About the playwrights
Ashleigh Giffen is an emerging artist connecting her roots (Indigenous and Icelandic) to her work. Ashleigh was raised on Squamish territory, but is traditionally from the Kahkewistahaw and Waywayseecappo territories on her mother's side. In high school, Ashleigh participated in the Arts Club’s LEAP program. Her play Kamwatan Nipe follows a journalist who interviews an Indigenous community where a woman was murdered. Following Kamwatan Nipe, Ashleigh was commissioned in her first year of University to write a companion piece following her first story. She hopes to challenge the western structures of plays, and explore the multi-dimensional journeys and histories of her people, while using epistemologies to showcase deep time and ancestral knowledge. Ashleigh is in her second year at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, majoring in Indigenous Studies.
Tai Amy Grauman (she/her) made her Arts Club stage debut with Thanks for Giving in 2017. Other theatre credits include Mary’s Wedding: A Métis Love Story (Citadel Theatre) and Honour Beat (Grand Theatre). She is an Associate Artist at the Citadel Theatre, and Artistic Associate at Savage Society. Grauman is currently working on commissions for Nightswimming and Axis Theatre. She was recently named the Métis Nation of Alberta’s Outstanding Youth of 2020.
Hiro Kanagawa is a Vancouver-based actor, playwright and screenwriter. His most recent play Indian Arm received the 2017 Governor-General’s Literary Award for Drama. Other distinctions include Jessie Richardson Awards for both acting and playwriting, an Asians on Film Award, and an MFA from Simon Fraser University. Among his numerous screen credits he is perhaps best known for his recurring roles and guest appearances on popular American television series such as Altered Carbon, The X-Files, iZombie and Smallville. A sought-after script doctor and consultant, he was story editor on the critically-acclaimed Canadian series Da Vinci’s Inquest, Da Vinci’s City Hall, Intelligence, and Blackstone. He makes his home in Port Moody, BC with his wife and two children.
Amy Lee Lavoie is an award-winning playwright and a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s Playwriting Program. Her first play, Rabbit Rabbit, received its premiere production with Infinitheatre, earning Amy Lee two MECCA’s for Best Text and the Revelation Award. Rabbit Rabbit has since been produced across Canada and in the US. Other plays include Me Happy (co-written with Matthew Mackenzie/Summerworks Festival), Stopheart (Factory Theatre), and Genetic Drift (Pi Theatre/Boca del Lupo).
Amy Lee was also the Head Digital Writer for the CBC drama Strange Empire, which won a Gracie Award (Women’s Alliance Media) for Best Website in recognition of its interactive storytelling.
Her latest play, C’mon, Angie!, premiered with Touchstone Theatre in June and was hailed as “visceral, important, life-changing theatre.”
Kevin Loring is an accomplished Canadian playwright, actor, and director and was the winner of the Governor General’s Award for his play Where the Blood Mixes in 2009. A Nlaka’pamux from the Lytton First Nation in British Columbia, Loring has written two new plays based on his work with the community including Battle of the Birds and The Boy Who Was Abandoned. A versatile artist and leader, Loring has served as the co-curator of the Talking Stick Festival, as Artist in Residence at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, as Artistic Director of the Savage Society in Vancouver, as a Documentary Producer of Canyon War: The Untold Story, and as the Project Leader/Creator, and Director of the Songs of the Land project in his home community.
The Mom’s the Word Collective was born in 1993. Six Vancouver women who had once been exciting, glamorous, and professional actors were now exhausted, bedraggled amateur mothers with ten children under six between them. They decided to get together to write a show about motherhood. They met regularly on Saturday mornings with their children. They talked, they laughed, they whined, they complained, and they laughed some more. Eventually they wrote a play: Mom’s the Word. It and its sequels (Mom’s the Word 2: Unhinged and Mom’s the Word: Nest ½ Empty) have since been seen on multiple continents by well over a million audience members. They are Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard, and Deborah Williams.
Omari Newton is a professional actor, writer, and slam poet. His original Hip Hop theatre piece, Sal Capone, has received critical acclaim and multiple productions across Canada, including a presentation at Canada's National Arts Centre in 2018. The play has been nominated for multiple Montreal English Critics Association (META) awards, including Outstanding New Text.
In addition to being a playwright, Omari has had a successful acting career on stage, screen, and radio over the past two decades. Career theatre highlights include a Best Supporting Actor nomination in the Centaur Theatre's award-winning production of Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange (2004). Most recently, Omari’s work in Speakeasy Theatre's production of Young Jean Lee's The Shipment earned him a 2017–2018 Jessie Award for Outstanding Performance, as well as a nomination for Best Direction.
Omari is currently working on a commission from Black Theatre Workshop to write Black & Blue Matters—a companion piece to Sal Capone.
Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Gilles Poulin-Denis is an actor, playwright, director, translator, and dramaturg. His first full-length play, Rearview, was presented in both French and English in Sudbury in 2016. Rearview is published by Dramaturges Éditeurs and was nominated in 2010 for the Governor General’s Literary Award. Wajdi Mouawad named Gilles as one of the resident playwrights at the National Arts Centre's Théâtre français, where he developed his play Dehors. Dehors was published by L’Instant-Scène in 2017. Gilles has collaborated on numerous devised pieces such as ishow, Après la Peur, and Gabriel Dumont's Wild West Show. Gilles is the artistic director of Productions 2PAR4 and currently lives in Vancouver.
Christine Quintana (she/her) has acted in Arts Club productions She Stoops to Conquer (debut, 2012) and Saint Joan (2014), and was a LEAP Program Assistant from 2015 to 2018. Other playwriting credits include Selfie (Young People’s Theatre), Never the Last (Delinquent Theatre), and Clean (upcoming, Neworld Theatre). She is a recipient of the Siminovitch Protégé Prize for Playwriting, the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New TYA Play (Selfie), the Sidney Risk Award for Outstanding Play by an Emerging Playwright (Selfie), and the Tom Hendry Award. She was a participant of Tarragon Theatre’s Urjo Kareda Residency, and is a proud founding member of the Canadian Latinx Theatre Artist Coalition.
Michele Riml is a critically acclaimed playwright from Vancouver. Her plays include Under the Influence, Poster Boys, RAGE (winner 2005 Sydney Risk Award), Souvenirs, On the Edge, The Amaryllis, and Miss Teen. Four of her plays have been produced by the Arts Club, and two of them, Sexy Laundry and Henry and Alice: Into the Wild (a Silver Commission), have become international hits with ongoing productions in Canada, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and the U.S. Her plays for young audiences have been widely produced and translated and include The Skinny Lie, The Invisible Girl, and Tree Boy, recently published by National Geographic. She is currently working on a new musical, SALT, with British singer/songwriter David Ford.
Kaitlyn is a three time Dora nominated actor from Montreal, who now calls Toronto home. She is currently touring ‘Maggie & Pierre’, Linda Griffiths’ one person show about the Trudeaus, around Canada (Thousand Islands Playhouse-Gananoque, Tarragon Theatre-Toronto, Grand Theatre-London: February 2019). She is a founding member of Shakespeare in the Ruff and has performed in four of their productions (Sylvia, Imogen, Juliet, and as a puppeteer in Macbeth: Walking Shadows). She became the Artistic Director in 2017 and in 2018, wrote Portia’s Julius Caesar, a co-creation with Shakespeare, refocusing the play to centre on the female characters.
Michael St. John Smith is an experienced writer, established film actor, and former advertising creative director. He has written several commissioned screenplays and three stage plays including the Jessie-nominated Best Original Play Slaying Dragons, and The Bridge for Pi Theatre and CBC (with Michele Riml). His original screenplay, Archangel (co-written with William Gibson), was launched at ComiCon 2016 in San Diego as a comic book series by IDW. He wrote an expanded audio-play version of the series for Amazon Audible to be produced in March 2018. Michael also created and facilitates “The Ring”, an interactive screenwriting workshop for writers and actors. He graduated from Harvard University with honors in English Literature.
Marcus Youssef’s plays—about half of which were co-written with friends and colleagues—include Winners and Losers, Leftovers, Jabber, How Has My Love Affected You?, Ali & Ali and the aXes of Evil, Everyone, Adrift, Peter Panties, King Arthur’s Night, Chloe’s Choice, and A Line in the Sand. They have been performed in dozens of theatres or festivals across North America, Australia, and Europe. Marcus is the recipient of the 2017 Siminovitch Prize. Other awards include: Canada Council Staunch-Lynton Award, Rio-Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award, Chalmer's Canadian Play Award, Seattle Times Footlight Award, two Arts Club Silver Commissions, a Governor General’s Award nomination, and the Vancouver Critics' Choice Award. Marcus is Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Neworld Theatre and co-founded the artist-run production studio PL1422. He is Editorial Advisor to Canadian Theatre Review, a Canadian Fellow to the International Society of Performing Arts, and recently finished a stint as Senior Playwright in Residence at the Banff Centre Playwrights Lab.