Images of each member of the write from the hip program arranged in a grid, clockwise from the top left corner: Rachel Mutombo, Pesch Nepoose, Phoebe Tsang, Shelley M. Hobbs, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Erum Khan, and Bilal Baig.
Clockwise from top left: Rachel Mutombo, Pesch Nepoose, Phoebe Tsang, Shelley M. Hobbs, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Erum Khan and Bilal Baig.

November 10-20, 2020

Readings and events are free and accessible to all. 

Enjoy recordings of the Groundswell events and readings until November 30th by clicking the corresponding dropdown in the schedule below.

If you have the capacity, please consider making a tax-deductible donation in support of the future of feminist art.

This November our Groundswell Festival goes digital, offering an invitation inside the creative process with readings of brand new works from our Write From The Hip playwright’s unit, led by Program Director Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, as well as opportunities to gather for provocative conversations and workshops. This season’s festival, designed for Zoom by Michelle Tracey, will share new plays and conversations from Bilal Baig, Shelley M. Hobbs, Erum Khan, Rachel Mutombo, Pesch Nepoose and Phoebe Tsang, public conversations including discussions with Deaf-led collective SPiLL.PROpagation and national arts advocacy collective AD HOC Assembly, as well as free professional development opportunities for playwrights and artists. 

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Tuesday, November 10 6pm ET – Refusal by Shelley M. Hobbs Captioned reading Directed by Andrea Donaldson Cast: Dalal Badr, Diane Flacks, Armon Ghaeinizadeh, Carlos Gonzalez-Vio, Nancy Palk, Bahareh Yaraghi and Jenny Young A war correspondent has become overwhelmed by a career that she both loves and detests.  She struggles to reconcile the unequal risks of who is telling what may or may not be the truth. Her survival depends on it. Refusal seeks to address white and class privilege in reporting, its impact on those depicted in the reports, and the emotional costs of suppressed anger and grief in the tellers of “truth”. Run time: 120 minutes Shelley M. Hobbs (she/her/they) is a cis-female hearing-impaired lesbian cancer survivor who plays hockey. She recently retired as a lawyer for a government agency that protects the rights of incapable adults.  Shelley writes plays about chosen family and the harsh choices that need to be made to survive trauma.  Her previous work includes A Good Death (AKA Theatre, 2018); Happy Family (Toronto Fringe 2017); and two plays developed through the Ergo Arts Pinkfest program: The Sister Op (2018) and Monkey Wrench (2019). Shelley lives in Toronto, Canada, with her wife, Joan Jamieson.
November 11, 3PM ET – Playwright Workshop: “Time Well Spent, or, A Series of Exquisite Errors That Mysteriously Culminate in This” ASL Interpreters: Marcia Adolphe and Jodi Taylor Playwright and Write From The Hip Program Director, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, explores the unexpected gifts, lessons and inventiveness that comes from “failure” in writing. Click here for a transcript of this event. Run time: 75 minutes Donna-Michelle St. Bernard – (aka Belladonna the Beast) is an emcee, playwright, dramaturge and agitator.  Her work has been nominated for the Siminovitch Prize, Governor General’s Literary Awards, SATA, Herman Voaden Playwriting Award, Enbridge PlayRites Award and Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play.  She has been engaged as a dramaturge for Pink Pluto, Native Earth Performing Arts, Factory Theatre, lemonTree creations and Humber College Drama Program.  DM is the artistic director of New Harlem Productions, emcee in residence at Theatre Passe Muraille, playwright in residence at lemonTree creations and coordinator of the ADHOC Assembly.

Wednesday, November 11, 6pm ET – Selections from Better by Rachel Mutombo </P

Captioned reading

Directed by Maiko Yamamoto

Cast: Christine Horne, Melissa Langdon, Bria Mclaughlin and Emerjade Simms 

In this not too distant future, men have tightened the reins on their control of society. Sent to a sanctuary for misguided souls by their husbands, brothers or fathers when they’ve stepped out of line, five women navigate the harsh reality of a world that is no longer safe for them. When the constraints of oppression push hard these women are vulnerable to break, but they may also find the power to push back.

Content warning: sexual assault

Run time: 45 minutes

Please note, the recording of this reading is no longer available.

Rachel Mutombo is an award winning actor, and writer who thrives at the intersection of race and gender. Her life experience as a Congolese-Canadian (DRC) heavily influences her artistic practice. Rachel is a graduate of John Abbott College’s and the National Theatre School of Canada’s acting programs. Some recent acting credits include: Antigone (Young People’s Theatre), School Girls; Or the African Mean Girls Play (Obsidian Theatre/Nightwood Theatre), Selfie (Young People’s Theatre). Rachel’s writing has been published on Intermission Magazine as well as CBC. She is incredibly excited to be a part of this year’s WFTH cohort and officially write her first play.

Thursday, November 12, 6 pm ET – All my forgotten dreams by Erum Khan Captioned reading Directed by Maiko Yamamoto Cast: Jani Lauzon, Joelle Peters, Beatriz Pizano, Heath V. Salazar and Arlen Aguayo Stewart Marooned in the “after” with no idea when they’ll return to “before”, All my forgotten dreams shifts between characters wrestling with isolation, silence and restlessness in the wake of a new world. At once lush and sparse, this live theatrical hybrid film dwelling in a digital dystopia is a speculative future that mirrors our present moment with searing truth. Run time: 50 minutes Erum Khan is a performer, film and theatre maker, youth facilitator, film programmer and curator. She is the recipient of the 2019 Buddies In Bad Times Theatre Queer Emerging Artist award. Her play Noor, directed by Erin Brubacher with original music by LAL and Anwar Khurshid, premiered at The Aga Khan Museum in October 2018. She is currently working her second year as a film programmer for the Rendezvous With Madness Festival. Much of her community-engaged work is underscored by a commitment to create space for youth to access and engage with the arts.
Friday, November 13, 3pm ET – Playwright Workshop: “One Size Fits One” ASL Interpreters: Marcia Adolphe and Jodi Taylor Playwright and Write From The Hip Program Director Donna-Michelle St. Bernard examines structure and how to build a specific approach to the specific play you are writing. Click here for a transcript of this event. A recording of this event will be available by November 17th and will be able to be viewed for ten days. Run time: 75 minutes Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (aka Belladonna the Beast) is an emcee, playwright, dramaturge and agitator.  Her work has been nominated for the Siminovitch Prize, Governor General’s Literary Awards, SATA, Herman Voaden Playwriting Award, Enbridge PlayRites Award and Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play.  She has been engaged as a dramaturge for Pink Pluto, Native Earth Performing Arts, Factory Theatre, lemonTree creations and Humber College Drama Program.  DM is the artistic director of New Harlem Productions, emcee in residence at Theatre Passe Muraille, playwright in residence at lemonTree creations and coordinator of the ADHOC Assembly.
Friday, November 13, 6pm ET – Act One of Death of a Father by Phoebe Tsang Captioned reading Directed by Andrea Donaldson Cast: Allegra Fulton and Caroline Toal The ambitious mayor of a small coastal town sacrifices the safety and reputation of his teenage daughter for his political campaign. Twenty years later, his estranged daughter and her mother reconnect at his sparsely attended funeral. This modern retelling of an ancient Greek myth examines the consequences of domestic abuse and parental betrayal, and asks: What is the cost of adulthood and independence? Who benefits from a sacrificial act? Are we capable of selflessness? Content warning: sexual content and sexual assault Run time: 65 minutes Phoebe Tsang is a Hong-Kong born Chinese, British and Canadian poet, author, librettist and playwright. Her writing is characterised by lyricism and rhythmic sense, derived from her background as a professional violinist. Her libretti have been commissioned and premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Canadian Sinfonietta, Continuum Contemporary Music, Tapestry Opera, and Hamilton Philharmonic. Honours include the 2019 Stratford Playwrights Retreat, 2018 Gros Morne Playwrights’ Residency, and Tapestry Opera’s Composer-Librettist Laboratory in 2016. The author of Contents of a Mermaid’s Purse (Tightrope Books, Toronto), she is a recording artist with Off record label (Belgium).
Monday, November 16, 1pm ET – “Know What You Don’t Know” with AD HOC Assembly & Nightwood Theatre REV- AI (machine-generated) captions will be available during the livestream, with cleaned up transcripts to be made available at a later date Ad Hoc Assembly (AHA) in association with Nightwood Theatre will lead a workshop to engage participants in their pursuit of equity within their arts practice and/or organizations. The focus will be on how to know what you don’t know in supporting Indigenous, Black and culturally diverse artists, audiences and communities. Run time: 65 minutes AD HOC ASSEMBLY is dedicated to the sustained forward movement of ethno-cultural and socially diverse performance works, processes and traditions. Cole Alvis (she/they) is a 2 Spirit Turtle Mountain Michif artist based in Tkarón:to with Métis-Chippewa and Irish-English ancestors. She is a leader of lemonTree creations, manidoons collective, AdHoc Assembly and led the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance from 2013 – 2017. Recently, they performed in Louis Riel (Canadian Opera Company / National Arts Centre) and directed the Dora-nominated bug by Yolanda Bonnell (manidoons collective / Luminato), Lilies by Michel Marc Bouchard (lemonTree creations, Why Not Theatre and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre) and alongside fellow Dora-nominated Michael Greyeyes, co-directed an Indigenous opera double bill called Two Odysseys: Pimooteewin / Gállábártnit (Signal Theatre, National Sami Theatre Beaivváš, Soundstreams Canada). Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) is a playwright, director, and dramaturg. Plays include BLADE, Annie Mae’s Movement, The Birds, The Unplugging, Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show (co-writer) and the libretto Shanawdithit. From 2013-2011 she served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. Her book Medicine Shows about Indigenous theatre in Canada was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015, and Performing Indigeneity, which she co-edited with Ric Knowles, in 2016. She has been honoured with the Mallory Gilbert Award, the George Luscombe Award, the Maggie Bassett Award, and a Harold. She is currently the Richler Writer in Residence at McGill University.
Tuesday, November 17, 6pm ET – The Bridge by Pesch Nepoose* Captioned reading Directed by Cole Alvis Cast: Joelle Peters With the presence of Traditional Support Worker Jenny Blackbird. A young Indigenous woman grapples with loss, love, longing and loneliness in this personal and poetic one-woman-show. The Bridge offers a searching meditation on suicide and memory. Content warning: self harm, substance use, sexual assault/content and suicide Selection run time: 75 minutes Pesch Nepoose is a Cree multidisciplinary artist from Edmonton Alberta, currently residing in Toronto. She graduated her fourth and final year at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. While now working as a full time actor, she has also gained skills in stage managing and playwriting. Pesch was in the film By These Presents: Purchasing Toronto for Jumblies Theatre, directed by Ange Loft and filmed at the Fort York historical site. She also spent 8 weeks this summer working with Jill Carter on a devised piece called the Encounters at the Edge of the Woods. This was the first play performed by Indigenous cast at the Hart House Theatre in its whole 100 years. With a huge cast of collaborators, many voices and stories were heard from all over Turtle Island and the world. Pesch acted in the short film called Hunger, which premiered at the Imaginative Film Festival in October. During her time in school, she formed the collective Out of Sync along with two of her classmates. Their first project, S.O.S. Saving Our Sovereignty, was performed at the Paprika Festival in May 2018. The second show was part of the Weesagachak Begins to Dance Festival 31 in November 2018. The inspiration for the piece came from witnessing the depression and suicide among Indigenous youth on and off the reserve. Pesch is also writing her one woman show titled Flying Home, which focuses on addiction and identity. *With support from Native Earth Performing Arts.
Wednesday, November 18, 6pm ET – A Conversation with SPiLL.PROpagation  ASL Interpreters: Carmelle Cachero and Jordan M. Goldman Captioned event Title: Take your hand like you’re holding a ball to solar plexis, move it up chest to your mouth, put it out in front of you and vulnerably open it out touching the finger tips of your collaborators and open it out to group (or in English, A Deep Share) Founded in 2009 by a group of Deaf and not-Deaf artists, SPiLL’s mission is to infuse art practices with sign languages and to produce critical art and creative research. SPiLL’s work is rooted in a theoretical framework of the practice of deconstructing phonocentrism (decentralizing spoken and written languages in favor of sign languages and the visual experience). In this session Tiphaine Girault and Paula Bath, from, propose a restart. They share selected stories collected over ten years that have re-formed their understanding of relatedness, culture and social experience expressed in the creation process. These stories invite people to move beyond liberating, yet limiting, concepts of accessibility, Deaf culture, accommodation, sign language and towards practicing new forms of relatedness experienced as – moving through tensions together equally. This moving through tensions can be organic, broken, beautiful, or ugly. This moving can provoke trauma or heal, can align with dreams or destroy. Tiphaine and Paula find that this moving through tensions helps us to honour each other in ways that allows us to listen beyond well established concepts. This moving through tensions provides opportunities for us to relate to each other in new ways, and with that, opportunities for us to create with each other in new ways. Run time: 50 minutes Tiphane Girault: Originating from France, Tiphaine has a BA in Graphic Novel and works in French, English and two sign languages. For over ten years Tiphaine has worked as a professional artist in comic arts, printmaking and sign language translation and performance. Her work has been featured in several exhibitions and documentaries. Tiphaine has hosted national arts leadership residencies expanding art practices in sign language with SPiLL.Propagation, and in 2018, was honoured for her leadership in the arts in LSQ in Quebec. Paula Bath: After learning American Sign Language (ASL) at the age of sixteen, Paula went on to study translation, communication, and cultural institutions and to obtain a BA and MA in Communications. Paula’s work is observational and conversational and brings images and texts together to explore moments when dominant social ideas, beliefs and social structures are lived, felt and discussed by people. Paula is thrilled to live and work in the spaces of sign and spoken languages – ASL, langugue de signes québécoise, English and French.
Thursday, November 19, 3pm ET – Demystifying the Art of Grant Writing REV- AI (machine-generated) captions will be available during the livestream, with cleaned up transcripts to be made available at a later date Join Naz Afsahi and Natalie Liconti as they facilitate an online workshop on Demystifying the Art of Grant Writing. The session aims to create an anti-racist, queer/trans inclusive, virtual space of exchange and education for participants to develop their confidence with writing arts grants. Together we will target the foundational skills of grant writing, providing practical guidance for emerging artists. Run time: 60 minutes Naz Afsahi (She/They) oversees a portfolio that includes a unique mix that falls across both artistic and management duties. You can find her on any given day focusing on producing to-dos such as contracting, grant applications and bookkeeping, as well as administrating many of the artistic programs offered by Nightwood and even moonlighting as an Assistant Stage Manager on the Lawyer Show! Naz is delighted to start her sixth season with the company and deeply values the unique mission that Nightwood brings to the sector. She is passionate about issues relating to equity, trans rights, as well as race and representation. A intersectional feminist of colour, Naz is addicted to contemporary romance novels, cooking while watching British reality television or makeup declutter videos on Youtube, working on restoring her Tennyson dollhouse, yin yoga and cuddles. Naz believes in community engagement and volunteering: Naz is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Paprika Festival, and a blog-editor with Shameless Magazine. Prior to joining Nightwood, Naz spent five seasons with Theatre Direct in a variety of roles, and has served on two Juries at the Ontario Arts Council and as a Jury Member on TAPA’s 14-15 Dora Juror Committee for the Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) category. Naz holds a Masters of Arts in Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario, and an Honours B.A. (Film Studies/Religious Studies) from Queen’s University.

Natalie Liconti (she/they) is an interdisciplinary artist working in Film/TV and the performing arts. They have worked for Just for Laughs (Montréal), JFL42 (Toronto), The Rhubarb Festival (Toronto), and  SummerWorks Performance Festival 2019 (Toronto), and have performed across Canada and internationally at festivals such as: Printemps Numérique Festival, The Wildside Festival, ZH Festival, and Calm Down, Dear Festival (Camden People’s Theatre: London, UK). With an interest is in site-specific and interdisciplinary performance, they explore camp, popular culture, and dystopia/utopia. An accomplished actor and producer, their film work can be found on major streaming platforms such as Netflix and Freeform.

Click here for the Slide Deck Click here for the Resource Sheet Click here for a full transcript of this workshop
Thursday, November 19, 6pm ET – in conversation Bilal Baig touching on blue eyes killed him without blinking Click here for a full transcript of this conversation  Bilal Baig discusses art, social justice and accountability through the lens of their newest work blue eyes killed him without blinking. Run time: 60-75 minutes Bilal Baig is a queer, trans-feminine, muslim playwright and theatre-maker. Writing credits include: Khwaja Sera (in development at Buddies in Bad Times), Kitne Laloo Yahan Pey Hain (as part of RARE Theatre’s Welcome to my Underworld), Eraser (RISER Project, co-written with ensemble), blue eyes killed him without blinking (developed through Factory Theatre’s The Foundry program), Undecided (co-written with the Queer AF Collective) and Acha Bacha (TPM/Buddies). Outside of theatre, Bilal facilitates story-making workshops with youth from under-resourced communities in Toronto through an organization called Story Planet, and facilitates anti-Islamophobia workshops across the GTA with the Rivers of Hope Collective.
Friday, November 20, 3pm ET – Designer Think Tank Discussion
A full transcript of this conversation will be made available at a later date
Join Designers Beth Kates, Michelle Tracey and Echo Zhou  as they share the discussions and discoveries that were uncovered in our recent Designer Think Tank. Explore topics such as ways to support designers through this tricky time and how to adapt scenic and technical skills to discover greater possibilities within digital platforms.
Run time: 60 minutes

Beth Kates is an award-winning lighting, set, projection and mixed reality designer, who started in rock&roll at 14. In 2019 she and Neil Christensen co-created Bury The Wren, a ground-breaking Augmented/Virtual Reality/live performance, and most recently was the virtual world lighting designer and virtual stage lighting designer for Doubleeye Studios VR Theatre performance Finding Pandora X which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and won the ‘Best Immersive VR Experience’ prize. She leads performance experiments in virtual reality, is working on the formation of a National VR Theatre company, and in Spring 2021 will be leading an artist residency with Canadian Stage in Virtual Reality Performance. There are many works in development including The Scott Jones Project with Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, and a VR exploration of Indigenous femininity and sexuality.

A career spanning 30 years has seen Beth in collaboration with acclaimed directors Jillian Keiley, Jackie Maxwell, Daniel Brooks, Peter Hinton, and Paul Thompson among many others. Highlights: I, Claudia (Crows Theatre), Between Breaths Orchestral (Artistic Fraud), Silence (Grand Theatre/NAC), Vigilante (Catalyst/NAC), Bigger Than Jesus (Wyrd), The Last Donnelly Standing (Blyth), Alice in Wonderland, Ragtime, (Shaw), Brimful of Asha (WhyNot).

Michelle Tracey is a scenographer and designer based in Toronto, Ontario. She specializes in set and costume design, but she also enjoys working with lighting and video. Her work spans the fields of theatre, opera, dance, film, live events & installation art. Michelle earned her BFA Spec. Hon. from York University in Theatre Production & Design, and is a graduate of the 2016-2018 Soulpepper Academy. Michelle was a finalist for the 2020 Virginia & Myrtle Cooper Award for excellence in Costume Design, and was nominated for the 2017 Pauline McGibbon Award. She has received two Dora Award nominations for scenic and costume design. Echo Zhou is a Toronto based set/lighting designer and production/stage manager. She is also one of the cohort members of Why Not Theatre’s ThisGen Fellowship 2020. Recent works include Made in Macau (TPAM 2020, Japan), Wah Wah Wah (Wildside Festival and SummerWorks Festival, Canada), Cake (Theatre Passes Muraille, Canada), Permanence (Libby Brodie Production UK), Spring Moon (Mixed Company Theatre, Canada), Life Between Heaven and Earth (National Theatre of China), Mr.Shi and His Lover (Music Picnic),  I Swallowed Moon Made of Iron (Music Picnic). Echo received her BFA at Ryerson University in their Theatre Production Program. She is an associate member of Associated Designers of Canada. Click here for a full transcript of this discussion.
Friday, November 20, 6pm ET – A Conversation with Theatre’s Feminist Foremothers. ASL Interpreters: Marcia Adolphe and Jodi Taylor Also, REV- AI (machine-generated) captions will be available during the livestream, with cleaned up transcripts to be made available at a later date Pioneering voices in the feminist theatre community come together to discuss the past and future of Anti-Oppression in the Canadian theatre ecology. Hosted by Teiya Kasahara, voices at the table include Margo Kane, Jani Lauzon, M. NourbeSe PhilipDiane Roberts and Jean Yoon. Run time: 90 minutes.

Cree-Saulteaux Metis performing artist, Margo Kane is the Founder and Artistic Managing Director of Full Circle: First Nations Performance.  For over 40 years she has been active as an actor, performing artist and community cultural worker.  Her desire to share artistic performance that has meaning for her people is the catalyst for her extensive work, travels and consultation within Indigenous communities across Canada and abroad.  Moonlodge, her acclaimed one-woman show, an Indigenous Canadian classic, toured for over 10 years nationally and internationally.  The Sydney Press (AU) during The Festival of the Dreaming praised it as being ‘in the top echelon of solo performance.’ She developed and runs the annual Talking Stick Festival celebrating its 20th Anniversary this coming year and numerous programs including Moccasin Trek: Arts on the Move!, Indian Acts and an Indigenous Ensemble Performing Arts Program in Vancouver. She has received numerous awards and honors including an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of the Fraser Valley, the Order of Canada from the Governor-General and most recently an Inaugural honor from the new National Arts Centre’s Indigenous Theatre Department.

Jani Lauzon is a multidisciplinary artist of Métis ancestry. She is a nine-time Dora nominated actor/director/writer, a three time Juno-nominated singer/songwriter, an award-winning screen actress, a Gemini Award winning puppeteer and a Toronto Theatre Critics award-winning director. She has fond memories of playing Grannie on the Mr. Dress-Upshow and Pa Foley on the Big Comfy Couch. Memorable theatre appearances include: Cordelia/Fool in the NAC Aboriginal production of King Lear, Shylock in Merchant of Venice (SITR) and the COC’s production of Louis Riel (directed by Peter Hinton). Her company Paper Canoe Projects producers her own work including the award-winning Prophecy Fog as well as I Call myself Princess and A Side of Dreams. Television guest appearances include Saving Hope, Hard Rock Medical and Conspiracy of Silence. Recent directing credits include Almighty Voice and his Wife (Soulpepper), Rope (The Shaw Festival) and The Monument (Factory Theatre). Jani began her career as an artist educator at the Claude Watson School for the Arts: Junior campus in the 1980s. She honed her skills as AD/Principal of The Centre for Indigenous Theatre and has worked extensively developing a pedagogy of actors training based on interdisciplinary training and circular communication. She was co-founder of Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble, a Native women’s theatre collective and is currently the Associate Director English Acting at the National Theatre School of Canada. for the 2020-2021 school year.

M. NourbeSe Philip is an unembedded poet, essayist, novelist, playwright and independent scholar who lives in the space-time of the City of Toronto. She practiced law in the City of Toronto for seven years before becoming a poet and writer.  She has published four books of poetry including the seminal She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks, one novel and four collections of essays.  Her book-length poem, Zong!, is a conceptually innovative, genre-breaking epic, which explodes the legal archive as it relates to slavery.   Her most recent work is BlanK,  a collection of essays on racism and culture.   Among her awards are numerous Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council grants, as well as the Pushcart Prize (USA, 1981), the Casa de las Americas Prize (Cuba, 1988), the Lawrence Foundation Prize (USA, 1994), and the Arts Foundation of Toronto Writing and Publishing Award (Toronto,1995), Dora Award finalist (drama, 1999). Her fellowships include Guggenheim (1990), McDowell  (1991), and Rockefeller (Bellagio) (2005). In 2001 She is an awardee of both the YWCA Woman of Distinction (Arts) and the Elizabeth Fry Rebels for a Cause awards.  She has been Writer-in-Residence at several universities and a guest at writers’ retreats.

Diane Roberts is an accomplished director, dramaturge, writer and cultural animator, who has collaborated with innovative theatre visionaries and interdisciplinary artists for the past 30 years. Her directorial and dramaturgical work has been seen on stages across Canada and her reputation as a mentor, teacher and community collaborator is nationally and internationally recognized. Diane is a PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, a 2019 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar and a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship award holder. Diane’s celebrated Arrivals Legacy Project has birthed new Interdisciplinary works across Canada, throughout the Americas, in the UK, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. This work has allowed her to articulate, cultivate and realise a vision for theatre that encourages Indigenous ways of knowing as a steppingstone to creative expression.

Jean Yoon is a playwright, actor, advocate and Mom. Jean began her theatre career in the early 1980s in Toronto performing with now long gone companies Upstage Theatre, Toronto Free Theatre and Canasian Artists Group. In the 1990s, Jean was active as a cultural equity advocate and new play producer.  She was Cross Cultural Coordinator for Theatre Ontario 1991/92, and then Co-Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre Projects 1992 to early 1994, founding Lift Off!  and cementing Cahoots’ role as a leader in new play development for playwrights of diverse cultures.

Jean’s playwriting credits include the Dora-nominated stage play, The Yoko Ono Project, a multimedia performance art comedy, produced by Loud Mouth Asian Babes and Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto, January 2000.  Her comedic adaptation of a classic Korean folktale Hongbu & Nolbu: The Tale of the Magic Pumpkins premiered at Young Peoples Theatre in 2005 and was published in Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas, edited by Esther Kim Lee, Duke University Press in 2012. Other playwriting credits include Sliding for Home, Spite, and Yes Yoko Solo. Jean’s stage credits include Necessary Angel, Young Peoples Theatre, Factory, Tarragon, Cahoots Theatre Projects, Crows, Civilized Theatre and Die in Debt. Jean originated the role “Umma” in the Toronto Fringe production of Kim’s Convenience in 2011 and performed the show at Soulpepper Theatre, The Grand Theatre London, National Arts Centre, Theatre Calgary, Theatre Aquarius, the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, and the Pershing Square Signature Centre in New York . Jean is best known for her work on the CBC television adaptation of Kim’s Convenience, for which she has received the ACTRA Award for Outstanding Performance Female 2017, and three CSA nominations. Other notable screen credits include Orphan BlackDragon BoysThe Expanse, Save Me and voicing Connie in the Emmy Award winning PBS show Peg + Cat. Jean was honoured with the Birks Diamond Tribute for Women in Film and Television in Septmber 2019, and the ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence in February 2020.

Donna-Michelle St. Bernard – (aka Belladonna the Beast) is an emcee, playwright, dramaturge and agitator.  Her work has been nominated for the Siminovitch Prize, Governor General’s Literary Awards, SATA, Herman Voaden Playwriting Award, Enbridge PlayRites Award and Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play.  She has been engaged as a dramaturge for Pink Pluto, Native Earth Performing Arts, Factory Theatre, lemonTree creations and Humber College Drama Program.  DM is the artistic director of New Harlem Productions, emcee in residence at Theatre Passe Muraille, playwright in residence at lemonTree creations and coordinator of the ADHOC Assembly.

Teiya Kasahara 笠原貞野 (they/them) is a genderqueer, multi-disciplinary performer/creator, and first-generation Nikkei-Canadian settler of Japanese and German roots thankful to make Tkarón:to their home. Teiya comes from a background of over a decade of singing both traditional and contemporary operatic roles across North America and Europe, most recently praised as “a force of nature” by the Toronto Star for their portrayal in FAWN’s Pandora. Their new initiative to centre equity-seeking artists, Amplified Opera (co-founded with director Aria Umezawa), launched publicly this October with the inaugural concert series AMPLIFY. Performances this season include The Wager (Theatre Gargantua),Symphony Spooktacular (Toronto Symphony Orchestra), the title role in Madama Butterfly (Windsor Symphony), Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (Buddies), assistant directing All the Little Animals I Have Eaten (Nightwood), Beethoven 9 (Kingston Symphony), and the world premiere of their operatic-inspired play The Queen In Me (Amplified Opera/Theatre Gargantua) in 2020. Teiya is a co-founder/member of Queer AF Collective, founder/head coach of the Vocal Dōjō, an apprentice with RAW Taiko Drummers, and is a graduate of Generator’s Artist Producer Training, the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, and the University of British Columbia. For more info visit or follow @teiyakasahara.

Groundswell’s Accessibility Consultant

Jessica Watkin is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto’s Centre for drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. Her research focuses on Disabled Artists and their Creation Processes in Canada, as well as systems of support and training institutions and the effects on Disabled people.

A multidisciplinary Blind artist, Jessica started as a playwright and has since developed performance movement pieces, ensemble-created performances for the Fringe (Toronto), created a rug for an exhibit called Productive Discomfort where her piece was called “This Was Not Made For Your Visual Pleasure #PleaseTouchMe” and is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Feminist Space Camp (Magazine).

Jessica has been consulting on a project-basis in Toronto and Canada (in person and online) since 2016 with companies such as Next Stage Theatre Festival, lemontree productions, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Live Describe, New College Library, Canadian Assocation of Theatre Research, Bodies in Translation, and more!


Shay Erlich is a hard of hearing, multiply disabled, and genderqueer child and youth care practitioner, wheelchair dancer, and circus artist. Shay holds a MA degree in Child and Youth Care from Ryerson University and their recent thesis project explored how social circus can be understood as child and youth care practice. Shay is currently looking to find intersections between wheelchair dance and partner acrobatics and is excited about the future of this new art form. Shay is the co-founder of The Cyborg Circus Project, a community arts and social service organization that provides opportunities for disabled artists from the recreational programs to professional productions.

Furthermore, Shay has extensive experience working as an accessibility consultant in many settings including academic, artistic, and frontline services. They have spent the last ten years advocating for better inclusion and services for young people with disabilities, and currently work as an independent consultant assisting frontline service organizations and arts institutions in creating more accessible programs and productions for the diverse people that they work with through their business Shay Erlich Consulting. Shay also provides training and support for frontline practitioners who wish to improve their practice with disabled clients. Shay strongly believes in a social justice and disability rights approach within a child and youth care relational context. Shay’s vision for the future is one where disabled people have the support and resources that they need to thrive, and to fully participate in all areas of their lives, without having to constantly fight for resources.

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