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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. This fall she completed her short film, Still Life, and her first translation from French to English, September by Evelyne de la Chenelière, a commission from Canadian Stage. Last winter she conceived of and directed The Yuletide Sessions, a concert film for Calgary Opera. Recent seasons have included directing 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.

Up next: she is looking forward to inaugurating You Are the Music While the Music Lasts, an Acting Intensive for Opera Singers, at Calgary Opera.

For Nightswimming’s Pure Research program, Vanessa led an exploration of silence as a creative tool in the rehearsal process. 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 many other institutions.

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.

Other favourite directing work includes the world premiere of Gracie by Joan MacLeod (Belfry Theatre/ATP); 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).

Vanessa is bilingual in English and French and speaks Spanish.

Catherine Bourgeois (Montreal, QC)

After studying stage design at Option-Théâtre de Ste-Thérèse, Catherine Bourgeois completed a BA in stage design at the École supérieure de théâtre de l’UQAM, as well as a Master’s degree in directing at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. In 2003, she co-founded the company Joe Jack et John, and has designed and directed all of its productions since. She has also worked as an assistant to choreographer Margie Gillis and as Associate Director for Imago Theatre. Many of her creations have been presented to diverse audiences nationally and internationally. Catherine, who has also taught at the National Theatre School of Canada since 2017, has earned a reputation as a leader in the performing arts community for her unique aesthetic and the humanity of her casts. A member of Women for Equity in Theatre and the Feminist Worksite Steering Committee, she actively works and advocates for greater recognition of the practice of women and artists with disabilities.

Catherine is the recipient of the Prix artiste-mi-carrière from the Fondation de la Faculté des arts de l’UQAM (2018), the Amyot Award (2019) from the National Theatre School of Canada, a MECCAs award (2008), two Cochons d’or (Best Direction 2011 and 2014), and was a finalist for the Prix Jovette-Marchessault awarded by the Conseil des arts de Montréal.

Jenny Jimenez (Toronto, ON)

Jennifer is a community engaged artist with an extensive career as a national and international scenographer for live performance. She has worked with various theatre and dance companies in Canada and the UK including the Shaw Festival, The MT Space, InterArts Matrix, Ex Machina, The Circus Space, and the Arcola Theatre.  Her work has been seen in Germany, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt. She holds an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London, UK, a BFA in Theatre Production and Design, and BEd from York University. She has received an OAC Chalmers Award, has been twice nominated for the OAC Pauline McGibbon Award in Design, and is a member of the Associated Designers of Canada. She is an Assistant Professor in Dance Design, Technology and Production at York University’s School of Arts Media, Performance and Design.

Her research explores the intersection between participatory and inclusive performance, community development, and interdisciplinary practice. As Co-Founder of ADCID (Aiding Dramatic Change in Development) since 2008, she has worked towards sustainable community development, engaging groups locally and internationally, in participatory arts and dialogue. She has published and presented on Immersive and Inclusive Performance, Community Capacity Building and Asset Based Development. She has been a member of the International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR) and the Hemispheric Institute’s, Disability and Performance working groups, and IFTR’s Scenography Working Group. She is also the Co-artistic Director of Come to the Edge, an immersive participatory performance, challenging public perceptions of what is possible through performance by people with complex disabilities. This production toured Southern Ontario and was also featured in the PQ Talks at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance, Design and Space in 2019.

James Lavoie (Montreal, QC)

James is a Montréal based set and costume designer for theatre, circus and other live events. He has designed over 100 productions that have been experienced by live audiences in over 20 countries across five continents. James is currently the artist in residence in the set and costume design program at the National Theatre School of Canada for the 2021/22 academic year.

A regular collaborator of the Cirque Du Soleil, James has designed the costumes for their permanent show, JOYA in Riviera Maya, Mexico which has been playing continuously since 2014. In 2019 he designed the costumes for MESSI10, premiering in Barcelona before continuing on its world tour, and that same year he created the costumes for ‘Twas the Night Before, premiering at New York’s Madison  Square Gardens. James has also worked with the 7 Doigts de la Main to design the costumes for their show The Last Chapter in the United Arab Emirates. He has also regularly collaborated with the Chilean circus company Siete Comunicaciones to design sets and costumes for their South American tour from  2015-2018.

In theatre, James’ work has been recognized 6 times by the Montreal Critics Circle Awards (MECCA) and Montreal English theatre Awards (META) for best set and/or costume design. He has also received Ottawa’s Capital Critics Circle Award for best set and costume Design in 2014. His career has been  marked by his contribution to the creation of numerous new Canadian plays, including set and costume  design for: Jordan Tannahill’s Botticelli in the Fire and Sunday In Sodom at Canadian Stage, the English  language premiere of Olivier Choinière’s Bliss at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto, the English  language premiere of Catherine-Anne Toupin’s MOB at Centaur Theatre, Michael Mackenzie’s  Instructions to Any Future Socialist Government and Bryden McDonald’s Bated Breath also at the  Centaur Theatre, among many others. Other notable theatre productions include; set and costume design for Grease produced by Juste Pour Rire in Montréal, set and costume design for Innocence Lost at  Canada’s National Art’s Center and the Segal Center’s Sherlock featuring Jay Baruchel and the  subsequent North American tour featuring David Arquette.

James holds a MA Degree from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (London, UK) in Scenography: performance design and practice

Corey Payette (Vancouver, BC)

Corey Payette is proud of his Oji-Cree heritage from Northern Ontario and has worked as a playwright, actor, composer, and director across Canada. He is the Artistic Director of Urban Ink, past Artist-in-Residence with National Arts Centre [NAC] English Theatre, and is the founding Artistic Director of Raven Theatre. Selected credits: Children of God (Urban Ink, NAC English Theatre, Citadel Theatre, Western Canada Theatre, Segal Centre), Moonlodge (Urban Ink/NAC English Theatre), Our Town (Caravan Farm Theatre), Les Filles du Roi (Urban Ink/Raven Theatre), and Sedna (Urban Ink/Caravan Farm Theatre). He is currently directing his first documentary feature Stories that Transform Us for Urban Ink. His next new musicals have been commissioned by Musical Stage Company (Toronto), Bard on the Beach (Vancouver), and the Stratford Festival. He was awarded the John Hirsch Prize from the Canada Council, Jessie Awards for Composition and Direction, Ovation Awards for Best New Musical and Outstanding Direction, and most recently was a recipient of the BC Award for Reconciliation.

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