practices in fiction and arts education. He’s currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at UBC, with the generous financial assistance of a BC Arts Council Senior Scholarship.
Learn more about Adam at adamgrantwarren.com
Theatre was a word I didn't think or talk about for about 20 years of my life as an adult. When I decided to return to it three years ago, I had no idea how much had changed. As a first-generation Canadian of Trinidadian immigrants, being obsessed with the stage tanked any dreams my parents may have had of a future doctor or teacher living under their roof.
Doing theatre was THE ONLY thing that mattered to me as a child. In fact, so much so that for two summers I would bus 1 ½ hours each way to attend a summer theatre camp as a teen.
After attending theatre school, I worked extensively but noticed that only a tiny percent of the roles (<1%) I played were specifically characters of African descent. Color-blind casting had become the norm.
I left the theatre to start a family and a new career. Upon my return, I have found a whole new generation of theatre practitioners who are rocking the foundation of the Old World theatre scene with demands for non-Eurocentric work, inclusion, representation, and actionable accountability. The Shipment, Fun Home, Children of God and Hot Brown Honey, etc are wonderful examples of this.
Color-blind casting which was once seen as progressive has become rightfully assessed as regressive. I personally have had the privilege of performing in productions like Sweat, Coriolanus, and Best of Enemies.
As an actor of Afro-Caribbean descent, what a delight it is to see the great strides theatre has made and will continue to make.
Anthony is a Jessie Award winning actor based in the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam Nations. He has performed in numerous productions across Western Canada with companies such as Raincity Theatre, Pacific Theatre, Ensemble Theatre Company, The Citadel Theatre and Manitoba Theatre Company.
Find Anthony on Facebook.
Corey Payette is proud of his Oji-Cree heritage from Northern Ontario, and has worked across Canada as a playwright, actor, composer, and director. He is the Artistic Director of Urban Ink (Vancouver, BC), past Artist-in-Residence with English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre, and the founder of Raven Theatre (Vancouver, BC), focusing on new works by Indigenous artists. As a theatre creator, his original musical Children of God (book/music/lyrics & direction), musical Les Filles du Roi (music & direction, with co-book/lyrics with Julie McIsaac), Sedna (music composition & direction, co-created with Reneltta Arluk and Marshall McMahen), and his next musicals have been commissioned from Bard on the Beach, Musical Stage Company, and the Stratford Festival. His album The Music from Children of God, The Music from Les Filles du Roi, the published scripts, and the piano/vocal songbook are available on his website, iTunes, and Spotify.
Find Corey on:
khattieQ is a performer from Puerto Rico. Co-creator of 2020 Fringe New Play Prize winner Catalina La O Presenta: Ahora Conmigo which features original music. khattieQ was the guitarist and vocalist for punk band BLXPLTN. khattieQ has played as a professional musician with over twenty bands, cutting their teeth on the famous Austin, Texas live music scene. Most notably, they toured as drummer for queer femme core band The Tuna Helpers. Professional credits include Denim Doves and Casta for Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin, TX, Heaven Born Wind at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and Frank Theater’s Be-Longing.
Theatre convinces me anything is possible. Theatre convinces me magic is real. If you are already an acolyte of the theatre, you know about its holy moments. I’ve been lucky enough to participate in theatre for much of my life: as an actor, designer, writer, and co-conspirator, so my theatre exists between gasps of laughter, and wild ideas shared on midnight walks. My theatre exists in the drama (on stage and mostly off) that gives me an opportunity to ponder the “Why?” of human choices.
We all have good days and bad days with our theatre relationship. Magic is made by old fashioned grit, sweat, and tears, after all. But have you ever seen a character fill her stage with rage, and feel rage with her? Have you ever whispered the voices of a book out loud, as if the world could come alive around you? (And it can). It’s a reminder that there is much in this world to fill you with child-like Wonder. It is a holy space in which I can believe in goodness, and see the goodness drawn out of other people, like a thread of possibility.
Laura arrived on the stolen land known as Vancouver over a decade ago, and is now a performance poet, playwright, and local cloth wizard with a BFA from UBC. Most recent costume design credits include Straight White Men with Itsazoo. More recently Laura wrote and directed the honourably mentioned Where the Quiet Queers Are at Vancouver Fringe 2019, co-wrote and performed The Mending Circle at the Powell Street Festival Telethon with Carolyn Nakagawa, and has performed her poetry at events and festivals across Vancouver.
Find Laura on Instagram.
Lili Robinson (she/they) is a playwright, poet, actor and community organizer based on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Lili is passionate about centering voices at the intersections of queerness, Black diaspora, socio-economic diversity and femme identity in her work. Having completed a year as the Artistic Producing Intern at Theatre Replacement in 2019, Lili is currently the Emerging Playwright in Residence at Rumble Theatre, and recently completed the 2020 Emerging Playwrights’ Unit at the Arts Club. Mx, Lili’s debut play, was the recipient of the Fringe New Play Prize in 2019, supported by Playwright’s Theatre Centre and the Fringe. Since then, Mx has been selected for PTC’s “Camp Week” of their winter WrightSpace residency, as well as a livestream workshop reading as the selected play for Alley Theatre’s Site-Specific Reading Series. Mx was also the winner of the Cultchivating the Fringe Award in 2019, earning the show a spot in the Cultch’s upcoming 2021 spring season.
It sounds very cliché but you don’t choose to become an artist, it’s a calling you answer. So, at the tender age of 18, I uprooted myself from the comfort of home in Japan and moved to Canada to follow my dream to become a stage actor in North America. I know I can’t survive in this world without being involved in a creative process. Over the span of 3 decades, I expanded my craft and became a theatre artist who wears many hats. Collaborating with my fellow artists makes me whole. It’s a humbling and gratifying experience. I’m passionately devoted to create Theatrical work because I can connect with real people at an intellectual, emotional, intimate, daring, joyful and poignant level. I am inspired to create theatre to transport audience from their day to day life and offer an experience, time and space for them to imagine, think, cry, laugh, and love. My artistic endeavours have taken me on many different paths and teaching acting and story-telling to students of all ages has become one of my passions. To witness my students getting inspired by their own discoveries and growing their confidence as an artist and person is beyond rewarding. I’m so grateful I’m in a profession where I can continue to challenge myself, explore, learn, grow and share my craft no matter how old I get. I’m striving to be like Miso, I get better with age and last forever!?
Ever since I was a young I’ve had a passion for creating and telling stories. As I got older I became more interested in how we as artists, communicate these stories to audiences.
Each professional theatre artist that I know understands the term “theatre magic”, however in my experience each artist’s version of “theatre magic” is different. For me it is the unique moment of presence and harmony that is shared collectively in a space between the audience and performers. Where the outside world and it’s complications melt away and we are drawn into a different realm that invokes some form of reflection or relationship. It cannot truly be quantified in words, because it is not dependent on words alone.
I have experienced this “magic” listening to live music, watching dancers or seeing artists perform in a language I do not understand. I explain it this way: It’s one thing to listen to your favourite song through headphones, it’s an entirely different thing to go to a concert and experience your favourite song played live in front of you.
As we move into 2021, I look forward to when we can once again assemble and share these stories with one another. Where the “theatre magic” can once again have what it needs to live: A story, a space, artists and audience.
Raes Calvert is a multidisciplinary Métis theatre artist living and working in Vancouver. After graduating from Studio 58, he became Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Hardline Productions. As a performer he has toured Nationally and International with such companies as Axis Theatre, GreenThumb Theatre, MTYP, Urban Ink and The Presentation House Theatre. He is a four time Jessie Richardson Theatre Award nominee and one time recipient. Raes received a REVEAL Indigenous Art Award from the Hnatysyn Foundation in 2017. He also has a BPA degree from Capilano University.
I love the community of theatre - the crew, cast, producers - all working together to tell a story. Creating and supporting community engaged stories to directing works, to contributing my music, and acting has been a spiritual journey into the human condition.
Live theatre is where there is a symbiotic relationship with the witnesses that come and see the work, and the community of theatre gets to orchestrate the emotional hue of the human condition. Theatre is a way that the systems we're born into get to be played out and perhaps the witnesses have a chance to move into the grey areas of their moral code. Theatre is a safe space to see alternative views to some of the issues and concerns in society that usually get relegated to the margins. It’s hope made actionable and to me that’s what life is about.
Renae Morriseau is a Cree (nehiyaw iskwew ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ) and Saulteaux woman (nahkawiskwêw ᓇᐦᑲᐃᐧᐢᑫᐧᐤ) from the Treaty 1 Territory. She’s been creating artistic works for awhile now and has journeyed across Canada and internationally in film, television, theatre and music. As an actress, singer, writer, producer and director in both television and theatre, she has honed her skills by observing, listening, and supporting the artistic works of others who have also supported her artistic passions and focus in sharing community stories in a good way - miyopimatisowin ᒥᔪᐱᒪᑎᓱᐃᐧᐣ.
Find Renae and her projects at:
Shanae is a graduate of Studio 58 where he was one of the establishing members and Head Organizer of the school's Student Diversity Committee. A student lead group working to strengthen marginalized groups within the theatre community by empowering students with the tools and knowledge to engage in conversations of inclusivity. His work is framed through decolonization and intersectionality. He works as Rumble Theatre’s Associate Artistic Producer. Recent producing credits: Tremors Festival (Rumble Theatre), Coyuntura 2020 (Canadian Latinx Theatre Artist Coalition), Straight White Men (ITSAZOO Productions), and Mx (winner of 2019 Fringe New Play Prize and Cultchivating the Fringe Award).
When I was a kid, I loved playing with Lego, I would make all sorts of objects, buildings, etc. My family thought I might become an architect. I also played piano for years when I was younger, and almost went to a high school specialized in music. As I got older, I started university as a visual art major, I especially loved painting, and at one point I thought I might become a visual artist.
All of these experiences made me who I am today and lead me to a perfect balance: a theatre designer.
When I design sets, I often look for ideas from architectures in different periods. For both lights and set, I always find design inspiration in the music/sound effects from the show. I sometimes sense colors or shapes in music, for example: A sad moment could be what I call a “warm sadness” or “cool sadness” depending on the feel of the music. Bach is triangular, or sharp edged, while Chopin is organic shaped, smooth or rounded. When I design lights, it feels like painting with light onstage. I see the stage as my canvas, the lighting instruments are my brushes, and colors and brightness are my paint.
I love theatre, because of its endless potentials and creative freedom, and because for me, it feels like it was meant to be.
Find Sophie on Instagram, Facebook, and her website.
I am spending most of my time resurfacing, remembering and rediscovering Métis love stories from my people. There are a lot of reasons why I’m doing this, mainly because it is the only way to track the stories of the Métis women in my family. By tracking down their husbands, the women become traceable by consequence. Not all of them are happy stories, but occasionally I find the story of the 'great loves' that are absolutely incomparable and better than any other love stories in western culture (in my humble opinion). I am choosing to find those stories and write those stories because I love to dream. For me, I can’t rewrite all the horrible things that have happened to my people, I can’t undo any wrongs that have been done and I can’t rewrite the horrible mistreatment of Métis women in Alberta. But, what I can do is find pieces of their hearts through the men they loved. Those stories and dreams are what is keeping me going through this pandemic and they teach me how we survived all those horrible things that have happened. And hopefully, one day I can watch those women’s spirits come alive onstage. I dream that one day they will dance, laugh and sing on Canadian stages in a post pandemic world. And the day they dance on stage, I imagine that this pandemic will just be a distant dream.
Tai Amy Grauman is Métis, Cree and Haudenosaunee from Ardrossan, Alberta. She is an actor and a playwright. Tai recently received the Métis Nation of Alberta's Award for Outstanding Youth of 2020. She also received the Jessie Richardson Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 2018 as well as the City of Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Theatre Artist (2015), nominated by Margo Kane. Tai is an artistic associate at Savage Society and an associate artist at the Citadel Theatre. Tai is working on commissions with Nightswimming, Axis Theatre and the Arts Club. Recently, Tai adapted Mary’s Wedding and will be playing Mary in the upcoming production at The Citadel.