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It all starts with a story. As the performing arts industry embraces a more nuanced understanding of representation and acknowledges the importance of narrative sovereignty, the question is raised; who gets to tell whose story?

The Siminovitch Forum on Identity & Storytelling was held on May 25th where leading voices in the performing arts spoke about issues of representation, identity, and the future of Canadian storytelling.

ahdri zhina mandiela is a Toronto/Tobago based dub poet, theatre producer, and artistic director. She is acclaimed for her books, music recordings, film, theatre and dance productions. mandiela is co-owner of sandyBush creative, and was the founder and artistic director of “b current”, a not-for-profit performance arts company in Toronto.

Andrew Kushnir is an actor, playwright, director, as well as artistic director of the socially-engaged theatre company Project: Humanity (PH) in Toronto. Since 2021, he has steered PH’s Proximity Lab, an incubator for new approaches to verbatim theatre — a form he has been working in for 15 years. He has collaborated on two books coming out in 2022: Moving the Centre: Two Plays: Small Axe and Freedom Singer (Talon Books, with Khari Wendell McClelland) and Hope in a Collapsing World (U of T Press, with Kathleen Gallagher). Andrew is the creator and host of This Is Something Else – an investigative theatre history podcast for the Arts Club. He is a graduate of the University of Alberta, a Loran Scholar and alumnist of the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction at the Stratford Festival. Andrew is the inaugural recipient of the Shevchenko Foundation REACH residency prize.

Martha Chaves is a Latin-Canadian-LGBTQ award-winning comedian, actor, activist, and playwright. She’s known throughout Canada for her coast-to-coast stand-up tours, her many appearances on the Just for Laughs Festival, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, The Debaters, and as a regular cast member of the hit CBC show Because News. Martha won Stand-up Comic of the Year at the 2018 Canadian Comedy Awards, and her comedy album, CHUNKY SALSA, was featured among the 11 Best Comedy Albums of 2019 (Interrobang Magazine.)

Tara Beagan is a proud halfbreed – Ntlaka’pamux and Irish “Canadian.” She is cofounder/director of ARTICLE 11 with Andy Moro. Beagan served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts from February 2011 to December 2013. Beagan has been in residence at Cahoots Theatre (Toronto), NEPA (Toronto), the National Arts Centre (Ottawa) and Berton House (Dawson City, Yukon), Prairie Theatre Exchange (Winnipeg) and three time participant at the Banff Playwrights Lab. Seven of her 33 plays are published. Two plays have received Dora Award nominations (one win). She is the 2020 Laureate of the Siminovitch Prize.

Marcus Youssef’s fifteen or so plays have been produced in multiple languages in more than twenty countries across North America, Europe and Asia. He is the recipient of the Siminovitch Prize for Theatre, as well as Berlin, Germany’s Ikarus Prize, the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award, the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award, and the Chalmers’ Canadian Play Award, among others. Marcus co-founded the East Vancouver production hub Progress Lab 1422 and is currently International Artistic Associate at Farnham Maltings in the UK, Playwright in Residence at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, and Artistic Associate at Neworld Theatre in Vancouver, which he led from 2005-2019.

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