Her Side of the Story | May 2016

A Conversation About the Female Perspective On Stage

Curated and Coordinated by Cristina Cugliandro
Zine Illustration and coordination by Jordan Wieben

May 13-14, 2016


Her Side of the Story is an encounter bringing together theatre artists to celebrate and discuss the female perspective on stage. The event is meant to showcase new work by Canada’s female artists and to provide a platform for theatre makers from diverse backgrounds to come together to talk about the representation of female voices in theatre.   

Featuring a Key Note speaker, public readings, a Long Table discussion, and cabaret this encounter is an opportunity to share, question, learn, and reflect.

We are proud to announce that this event is
and open to all!


Friday May 13th


5 à 7, Meet & Greet over cocktails and snacks

Keynote Speaker – Mary Vingoe


Reading: Beautiful Man by Erin Shields

Followed by talkback moderated by Maureen Labonté

Saturday May 14th


Reading: The Baklawa Recipe by Pascale Rafie, Translated by Melissa Bull

Followed by talkback moderated by Maureen Labonté


The Long Table – a public engagement conversation on the topic of the feminine perspective on stage


Cabaret featuring excerpts of new works by Deena Aziz, Marie Barlizo, Rhiannon Collett, Corrina Hodgson, Ann Lambert, Tina Milo, Leslie Baker, among others.

The National Theatre School of Canada 
5030 Rue Saint-Denis,
Montréal, QC
H2J 2L8

National Theatre School of Canada

Keynote Speaker

Mary Vingoe

A director, actor and playwright, Mary is the founding Artistic Director of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival at Canada’s National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She is a co-founder and past Artistic Director of Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre and founding Artistic Director of The Eastern Front Theatre in Halifax, as well as co-founder and past co- Artistic Director of The Ship’s Company Theatre in Parrsboro.

She has directed for major theatres across the Canada, most recently her own play, “REFUGE,” at Nightwood Theatre, which is running from April 19-May 8. It was produced at Imago Theatre in the 2014 with the Have We Forgotten Yet Festival. Mary has written extensively for stage and radio and has worked as dramaturge, actor and teacher across the country. Playwrights Canada Press published her play LIVING CURIOSITIES in 2011.

Mary is the recipient of the 2009 Portia White Award, the Mayor’s Award for Achievement in Theatre, the Merritt Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

In 2011 she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for her contribution to theatre in Canada.

Mary is currently Artistic Director of HomeFirst productions, an independent Halifax based company which will be producing Catherine Banks’ award winning play IT IS SOLVED BY WALKING in October 2014.

Mary's Keynote Speech

C’est avec grand plaisir, d’être parmi vous ce soir. Thank you for having me here today. It is a real honour to be asked t speak to this wonderful group of theatre people.

When Miche asked me to present on the female perspective in theatre in Canada today, my thoughts invariably drifted back to 1979 when Cynthia Grant, Kim Renders, Maureen White and myself started Nightwood Theatre. What was Canadian theatre like back then? What was the world like back then?

At Dalhousie University where I graduated with my BA in theatre, they didn’t discuss Canadian plays by men or women. I found my first one, Rick Salutin and Theatre Passe Muraille’s 1837, by accident in my fourth year in the script library. I was reaching for The Collected Plays of (Spanish Playwright) Fernando Arrabal. When whoosh it fell out from behind the stack where someone had forgotten it.  What’s this, I said to myself? A Canadian play wow! That was 1976.

So in those early years after graduation many of my colleagues were thrilled to see Canadian work of any kind on our stages. James Reaney’s The Donnelly Trilogy changed my life. Here were real men and women from 19th century rural Ontario as poetic protagonists of a revenge cycle worthy of the Greeks. Theatre Passe Muraille’s the Farm Show (an early reality based theatrical experiment) was already a classic by the time I got to Toronto. Twenty Fifth St House’s Prairie Wheat opened up a world I knew little about as a Maritimer. On Toronto’ s mainstages we were seeing plays by heavyweights David French at Tarragon and George F Walker at Factory. Canadian Theatre was maturing quickly. Artistic directors like Urjo Kareda, Ken Gass, Richard Rose, Sky Gilbert, Paul Thompson, Clarke Rogers, George Luscombe were carving out their territory. But where were the women?

In 1979 We were four young theatre artists who wanted to make work which was non linear and imagistic (sound familiar) and we wanted to bring women’s voice to the stage. At that time there were almost no female directors, NAC’s Associate director, Marigold Charlesworth (who was the first woman to direct at the Stratford festival in 1977 (only took 25 years), and only a handful of produced playwrights, the great Carol Bolt, Sharon Pollock and Joanna Glass come to mind.

Our first production at Nightwood was an adaptation of Sharon Riis’s imagistic and stunning novel, The True Story of Ida Johnson about a First nations woman and a white waitress who make a pact to escape their tormented lives. Directed by Cynthia Grant, Kim played the First Nations woman, (no complaints about that at the time) Maureen the white waitress and me all the other women, something I became known for as an actress, my specialty while I waited to be called for Lady Macbeth at Stratford. They show was a success, so much so we remounted it the following year at the Adelaide Ct theatre (now defunct). Despite or perhaps because of our success, we were nick named ‘Dykewood’ theatre by our male (and older) colleagues at Theatre Passe Muraille and despite the fact that none of us happened to identify as lesbian at time, the name stuck.  For what other reason would four women choose to come together to form a theatre company, apart from a sexual one? Sounds simple.  Sounds a bit like something Donald Trump might say today.

The epithet ‘Dykewood’ was of course a way of keeping us’ in our place’ by reducing us to our (in this case erroneous, sexuality. If we protested, we would seem to be betraying our gay sisters so we kept silent and the name stuck. As Nightwood survived and grew we came to realize that there was a very big mandate for us to fill. There were no theatres run by women in Toronto at that time. So where to start?  We shared with Buddies in Bad Times a desire to give voice to the Lesbian community and increasingly we realized we needed to give voice to women of colour and First Nations who were much less well represented than even ourselves.  There were a few stumbling blocks and missteps in those early years as we tried to figure out how to interpret our mandate. Did we exist to do our own work or to represent all women, surely an impossible task? We would please nobody if we tried to please everybody and yet we came under constant fire for claiming to be a woman’s theatre if we did not represent all women.  After Cynthia stepped down in 1985, I led the company for two years. It was my first Artistic Director gig (we called in Artistic Coordinator so as not to sound hierarchical). It was a difficult transition away from the original collective, companies often crash and burn at this juncture. I got caught in a few political boondoggles but survived with a thicker skin than that with which I had started.  I wasn’t sorry to move on in 1987 leaving the company in the capable hands of Maureen White. She moved on to Dublin after successfully transferring the reigns to an outside AD, Kate Lushington and from there to Diane Roberts and Elissa Palmer. Nightwood has now been under the able leadership of Kelly Thornton for some 15 years.  In what felt like closing a very big circle, Kelly directed my play Refuge just last month, the play Imago produced in a staged reading here last season in the Theatre and War series.   I am so proud that Nightwood has survived and prospered over the 35 years of its existence. It is truly a Canadian success story.  But thirty-four years ago as an aspiring classical actor when I learned that a certain famous artistic director had not cast me thinking I was ‘a hardcore dyke bitch’ from that women’s theatre, that hurt. As a twenty something would be classical actor, I was devastated. Names can hurt when you are young and don’t know how to fight back.

The work that Nightwood went on to produce was often layered, varied, sensitive and magical.   Works like Renders and White’s Glazed Tempera, inspired by the painting of Alex Colville, this is for You Anna, with a hauntingly beautiful collective creation with Banuta Rubess inspired by stories of spousal abuse and Ann Marie MacDonald’s hilarious Good Night Desdemona come to mind as representative of the wide range of work Nightwood produced in the early years. Pretty hardcore, scary stuff.

Over 30 years of directing, writing and producing for Canadian theatre have left me with mixed feelings about being a female theatre artist. I have tended always to direct work by women. Not because I avoided plays by men but because I either had a relationship with the female playwright and felt passionately about the work or simply because I was only asked to direct plays by women.  In other words, I was pigeonholed both by myself and others into the roll of a director of women’s plays. Now as a senior artist I am greatly enjoying directing the classics like Ibsen’s Enemy of the People and Shakespeare’ s Twelfth Night and next year even Christopher Marlowe’ s Edward ii but these are all university productions, I am still waiting for Stratford to call. I spent my career laboring in the trenches of Canadian theatre and in particular plays by women and I guess that is how I am known. I’m proud of it but I would like to considered at this stage for other kinds of work.  Dead white males wrote some pretty decent stuff. I would like to take a crack at it.

I often get asked’ How much has changed since Nightwood’s founding? Fast forward 33 years to 2012 when NAC artistic Director Peter Hinton announced his all female director and playwright season line-up. It was front page news! Never before in the history of Canada’s National Arts Centre had such a daring move been made. And by a man no less.! Now let’s take a look at the   Stratford festival 2016.  News Flash, the festival is proud to present an all male authored season this year! Fifteen fabulous productions ranging from from Virgil to Shakespeare to contemporary classics. Oh and there is one new play by a woman….  Hannah some body…

So we still have a way to go.  That being said many things have gotten better. There are certainly many more women writing and directing and designing for the for the stage in 2016 than there were in 1979 and some of them, like Shaw’s Jackie Maxwell and the super talented Hannah Moscovitch have made a big dent on the statistics. But sadly if you follow the money trail, woman artistic directors and women playwrights are still far more likely to be working at smaller underfunded companies. The bigger companies are usually still run by men and they program, predominantly work by men. Money follows men.

I honestly do not believe this is because men are sitting around thinking, let’s not program any women in our seasons. It is because men, like all human beings, program what is of interest to them. And the classics are by far mostly men’s’ stories, and the contemporary canon before 1950 are mostly men’s stories. So there is a hell of a lot of catch up to do. The fact that theatre audiences are between 60-70 percent women ought to put pressure on this dynamic but strangely as far as I can see it hasn’t, much.

Why aren’t women audiences protesting with their feet?  Is it because classics written by men are considered ‘universal’ and women’ stories are for a special interest group? The Bechdel test for Hollywood movies has gotten a lot of airplay in recent years. Our daughters know these frightening statistics by heart. Why is there not a similar movement in theatre?  Do two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man in this play? I don’t think the Stratford season would do very well on this test. This kind of rear guard action by audience members might do better at changing things than artists themselves. How do we get our audiences to notice, never mind act? Our society has become more vocal about lack of representation of women in politics, sports and business but somehow the arts not so much?  Maybe because so many women actually work in the arts, in theatre, performers, administrators, stage managers and marketers all tend to be female, just not Artistic Directors, directors and ‘produced’ playwrights. The people who actually chose what and how theatre is presented.  Too bad we don’t have a long from census for theatre productions.

All this being said I believe our country’s most exciting senior playwrights are women and I am so proud to know and to have worked with some of them.  Colleen Murphy, Wendy Lill, Colleen Wagner, Catherine Banks, Marie Clements, Djanet Sears, Sharon Pollock, Judith Thompson, Joan MacLeod, Hannah Moscovitch and the late Linda Griffiths, to name but a few. These women are the crème de la crème of Canadian theatre even if their pocket books may not show it. Their work has garnered top awards, they are studied in universities, they speak at international conferences but sadly much of their work is still not getting the exposure it deserves on Canadian stages.

Is there a female aesthetic in the theatre? While each of these playwright’s voices is obviously completely distinct in my opinion something that connects them is their social conscience. Most are concerned not just with women’ stories but with the good of the whole, the well being of the community. In December Man Colleen Murphy astounds us with her insight into the toll the parents of a man who left the scene of the Montreal massacre must suffer. In The Occupation of Heather Rose Wendy Lill writes from the perspective of a young white northern nurse working on a reserve who begins to see she is a part of the problem she has come to fix.  Joan Macleod’s The Valley examines at the complex web of interdependency within a community trying to help a youth with mental illness.  If there is a female aesthetic in Theatre, it may have something to do with journey of community vs the journey of the individual.

Let me use Neworlds’s Winners and Losers as an extreme example of a male aesthetic. This production by Vancouver’s Neworld theatre has been a huge hit, touring international festivals for three years now. What is its appeal?  Pure testosterone. Two men, old friends, played by actor/ writers Marcus Youssef and James Young as themselves, play a game where they take ordinary objects, microwave ovens, bicycles, toilet paper, whatever and declare whether they are winners or losers, this progresses to political movements, famous people etc. The game turns sour as they turn their fiercely competitive natures on their own lives, they insult each other calling out each other’s worst features as parents, lovers and citizens as being winners or losers.  They compete at ping pong, wrestle and turn the lights down.  It all ends in a draw. There is no stated critique of the game itself. Winner and Losers is funny, voyeuristic, sometimes riveting and ultimately sad (at least for me) as it ultimately skirts the question; Is this a valid way to evaluate your life?

Could two women have written this piece? Women are certainly competitive but do they need to destroy each other to succeed?  Marcus tells me two women in Calgary are about to take it on Winners and Losers and make their own text based on the game.    If anyone gets to see this, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Is there a play in the modern Canadian canon that people feel could only have been written by a woman. (or women).? I’ll invite comments from the audience on this one. A show that could only have been created by women? Maybe Margaret Atwood ‘s The Penelopead at Nightwood? We hear Penelope’ side of the story but even more radical we hear from the maids, those voiceless females in Homer’s epic. It is very fashionable to hear from a former underclass these days, but do women do this any better than men?  Do women tend to represent a wider community, a variety of voices more than men?

I actually do not believe that men and women write differently as a group. Individuals write differently, employing the so called male and female aesthetic according to their own preference. One could argue that Michel Tremblay and Tomson Highway write with a strong female aesthetic in that they do not usually write linear stories or stories with single protagonists. One could argue that Sharon Pollock and Carol Bolt, who usually have strong protagonists and well constructed plot lines, have a male aesthetic. I do not really believe this argument is worth pursuing now. There are so many things other than our sex which affect our voice, our ethnicity, education, upbringing, social political status and not the least our personalities themselves for every writer writes themselves somewhere in their play.

I am interested in the economics of play making in this country and how it affects women. While AD of the Magnetic North Theatre festival I strove for 6 years to reach gender parity in the work which we presented. I was also trying for regional representation and a balance of ethnicities and First Nations work. So basically an impossible task. By the 5th year I had achieved parity in gender. One of the issues I encountered was that there were fewer women based theatres generating work who were actually applying to come to tour to Magnetic North.  So we had the ‘male’ companies of the time, the Necessary Angels, the Neworlds, the 2bs, the Old Trouts and the Rick Millers who were always raring to go with new work and we had work that came from companies that had both men and women at the helm like The Electric Company, Theatre Smith Gilmour, Zuppa Theatre, Theatre Replacement, Artistic Fraud and One Yellow Rabbit but almost no women led companies applying to the festival. Super companies like Toronto’s Theatre Columbus and Montreal’s Imago seemed more interested in staying in their own communities and making work.  Why was that?  Is there any between staying home and being female?  In any case it skewed the statistics.

I do think the issue of staying put in your community and making work as opposed to going off and becoming famous is at least something more women than men relate to. Having helped to found Nightwood within the women’s community in Toronto in the late seventies and Ship’s Company Theatre in the tiny town of Parrsboro in the eighties, I was looking for a home in 1993 where my partner composer Paul Cram and I could have a family and have a life. My friend the playwright Wendy Lill lived in Dartmouth so we moved there and started The Eastern Front.  A very unlikely place to start a theatre company as it was always seen as a cultural wasteland by the denizens of Halifax (and other parts of Canada) but we cunningly turned that to our advantage.  When I think back on it, building the Eastern Front Theatre in Dartmouth was so we could stay home in our own community raise our kids and do what we do, make theatre.  I don’t regret that decision even if I suspect it limited my career in the long run.

I am blessed with two daughters. The elder Katharine is 27 is a painter with a Masters in Art History.  Laura at 24 is an emerging theatre director.  God help us.   Laura, a recent MFA graduate in directing from Glasgow’s Royal Conservatory, has followed in her mother’s footsteps and has formed a company with two other young women her age called somewhat enigmatically, Keep Good (Theatre) Company, which has already racked up a number of accolades. They had a hit production of company member Gillian Clark’s Lets Try This Standing last season and are about to embark on the Canadian premiere of Constellations by UK writer Nick Payne with two of Halifax’s’ best actors and Laura directing.  Their mandate, “We make theatre that is honest, sharpened by the interplay of comedy and tragedy, and always attentive to the fact that the audience is in the room with us. Our work is grounded by strong artistic relationships that allow us to experiment with the theatrical medium.”

As a theatre artist I was no where near Laura’s level of self awareness at 24. At her age I still wanted to play Lady Macbeth at Stratford. I am still waiting for the call. Maybe to direct Macbeth.  Like so many young women, despite the fact that I was creating and producing new work and passionate about bringing women’s voices to the stage, I really felt my destiny was to be an actor, and despite the fact that I had shown lots of leadership potential as a student, I didn’t think of taking that role in my chosen profession. And none of my (almost all male professors) at Dalhousie Theatre School or University of Toronto’s Drama Centre even thought of suggesting it to me. It was acting or academia.

I didn’t even think about directing until my late twenties when it was suggested by Nightwood’s then Artistic Director Cynthia Grant, that I take on a student project based on Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Trail’s Roughing It in The Bush. Cynthia had another gig so she said why don’t you do it. I said I can’t, I’ve never directed and much to her credit she said, ‘sure you can’ and left town.  Hesitant at first it turned out to be a fabulous experience, Love and Work Enough was remounted the next year at Theatre Direct and winning best TYA production at the Doras. I ‘landed’ during that show. I realized where I really wanted to be was in the rehearsal hall rather than on the stage.   I was 27.  My point is I had to be told I could be a director. No one has had to tell Laura that, it was always a possibility for her. And I doubt that anyone would ever nickname her company ‘Dykewood’ to try water their dust cloud down but if they did it wouldn’t hurt them. They would own it, celebrate it. This generation has grown up with the belief that they can take any part they wish in the theatre and lead it an any direction and it is brilliant.

The theatre world has changed since 1979. Sexual preference has exploded as a continuum rather than a duality. There are incredible energies being released in the devised theatre movement where ‘Reality Based Theatre’ or ‘Theatre of the Real’ is surging against the mainstream, calling into question the individual playwright’s dominant voice in the theatre at all. Some of this is not all that unlike the collective theatre movement of the 1970s when we strove to put our own stories on the stage with or without a ‘playwright’. It is empowering a lot of younger artists many of them women, to make their own work. That being said, the individual playwright’s voice is a cornerstone of our theatre I have confidence this generation will rediscover and celebrate that as they mature.

It will still be a struggle for these young women. I know that the established theatre world out there is still very hierarchical and male dominated. Money still follows men.  But I have confidence that the women of Keep Good (Theatre) Company and indeed the young women here tonight, will not be bowed by this. They are grounded, fiercely independent but flexible artists who will take on whatever challenge they feel drawn to.

Dykewood lives…..

Mary Vingoe


‘Herstory’ opening address, Montreal Canada.


May 13th, 2016


Beautiful Man by Erin Shields

Beautiful Man is a visceral interrogation of sex, gender and violence against women in popular film and television.

This play began with a simple proposal: What if the roles were reversed? What if the women were sophisticated characters, and the men, objectified? Beautiful Man is a cheeky, vicious, sexy evisceration of the narratives we find ourselves consuming alone in the dark.

Erin-Shields_squareErin Shields is a Montreal based playwright and actor. She won the 2011 Governor General’s Award for her play If We Were Birds, which premiered at Tarragon Theatre where she is currently a playwright-in-residence. If We Were Birds has been widely produced and translated into French, German, Italian and Albanian. Erin is co-Artistic Director (with Andrea Donaldson) of an independent theatre company based in Toronto called Groundwater Productions, which produced Beautiful Man at The SummerWorks Festival 2015. Erin’s version of Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea was part of The Shaw Festival’s 2015 season. Her play for young audiences, Mistatim, is currently touring North America with Red Sky Performance. Upcoming: The Millennial Malcontent at Tarragon Theatre, Instant on tour with Geordie Productions and two musicals with Acting Up Stage. Erin has been nominated for numerous awards including the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the K.M. Hunter Award and five Dora Mavor Moore Awards.



A year ago, Erin moved to Montreal with her husband and two daughters where the French translation of If We Were Birds, Si les Oiseaux, premiered at Theatre Prospero in October, 2015.

Tarragon, Andrea Donaldson

Tarragon, Andrea Donaldson

Andrea Donaldson is Tarragon Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director. Directing credits include the following Dora-nominated

projects: The Atomic Weight of HappinessMontparnasseOffensive FoulsThe Unfortunate Misadventures of Masha Galinski. Andrea has also directed Janet Wilson Meets the Queen, Within the Glass, Soliciting Temptation, Beautiful Man, Une Parcelle de moi…,Mistatim, CLEAVETyumen T

hen, The Blyth Festival Young Company, The Possibilities and Crack. Andrea has been honoured with The Stratford Festival’s Jean Gascon Award for Direction, has been nominated for the Pauline McGibbon Award, the John Hirsch Directing Award and has received a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance & Production for performing in And By the Way, Miss. Andrea is the Program Director for Nightwood Theatre’s Write From the Hip and Co-Artistic Director of Groundwater Productions.

Lucinda DavisLucinda Davis is pleased to be working again with the wonderful team at Imago Theatre. Last seen in Ottawa, where she was a member of the National Arts Centre 2015-2016 Ensemble, and had the opportunity to work with diverse artists across Canada.  Her past theatre credits  Beethoven Lives Upstairs (Geordie Productions), Richard III (Metachroma Theatre), Doubt: A ParableIntimate Apparel, (Centaur Theatre), Top Girls (Segal Centre) and Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God (co-production with the NAC, Centaur Theatre and Black Theatre Workshop).  She has twice won a Montreal English Theatre Award (META) for her work in BTW’s production of Harlem Duet and in Imago Theatre and BTW’s co-production of random.

Julie Tamiko Manning_Square_small



Julie is an award winning theatre artist based in Montreal.  She has worked across Canada for the last 20 years from the independent stage in Vancouver to the national stage in Ottawa. Selected theatre credits include Elena in Butcher (Centaur), Sister in Pig Girl (Imago), Isabella Bird/Win in Top Girls (Segal Centre), Emilia in Othello (Segal/Scapegoat Carnivale), Titania in A Midsummer Nights Dream (Repercussion Theatre), Doris Truscott in Innocence Lost (Centaur Theatre/NAC), Clarence in Richard III (Metachroma) and Nancy in Oliver! (NAC).  Her first play, Mixie and the Halfbreeds (co-written with Adrienne Wong) was produced in 2009 in Vancouver (Neworld Theatre) and she created, produced and performed The Tashme Project with Matt Miwa, a verbatim play that traces the history of Japanese Canadian internment during WW2.  It premiered at the MAI in 2015, winning a META for Best Text, and will be featured in Soulpepper’s upcoming Tiger Bamboo Festival in May 2016.  She is Associate Artistic Producer of Metachroma Theatre, a company mandated to encourage and normalize racial diversity on our stages.  She will revisit her role as Tokyo Rose in Tant Per Tant’s production of Burning Vision this summer in Barcelona.

emiliaBorn in Montreal and raised in Victoria BC, Emelia graduated from the Dawson Professional Theatre program in 2014. She has appeared most recently as Grace in On This Day at the Centaur.



One half of the sketch comedy duo Employees of the Year and co-founder of the production company We Are One, other selected credits include: Viola in Twelfth Night (Repercussion Theatre), Margaret Hughes in Compleat Female Stage Beauty (Persephone Productions), Woman with the Notebook in Chamber Music (We Are One/Fringe Festival), Irene Molloy in The Matchmaker (Dawson) and Biondello in Taming of the Shew (Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival).

Brett Donnahue 1bBrett is an actor, filmmaker, and theatre creator originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He came to realize his interest in theatre, as an undergraduate at the University of Manitoba and went on to study at the University of Winnipeg, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre studies. During his time in Winnipeg, Brett appeared in numerous shows at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Master Playwrite Festival. He also appeared in the film “My Winnipeg”, by acclaimed filmmaker Guy Madden. In 2008 Brett relocated to Montreal to attend The National Theatre School of Canada. Over the three year period of study, he collaborated with an array of artists from across Canada and abroad. After the completion of NTS, Brett has made his way to Toronto. Here he has had the privilege of appearing in a number of theatre’s across the city, in a variety of theatrical genres. From verbatim docu-drama, detailing an inquest of police brutality and their dealings with persons with mental health issues, to collaborating in the creation of new work during The Rhubarb Festival and Next Stage Festival, to being a part of the Canadian premiere of “The Whipping Man”. He has also had a chance to act in many film/T.V productions that have taken him from the plains of Saskatchewan, through to the highlands of Nova Scotia, and as far as the eastern coast of Newfoundland. Most recently Brett appeared in the Canadian premier of “We Are Proud to Present…”and is polishing off his first short film of which he starred in and co-produced. In his downtime he can be known to play the piano, and fix motorcycles.
Sophie: Lucinda Davis
Jennifer: Julie Tamiko Manning
Pam: Emilia Hellman
Man: Brett Donahue

The Baklawa Recipe by Pascale Rafie

The Baklawa Recipe is about stories handed down from generations like recipes, like rituals. It is about grit, and about bearing up against unimaginable odds. And it is full of the sweetness of the dessert for which it is named. It is an important play to produce in our current political climate in Quebec. And it’s essential in its own right, for its own sake, for its complex female characters, for its rich and stirring beauty, for its nuanced and tender humour.

Play developed with the CEAD

Translation developed with PWM and the Cole Translation Competition for Emerging Translators








(This text is presently being translated)

Après un baccalauréat en art dramatique à l’Université du Québec à Montréal, Pascale Rafie obtient, en 1987, un diplôme en écriture dramatique de l’École nationale de théâtre du Canada. On lui doit plusieurs textes pour jeune public, dont le classique Charlotte Sicotte. Elle est aussi de l’équipe d’auteurs de Cabaret Neiges Noires. Sa dernière pièce, Les filles Lafaille, a été présentée en 2012 à Rouyn-Noranda.  La recette de baklawas a été d’abord présentée en lecture publique dans le cadre de l’édition 2013 de Dramaturgies en dialogue. Puis, la lecture a été présentée en 2015 et en 2016 dans différentes salles de Montréal.

Pascale Rafie enseigne actuellement au programme de Théâtre du Cégep de Saint-Laurent. Elle agit également comme artiste médiatrice dans le projet médiation culturelle Belles- Sœurs d’ici et d’ailleurs – Femmes immigrantes au théâtre, projet qu’elle a initié et réalisé en collaboration avec différents partenaires de l’arrondissement de Saint- Laurent. Et puis, lorsque son agenda le lui permet, elle prépare de nouveaux textes dramatiques.

Emma Tibaldo is the Artistic and Executive Director of Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal and a founding member of Talisman Theatre for whom she has most recently directed The Medea Effect by Suzie Bastien and Billy (The Days of Howling) by Fabien Cloutier, translated by Nadine Desrochers. She most recently directed Reservations by Steven Ratzlaff for Theatre Projects Manitoba and Falling Trees by Megan Coles for Poverty Cove Theatre. Other recent directing credits include: Model Wanted by Step Taylor for NotaBle Acts and Refuge by Mary Vingoe for Eastern Front Theatre. She has collaborated with playwrights from across the country on contemporary new work for the stage. She is a proud member of the theatrical laboratory The Bakery, where she is joyfully experimenting in a new piece entitled Skin. She is a graduate of Concordia’s Theatre Department and the National Theatre School’s directing program. Emma also sings in the family band The Tibaldos. The original French version of La recette de baklawas by Pascale Rafie, directed by Emma Tibaldo has been touring in Québec as a staged reading for over a year. It will continue to do so into late 2017.






Emma would like to thank the original cast for being an important part of the ongoing success of this play: Sounia Balha, Talia Hallmona, Natalie Tannous, Mireille Tawfik, et Leïla Thibeault-Louchem

MelissaPhotoMelissa Bull is the editor of Maisonneuve magazine’s “Writing from Quebec” column. Her translation of Nelly Arcan’s Burqa of Skin was published in 2014. Her collection of poetry, Rue, was published in 2015, and was recently shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Melissa lives in Montreal.

AMSAHEB_Headshot_smallAnne-Marie is a graduate of the Dawson College Professional Theatre Program, and works in both English and French in theatre, film and television as an actor, director and producer. She is also a Founder and Artistic Co-Director of the Third Eye Ensemble, a Montreal-based production company. Most recently, she had the privilege of playing in the world premiere of The Blood Harmonic, a play written by emerging Montreal playwright Calla Wright and produced by We Are One; and in Persephone Productions’ gender-blind cast in Jim Burke’s adaptation of Moby Dick. For the past few months, Anne-Marie has worked alongside a very talented group of artists as part of Black Theatre Workshop’s 2015-2016 Artist Mentorship Program. Other selected credits include the lead role in Sweeping Forward, a film which won the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Montreal World Film Festival; La ferme des humains, presented at the Rendez-vous du cinema québécois and at the Festival du nouveau cinéma in 2013; and the trilingual production of Quixote by Canis Tempus. You can see her next in the English production of Caisse 606, created by La Fille du laitier and translated by Jon Lachlan Stewart, which will be presented at the SpringWorks Festival in Stratford this month and at the Montreal Fringe Festival this June. She is absolutely delighted to be reading in The Baklawa Recipe, written by Pascale Rafie, translated by Melissa Bull, and directed by Emma Tibaldo, as part of Her Side of The Story. It is her first time working with Imago Theatre and she is thrilled to share the experience with such a wonderful cast and team!

Gitanjali_Jain Born in Mexico City, Gitanjali’s background is in theatre and voice. Highlights include a six-year stint performing as an aerialist, actor, and dancer in ARRA Montréal’s award winning ‘lalena on Maui, and attending l’École Internationale de Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Montreal theatre credits include The Bacchae and Medea at Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre, Othello at Segal Centre, Nuclear Sky: The Experiment at Title66 Productions, and Feste in Twelfth Night at Repercussion Theatre, a role that gained her a META nomination for Best Supporting Actress.






As a vocalist she has recorded and performed internationally with jazz saxophonist/composer Matana Roberts, with salsa and R&B singer Joe Battan, and can be heard singing with Roma Carnivale (Montreal Jazz Festival). She recently co-created Alicuanta – a staged song cycle which recounts the legacy of her great grandfather. Premiered at the Salle Gesù, Alicuanta was remounted at Aluna Theatre’s Panamerican Routes Festival in Toronto in 2014. The record was released last November. Most recently, she spent the winter giving a choir workshop in Santa Martha Acatitla’s female prison in Mexico City.

Mireille Tawfik is an actress and emerging author.  Her first playwas created in November 2010 at the MAI and toured until 2014, in and around Montreal.  M_Tawfik-0154p






Mireille is involved in the street theatre and intervention theatre milieus with companies such as Toxique Trottoir and Mise au Jeu. We have seen Mireille recently in Polyglotte by Olivier Choinière and in three staged readings: Talia Hallmona’s Olivier et Jamila at Rencontre de Théâtre Ados, Pascale Rafie’s La recette de baklavas on TdA’s main stage for Dramaturgies en dialogue and Darina Al Joundi’s Le jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter at Festival du Monde Arabe.  She toured around Canada and the United States for a year and a half with Theatre Motus’ Baobab, a play for young audiences.  Mireille has also starred in the TV show Les Bobos, and is presently writing her second play.


"Portrait Casting - UDA"

“Portrait Casting – UDA”

Natalie Tannous bounces from English to French projects, on screen, on the web and on stage. She performed in Refuge which premiered in Halifax with Eastern Front Theatre, was part of Teesri Duniya Theatre’s premiere of State of Denial and the English premiere of Province at the Centaur Theatre co-produced by Talisman Theatre and The Other Theatre. She is also part of the French cast of La recette de Baklawas.  On screen (web, TV, film), Natalie was cast in several projects. She is soon to be seen in Ara Ball’s short film Vie d’Ruelle, the feature film C’est le Coeur qui meurt en dernier and episodes of upcoming shows such as Mirador, and Les Simones. She was also cast in Nouvelle Adresse, Unité 9, Toute la vérité, 19-2, La galère, La marraine, La liste, In Sickness, Coming Out and Sex and Ethnicity but Natalie is most recognized as Fatima Mazari, an overbearing Egyptian mom on Télé-Québec’s teen hit show Subito Texto. Recently, she released her second short film which she produced, wrote and directed La prière and continues writing on her feature film

Raia Haidar




Raïa Haïdar is a Lebanese and french actress born in Paris and raised in The Gambia. She has starred in numerous short films, also in Jocelyn Saab’s What’s Going On?, Dima El Horr’s Everyday is a Holiday, and Ghassan Salhab’s The Last Man. She has written, produced and starred in the play Who killed Marilyn?. Raïa Haïdar teaches acting to children and adults, She has also worked behind the camera as a production designer and set decorator.







Nadia: Raïa Haïdar

Rita: Mireille Tawfik

Fanny: Gitanjali Jain

Naima: Natalie Tannous


Reading Director: Emma Tibaldo

Translation: Melissa Bull

Dramaturg: Elizabeth Bourget

Translation Dramaturg: Maureen Labonté

Sound: Michael Leon

(Following each reading there will be a talk-back session)

Maureen Labonté


Dramaturge Maureen Labonté has coordinated play development programmes in theatres and play development centres across the country. She was the Co-Director of the Playwrights’ Colony at the Banff Center from 2006 to 2012 and has taught at the National Theatre School of Canada since the mid-90’s. Maureen has translated over forty Quebec plays into English, including And Slowly Beauty (Talonbooks) by Michel Nadeau shortlisted for the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award in Translation.

"Long Table" Discussion


Bios of some of the featured playwrights for the cabaret. More to come!

Deena Aziz




Based in Montreal, Deena does a variety of things in various places in theatre and film. Stage credits as a performer include work with Imago Theatre, Geordie Productions, the Stratford Festival, Nightswimming, the National Arts Centre, Cahoots and Canadian Stage. TV/film credits include Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries, Guy Maddin’s silent film tribute Seances, the Syfy series Being Human and Helix, and the CBC drama This Life. Away from stage and camera, Deena has worked extensively as a dramaturge, coordinator and producer, and is an active champion for promoting equity and inclusion in the performing arts. She also likes words, and does a fair bit of editing.



Leslie Baker


Leslie Baker (reading), reading monologues from Skin by Emma Tibaldo and Joseph Shragge, from their adaptations of Seneca’s The Shortness of Life.

Born out of a fascination with the image of an illuminated doorway, Skin is a meditation on boundaries, borders and the shortness of life.  Using body, image, text and sound, Skin explores the significance and insignificance of the human experience within the vastness of earth and its atmosphere. In this performance installation we examine the edges of the architecture of our homes, psychology and the earth’s construct, we take a voyage from the earth’s core to the exosphere.


Corrina Hodgson


Corrie Headshot for Imago


A recent arrival in Montréal, by way of Toronto, New York and Vancouver, Corrina Hodgson is an award-winning playwright whose work has been produced across Canada and in the States, as well as on CBC Radio One. She has been published in numerous anthologies, including Lesbian Plays: Coming of Age in Canada (Rosalind Kerr, editor), the first collection of lesbian plays published in Canada. Corrina holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC, and has been on playwrighting units at Nightwood Theatre and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. She has been playwright in residence at The University of Lethbridge and the now-defunct Norcroft. Occasionally, she teaches a course that examines how traditional three-act structure further marginalizes oppressed voices called, Subverting the Canon: Writing Plays as though Sex, Class and Gender Really Mattered.

Marie Barlizo

Barlizo photo. Imago

Marie Leofeli R. Barlizo is the Artist-in-Residence at Black Theatre Workshop in dramaturgy for the 2015-2016 season. She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Optional-Residency Creative Writing MFA Program and holds a BFA in Theatre from Concordia University. She is the first visible minority to graduate from the National Theatre School’s Playwriting Program. Marie was the Associate Dramaturg at Nightswimming Theatre courtesy of the Metcalf Foundation Grant for Professional Development (2009) where she assisted Brian Quirt on all of Nightswimming’s projects. Her plays have been showcased at Playwrights Theatre Centre’s New Play Festival in Vancouver, fu-Gen Asian-Canadian Company’s Annual Potluck Festival in Toronto and at Factory Theatre‘s CrossCurrent Festival. She directed and produced her play Stroke at the 2015 Montreal Fringe Festival. She works as a freelance dramaturg and editor in Montreal. Currently, she is developing the plays YAYA (The Nanny), an adaptation of the myth of Orpheus, and Lucky.


Ann Lambert

Ann LambertAnn Lambert has written or co-written 23 stage and radio plays in the past 30 years. Her first play, The Wall, won first prize in the Ottawa Little Theatre National Playwriting Competition, and was produced at The Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa. Self Offense won seven awards at the Quebec Drama Festival, then went on to production in New York. She has written several dramas for CBC radio, including Force of Circumstance, which was broadcast in Australia in 1997. Her stage play, Parallel Lines, was featured at The 4th International Women Playwrights Conference in Galway, Ireland in 1997, and was produced at The University of Oklahoma that year as well.

Very Heaven was first produced at The Centaur Theatre in 1999, and received its European premiere at Focus Theatre in Dublin in 2004.  Very Heaven and The Mary Project, (co-written with Laura Mitchell), were featured at the Fifth International Women Playwrights Conference in Athens, Greece, in 2000, at infinitheatre in Montreal in 2001. The Mary Project then went on to open at LA MAMA in Melbourne, Australia in 2002 and was sold out for its entire run.

Two Short Women (which she also directed) was produced by Right Now ! in Montreal in 2007. It was featured in a double-bill with her very first play, The Wall, and enjoyed critical and popular success. The Assumption of Empire had a very successful workshop production in Montreal in 2009 at Mainline Theatre. Jocasta’s Noose, also directed by Ann, was named a Best Bet at the Montreal Fringe Festival in 2012, and Two Short Women was featured at the Women International Playwrights Conference in Stockholm, as well as at the Wildside Festival (Centaur Theatre) in 2013.

She has been teaching at Dawson College since 1991, where she also writes, directs and produces shows with The Dawson Theatre Collective which consistently play to sold out audiences. Their most recent show, HomoSimian, opened this week, and once again featured a cast of over 30 students. Ann is the former head of The Playwriting Program at the National Theatre School of Canada. (2002-2004)

Ann is the vice-president of The Theresa Foundation (www.theresafoundation.com), dedicated to supporting AIDS-orphaned children and their grandmothers in several villages in Malawi.


Rhiannon Collett



Rhiannon is a queer-identified playwright and performer based in Montreal, whose work explores misogyny, sexuality and ritual. She is currently a member of Playwright’s Workshop Montreal’s Young Creators Unit, and in 2014/15 was a part of Black Theatre Workshop’s Artist Mentorship Program. Rhiannon is the first commissioned artist of Nightswimming Theatre‘s 5x25 initiative. In March 2015 she wrote and performed in her solo show, GIRLHOUSE (Mainline Gala for Student Drama). She recently had the opportunity to read her monologue, Celia, at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre as a part of Nightwood Theatre’s Groundswell Unplugged festival. Her new play, Miranda & Dave Begin Again, directed by Jesse Stong, will premiere at the St. Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival in June 2016. Originally from North Vancouver, she was awarded the Jack Shadbolt Award for Multiple Arts Excellence in 2013.

Tina Milo

Tina headshot 1

Tina Milo is a theatre, film and TV actress, living in Montréal, QC.

Ms. Milo has over 20 years of experience performing and touring with different European theatre companies. Her most productive years as an actor, music composer and producer were with Belgrade`s Dah Theatre. She has toured all over Europe and the United States (Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Atlanta Olympic Arts Festival) and performed various theatre shows and work demonstrations. Recently she is performing her solo piece The Village, which brought her again international recognition but this time as a solo artist. She was representing Canadian Theatre at the Canada Day Celebration in Serbia and Montenegro, traveling with the Canadian Ambassador Mr. Philip Pennington and his team to Budva, Montenegro and performing at Budva the Theatre City Festival under the Canadian flag. She has influenced many of her peers by her passion and talents. She has also composed music for various theatre shows including her own, and has recorded them professionally.

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