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Vanessa Porteous, Jury Chair (Calgary, AB)

Vanessa is a director of theatre and opera, an educator, an arts leader, and a dramaturg based in Calgary. In recent seasons, she directed the world premiere of Between Us by Meg Farhall and Michael Rolfe (Handsome Alice), Amahl and the Night Visitors (Calgary Opera), the world premiere of Bronte: The World Without by Jordi Mand (Stratford Festival), the world premiere of the English language version of To the Light by Evelyne de la Chenelière, translated by John Murrell (Alberta Theatre Projects), and The Humans at Theatre Calgary.

From 2009 – 2017 she was Artistic Director at Alberta Theatre Projects, after spending ten years at the company in other capacities. As a dramaturg she has participated in the Banff Playwrights Colony (now the Banff Playwrights’ Lab) more than fifteen times.

For Nightswimming’s Pure Research program, Vanessa led an exploration of silence as a creative tool in a rehearsal process. Recently she team taught a class on the actor-director relationship with Jordan Pettle for She also teaches at the University of Calgary and has taught for ArtsTrek and Dramaworks among other institutions.

Other favourite directing work includes the world premiere of Gracie by Joan MacLeod (ATP/Belfry Theatre); the world premiere of Cockroach by Jonathan Garfinkel, based on the novel by Rawi Hage (ATP), the English language world premiere of Christina The Girl King by Michel Marc Bouchard, translated by Linda Gaboriau (Stratford Festival), the English language world premiere of You Will Remember Me by François Archambault translated by Bobby Theodore (ATP), Red (Betty Mitchell Award, Directing, ATP), The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (ATP, Arts Club Theatre), When That I Was (Betty Mitchell Award, Directing, The Shakespeare Company), the world premieres of The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan (ATP, twice) and Pinocchio by The Old Trout Puppet Workshop (ATP, Magnetic North Theatre Festival), The Syringa Tree (ATP, twice, Thousand Islands Playhouse), and The Enchanted Child (L’enfant et les sortileges) (Calgary Opera).

With film-maker Sandi Somers, Vanessa is working on her first short film, Greet the Dawn, to be released in Fall/Winter 2020. Vanessa is bilingual in English and French and speaks Spanish.

Jessica Carmichael (Montreal, QC)

Jessica is an artist of mixed Abénaki/Euro heritage. She specializes in theatre directing, acting, dramaturgy and creation. She currently holds a tenure-track assistant professor position with Concordia University’s Theatre Department in Montréal. For three seasons Jessica was Artistic Director of Carousel Players, and is a past artistic associate with Native Earth Performing Arts. She is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada (Acting), the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art/Kings College London (MA Text & Performance Studies) the University of Alberta (MFA Directing). She currently serves as dramaturg for Jani Lauzon and Kaitlyn Riordan’s 1939 commissioned by the Stratford Festival.

Julie McIsaac (Vancouver, BC)

Of French, Scottish-Irish and Scandinavian descent, Julie was raised in Ontario on the traditional territories of the Wendat, Anishinabek, and Haudenosaunee Confederacy. A versatile director, dramaturg, and creator of opera and theatre, she is a graduate of the University of York, UK (MA Theatre), Carleton University (Music) and the Canadian College of Performing Arts. She is the inaugural Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence at the Canadian Opera Company, where she will stage the world premiere of Fantasma (Cusson/Murphy) next season and recently assisted Joel Ivany on his new production of Hansel and Gretel. Her directing highlights include the world premiere of Beauty’s Beast (East Van Opera), Le nozze di Figaro (Opera Studio), The Exquisite Hour (Relephant Theatre – Playhouse Fringe award), Pride and Prejudice (Chemainus Theatre Festival) and the multiple award-winning Poly Queer Love Ballad by Sara Vickruck and Anais West. She is also Associate Director of Corey Payette’s Children of God (Urban Ink) and completed a residency in opera stage direction at Pacific Opera Victoria 2016-18, where she was mentored by Atom Egoyan, Maria Lamont and Peter Hinton, assisting on productions of JenůfaLa Bohème, and the new Canadian chamber opera Missing (Current/Clements). As a creator: co-bookwriter & co-lyricist of Les Filles du Roi (Fugue/Raven/Urban Ink/Cultch, 2018 BroadwayWorld Vancouver award for Best New Work); playwright and Jessie-award winning composer/arranger, musical director and co-sound designer of The Out Vigil (2016).

Olivier Sylvestre (Montreal, QC)

Writer and translator Olivier Sylvestre has a B.A. in Criminology from l’Université de Montréal, in addition to a diploma in Playwriting from The National Theatre School of Canada. His first play, La beauté du monde (Leméac) was awarded the Gratien-Gélinas Prize and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards. Hamac published a collection of his stories, Noms fictifs (a finalist for the Québec Booksellers Award, Novel Category, and of The Governor General’s Literary Awards, and winner of the First Novel of Chambéry) and  Le désert, as well as two of his plays, La loi de la gravité (winner of several prizes, produced in Québec and Europe, translated into English and German) and Guide d’éducation sexuelle pour le nouveau millénaire,  which was created at Montréal’s Théâtre Denise-Pelletier in 2020. Dans la forêt disparue, his most recent work for general audiences, was awarded l’Aide à la création d’ARTCENA 2019 and he directed his latest play, Les sentinelles at the Théâtre Université de Montréal in 2020. He also leads many writing workshops and works with several playwrights.

Donald Woo (Toronto, ON)

Donald Woo is a Toronto-based playwright of Chinese and French-Canadian heritage who was born in Montreal and grew up in Laval, Quebec. He attended the Playwriting Program of the National Theatre School of Canada from 1998 to 2000 and dropped out to live and work in the UK and France before settling in Toronto. He developed work with fu-GEN Theatre for several years and was a member of playwriting units for Cahoots Theatre and Tarragon Theatre. He served as Associate Artistic Director for Cahoots Theatre for one season and was a playwriting coach for three seasons with the Théâtre français de Toronto. Most recently, he has worked with Théâtre Action as a playwright and as a dramaturge. He is currently rewriting his body of work in both French and English and is planning for the eventual launch of a theatre company.

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