Clockwise from top left: Rachel Mutombo, Pesch Nepoose, Phoebe Tsang, Shelley M. Hobbs, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Erum Khan and Bilal Baig.

Including readings and interviews from our 2019/20 Write From The Hip playwrights program
Program Directed by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
November 10-20, 2020

Readings and events are free but donations are deeply appreciated.

Please check back closer to the event date for the direct links to attend and full details on our accessibility measures.

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 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. 

Tuesday, November 10

6pm ET – Refusal by Shelley M. Hobbs

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”.

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.

Wednesday, November 11

6pm ET – Better by Rachel Mutombo 

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.

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 – in conversation with Erum Khan and excerpts from All my forgotten dreams

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.

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, 6PM 

Death of a Father by Phoebe Tsang

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?

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

Know What You Don’t Know
AHA & Nightwood Theatre
1 – 2:30pm (EST)

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.

is dedicated to the sustained forward movement of ethno-cultural and socially diverse performance works, processes and

Cole Alvis is a Métis theatre artist based in Tkarón:to with Chippewa, Irish and English heritage from the Turtle Mountains in Manitobah. They are an Artistic Producer of lemonTree creations, one of the leaders of manidoons collective, Ad Hoc Assembly (AHA) and are the former Executive Director of the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (2013 – 2017). Cole has performed in Dora nominated productions including Gorey Story (The Thistle Project), Louis Riel (Canadian Opera Company / National Arts Centre) and the Dora winning new play Body Politic by Nick Green (lemonTree creations / Buddies in Bad Times Theatre). Recently, they participated in the Indigenous Directors Lab at the Stratford Festival, supported Falen Johnson in programming the Guswenta Gathering at Soulpepper, programmed the outdoor stage at the Cinesphere during TIFF ’17 alongside Jesse Wente, and received a 2017 Harold Award (nominated by Mel Hague). A Red Deer College and York University BFA theatre alumnae, Cole recently participated in the 2017 artEquity Facilitator Training in Los Angeles.

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

Directed by Cole Alvis

Cast: Joelle Peters

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 and suicide

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.

Wednesday, November 18

6pm ET – A Conversation with SPiLL.PROpagation 

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. 

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

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. Click here to register.

6pm ET – in conversation Bilal Baig and excerpts from blue eyes killed him without blinking

Bilal Baig discusses art, social justice and accountability through the lens of their newest work blue eyes killed him without blinking.

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
Join Set Designer (and 1/3rd of the TRIGA Creative design team) Michelle Tracey and guest artists 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.


6pm ET – A Conversation with Theatre’s Feminist Foremothers

Pioneering voices in the feminist theatre community come together to discuss the past and future of Anti-Oppression in the Canadian theatre ecology.

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.

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