Being awarded a Johanna opened doors and propelled my theatre work to the next level. It was a fantastic burst of encouragement at a time when I needed it — a “keep going” in an industry full of “just give ups.” The prize money helped me take some artistic risks, which have truly paid off.
2019 Johanna Winner
The last two years have been an unimaginable period for the arts and artists. We are delighted by this opportunity, once again, to celebrate some truly remarkable artists. While we are still in the midst of regaining our footing in many respects, we hope this can be a moment of inspiration and optimism for what lies ahead. Let’s continue to seek, as Johanna always did, truths and transformations in the magic of theatre, music, and dance.
Board Chair, Metcalf Foundation
Marilo Nuñez is a Chilean Canadian playwright, director, dramaturge, and scholar. She is the 2022-23 Playwright-in-Residence at Carousel Players and has been a member of playwright units at Factory Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Alameda Theatre Company, and Nightwood Theatre. She was Aluna Theatre’s Playwright-in-Residence in 2015 and 2021, and McMaster University’s first Playwright-in-Residence in 2018.
Marilo is the recipient of the Hamilton Arts Awards for Established Theatre Artist. She is the only Canadian workshop facilitator using the Fornés Method to teach playwriting at theatres and universities across the country. She was Founding Artistic Director of Alameda Theatre Company, a company dedicated to developing the new work of Latinx Canadian playwrights. Marilo’s play El Retorno/I Return has been turned into a podcast for Radio Aluna Theatre. Three Fingered Jack and the Legend of Joaquín Murieta is published in the anthology Fronteras Vivientes by Playwrights Canada Press. Her short stories have been published in The New Quarterly Magazine and PANK Magazine. She is co-editor of an upcoming issue of the Canadian Theatre Review, with a focus on casting and race.
Marilo has an MFA in Creative Writing and is currently obtaining her PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies at York University.
Toronto-based stage director Ravi Jain is a multi-award-winning artist known for making politically bold and accessible theatrical experiences in both small indie productions and large theatres. As the Founding Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre, Ravi is well-known for his inventive productions, international collaborations, and innovative producing models aimed at better supporting emerging artists to make money from their art.
As a director, Ravi’s work has been critically acclaimed for its innovation and accessibility. Select credits include, for Why Not Theatre: A Brimful of Asha, Prince Hamlet, Like Mother Like Daughter (Complicite/Why Not Theatre); for Soulpepper: Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Animal Farm; for The Theatre Centre: Alanna Mitchell’s Sea Sick; for Shaw Festival: Lisa Codrington’s The Adventures of The Black Girl in Her Search for God, Sarena Parmar’s The Orchard After Chekhov; and for Factory Theatre: Salt-Water Moon. He recently directed R + J (Stratford Festival), co-directed a filmed version of a new play with acclaimed environmentalists David Suzuki and Tara Cullis, and is currently co-adapting The Mahabharata (Why Not Theatre/Shaw Festival).
Ravi was shortlisted for the 2016 and 2019 Siminovitch Prize, and won the 2012 Pauline McGibbon Award for Emerging Director and the 2016 Canada Council for the Arts’ John Hirsch Prize for Direction. He is a graduate of the two-year program at École Jacques Lecoq.
iskwē | ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ is, among many other things, a Juno-award winning artist – a creator and communicator of music and movement, pictures, poetry and prose. Through it all, she’s a teller of stories that have impacted our past and will inform our future.
iskwē’s music is a sonic exploration that not only blurs lines between sources and styles, but also between the actual and the ideal, the real and imagined. Her message is most impactful when delivered from the stage, where it’s not uncommon for people to leave in entranced contemplation or even in tears. Her music merges with dance, multimedia, and more in a completely engulfing and cathartic experience – meant to bring people together and celebrate that which unites over that which divides us.
iskwē is Cree Métis from Treaty One Territory. She was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is an urban Indigenous two-spirited woman from the Red River Valley, the birthplace of the Métis Nation.
A highly accomplished arts leader, innovator, and creator, Sandra Laronde is a multidisciplinary artist working as a director, producer, choreographer, author, digital storyteller, and as the founder and Artistic Director of Red Sky Performance. She is from the Teme-Augama-Anishinaabe (People of the Deep Water) in Temagami in northern Ontario and based in Toronto.
Sandra drives her passion unwaveringly forward to elevate Ontario arts while playing a pivotal role in the ongoing Indigenous cultural resurgence in Ontario, Canada, and beyond. For three decades and counting, her work highlights the power of contemporary Indigenous performance, enabling new creations to expand the scope of Indigenous-led work in Ontario while strengthening a worldwide presence.
Active in diplomacy, Sandra has represented Canada at international platforms including UNCEDED: Voices of the Land at the Venice Biennale, two Cultural Olympiads (Canada and Beijing), Canadian Heritage’s first Creative Industries Trade Mission to China (2018) and Trade Mission to Europe (2022), and as an official delegate and speaker at the ASSITEJ World Congress in Soweto.
Currently, she serves on the Boards of TO Live Foundation, TELUS Community Foundation, Temagami Community Foundation, Verity Circle on TRC, and on the Steering Committee of the CSC Global Leaders 2023 to build leadership capacity across the Commonwealth.
Ian Cusson is a composer of art song, opera, and orchestral work. Of Métis (Georgian Bay Métis Community) and French-Canadian descent, his work explores the Canadian Indigenous experience including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures.
Ian studied composition with Jake Heggie (San Francisco) and Samuel Dolin, and piano with James Anagnoson at the Glenn Gould School. He is the recipient of a Chalmers Professional Development grant and various grants through the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council.
Ian was an inaugural Carrefour Composer-in-Residence with the National Arts Centre Orchestra for 2017-2019 and was Composer-in-Residence for the Canadian Opera Company for 2019-2021. He is a Co-Artistic Director of Opera in the 21st Century at the Banff Centre and the recipient of the 2021 Jan V. Matejcek Classical Music Award from SOCAN.
Ian is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers. He lives in Oakville with his wife and four children.
Margarita Valderrama (protégé of Marilo Nuñez) is a Colombian, Dora Award-nominated actor, writer, and filmmaker based in Tkaronto. Her first short film Date Night won the ACTRA Toronto Shorts Competition and premiered at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival in 2019. Since then, the film has received official selection from the New York Latino Film Festival, the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, and the Breakthroughs Film Festival, among others across Turtle Island.
Margarita completed Factory Theatre’s playwriting unit, The Foundry, and two playwriting residencies through Aluna Theatre. She showcased an adaptation of her play One Perfect Day | Un día perfecto for Aluna Theatre’s CAMINOS 2021 in a TikTok telenovela where she played all seven roles. Margarita was also selected for the 2020 Netflix-Banff Diversity of Voices Initiative Professional Development Program.
Selected acting credits include voicing Lime Chiffon on Strawberry Shortcake: Berry in the Big City, Lia Venegas on Bakugan: Battle Planet, Hayley Daily on Paw Patrol, and theatre work includes: El Retorno/I Return (Aluna Theatre – Radio Play), Rochdale (SummerWorks), and Meet Cute (Roseneath Theatre).
Aaron Jan (protégé of Ravi Jain) is a Hamilton-born playwright, director, dramaturg, and educator. He has worked as a creator with Factory Theatre, Soulpepper, York University, Boca Del Lupo, fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, the Musical Stage Company, Canadian Stage, Theatre Erindale, Sheridan College, and most recently as a guest director at the Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University.
A member of the critically acclaimed Silk Bath Collective, Aaron is the 2019 winner of the Ken McDougall Award, the 2021 inaugural co-winner of Highland Arts Theatre’s Rita Joe Canadian Playwriting Award, the 2022 winner of the Urjo Kareda Award, and a co-recipient of The Musical Stage Company’s Aubrey and Marla Dan Fund for New Musicals.
Alongside Karen Ancheta, Aaron is a co-founder of Porch Light Theatre (currently a Company-in-Residence at Theatre Aquarius), and is dedicated to making his hometown a place where professional theatre artists can make new work and be compensated fairly for it.
Zeegwon “Zee” Shilling (protégé of iskwē) is a 16-year-old Anishinaabe (Wasauksing First Nation) actor, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who is just beginning to share his voice with the world. Since he was a small child, Zee has expressed his passion for music and performance as a self-taught pianist, vocalist, and actor.
In 2018, he was captured on camera singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which went viral, garnering over 100,000 views in 3 days. In 2019, Zee made his television acting debut as a guest star on the second season of CBC’s Coroner. In the coming months, he will appear in a lead role for a new series being produced by Apple TV.
Zee has expanded his musical expression to heartfelt songwriting beyond his years, guitar playing, and recently, recording. When he had an opportunity to meet and perform with iskwē on stage, a fire was fanned in him to continue to develop and share his musical gifts with the world. Zee has always expressed immense cultural pride and vision of his Anishinaabe identity, admiring the many great Indigenous musical talents that have come before him, as well as the many art forms of his people.
Aria Evans (protégé of Sandra Laronde) is an award-winning, queer, Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist working in dance, theatre, and film. Aria is a certified Intimacy Coordinator and draws on their experiences of being multiracial (Afro-Indigenous, settler) to capture meaningful social and cultural themes through their interactive art. With a large-scale vision, collaboration is the departure point to their work created under their company POLITICAL MOVEMENT.
Aria is the current Metcalf Artistic Director Intern with Soulpepper. Their works have been presented locally and internationally. Aria was the Co-Artistic Director of hub14 from 2013-2018 and the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and Canada Council for the Arts have supported their endeavours, as well as the National Arts Centre, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Why Not Theatre, Volcano Theatre, Nightswimming Theatre, Jumblies Theatre, Native Earth Performing Arts, Nova Dance, b current, and many more.
As an active speaker, facilitator, and curator, Aria advocates for inclusion and the representation of diversity, and uses their artistic practice to question the ways we can coexist together.
Beverley McKiver (protégé of Ian Cusson) is an Ottawa-based composer, pianist, and teacher, originally from northwestern Ontario. She is a member of Lac Seul First Nation in Treaty Three. A lifelong pianist, Beverley began composing later in life following a lengthy career in information technology. She explores themes of connection to the land, identity, and recovery of Indigenous knowledge through her compositions for singers, instrumental ensembles, and solo piano.
Beverley’s Boozhoo Manoomin suite for instrumental ensemble — presented at Native Earth Performing Arts in 2018 — expresses the importance of manoomin to the Anishinaabeg. In 2019, Jumblies Theatre and Soundstreams commissioned her to write the Odaabaanag song cycle for community choir based on stories about residential schools by three elders. The Canada Council for the Arts funded Beverley’s Canadian Floral Emblems suite in 2020. Six of these pieces were later arranged and performed by Dominion Carillonneur Dr. Andrea McCrady for the Peace Tower Carillon. Timelines, a recent collaboration with Ottawa pianist/composer Debra Grass, explores their shared history within Canada through their suite of compositions for two pianos.
Beverley is currently working on an art song cycle, River Tales: One Day, Forever, with Ottawa poet Wendy Duschenes and mezzo-soprano Dr. Andrea Kovago.
With a string of firsts in Asian Canadian theatre, Nina Lee Aquino was the Founding Artistic Director of fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre Company, organized the first Asian Canadian theatre conference, edited the first (2-volume) Asian Canadian play anthology, and co-edited the first (award-winning) book on Asian Canadian theatre.
Previously the Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre, Nina is the current Artistic Director of Factory Theatre, and is the incoming Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre English Theatre. She also serves as the President of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres.
Nina has directed at theatres across the country and has won the Ken McDougall Award, the John Hirsch Prize, the 2018-19 Toronto Theatre Critics Awards for Best Director, and three Dora Awards for Outstanding Direction. Nina co-wrote Miss Orient(ed) and her monologues have been published in Beyond the Pale (edited by Yvette Nolan) and She Speaks (edited by Judith Thompson).
Nina has taught and directed at educational institutions in Toronto and was recently appointed Adjunct Professor at York University’s Department of Theatre. She is the 2019 recipient of the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Margo Bindhart and Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award.
Natasha Bakht is an Indian contemporary dancer and choreographer who trained in bharata natyam under the late Governor General’s Performing Arts laureate Menaka Thakkar, touring internationally with her company. As a member of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance in London, England, she performed in celebrated venues around the world. She has been described as “a brilliant diamond” (Dance Current), a “powerhouse” (Hindustan Times), and “all honed to the bone elegance and precision” (Vancouver Sun).
Natasha’s choreography includes solos and group works commissioned by the Menaka Thakkar Dance Company, the CanAsian International Dance Festival, Sampradaya Dance Creations, and Fall for Dance North. Her dances have been the subject of two films by Mouvement Perpétuel and have been screened in film festivals globally. She has published and given lectures examining Canada’s history and contemporary practice with racialized and Indigenous artists.
Natasha is an award-winning artist (Dora Award nominations, 2003 and 2010; K.M. Hunter Artists Award, 2008; Ottawa Arts Council Mid-Career Artist Award finalist, 2018). She is a founding member of Ottawa Dance Directive. Judith Mackrell of The Guardian noted, “…the combination of delicacy and power, reserve and boldness, assertion and grace in her dancing speak not only of her own history but of a whole changing art form.”
John Kameel Farah is a composer and pianist who embraces aspects of Baroque and Early Music, Middle-Eastern Music, Improvisation, and all forms of Electronic Music. Born in Brampton, Ontario, he studied composition and piano at the University of Toronto, where he received the Glenn Gould Composition Award. In 1999 he studied privately with Terry Riley in California, and later at the Arabic Music Retreat in Connecticut.
In concert, John combines the piano with synthesizers and electronics, moving freely between improvisations, soundscapes, and driving, asymmetrical rhythms, referring to it as “Baroque-Middle-Eastern-Cyberpunk.” He also presents his project Music for Organ and Synthesizers in churches across Canada and Europe.
Collaborations include performing for rising ballet star Robert Binet and iconic choreographer Peggy Baker, for which John received a Dora Award in 2016. He composed soundtracks for simulations of galaxy formations and collisions by astrophysicist John Dubinski, and became a member of the Canadian Electronic Ensemble in 2010. He performs regularly across Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America, and has performed in South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, and Israel/Palestine, giving master-classes at the Edward Said National Conservatory in 2003.
John is currently doing a composition residency with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, performing his new piano concerto with them in 2023.
Better known as YAO, Yaovi Hoyi is an artist and entrepreneur active on the Canadian and international music stage.
With a musical style weaving between slam, soul, and funk, and a deep baritone voice delivering richly layered texts, YAO has successfully carved a niche for himself within Canada’s French-language scene, receiving numerous awards and nominations (Trille Or, SPACQ, Contact Ontarois), while making his music widely heard beyond our borders (France, Madagascar, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Cape Verde).
A passionate believer in the power of art as a tool for social change, YAO’s pursuits extend far beyond the stage. As the head of Intello-Productions Inc., he was awarded the Commemorative Medal of the Senate in 2017 in recognition of his community involvement, art, and work to promote cultural diversity across the country. By virtue of his tireless work as an artist in schools, he received an Artist Educator Award from the Ontario Arts Foundation in 2018.
Established in 2010, Intello-Productions Inc. is both a record label and a consulting firm. It offers album production, artist management, and concert production services, in addition to cultural animation (master of ceremonies, master classes, workshops, and conferences), cultural mediation, and specialized consulting services in communications and event logistics.
Rosina Kazi is the lead singer of the protest electronic duo LAL, who were long listed for the Polaris Prize for 2019 and 2021. They/she are a queer/gender fluid, culturally Muslim and Bengali identified artist. Rosina helps run the alternative DIT (Do It Together) community and arts accessible (physically and financially) Unit 2, a space dedicated to supporting QT2SBIPOC and friends in order to support an arts ecosystem.
Rosina also co-curates shows, participates in theatre and other collaborative art making practices, and runs workshops around sound, recording, and poetry. Rosina released her first solo dance/electronic album called Basic Income in 2021. She/they have curated for Luminato Festival, Mayworks Festival, and Bricks and Glitter festival while releasing music, playing live, building new worlds, and supporting emerging and established artists.
Rosina was born and currently lives in the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Lenni-Lenape, and the Wendat Nations.
For over 40 years, Marie-Thé Morin has acted, sung, performed, and written many creations. A jack-of-all-trades, the co-founder of Vox Théâtre in Ottawa (1979) is also a puppeteer, storyteller, and translator.
Marie-Thé has played dozens of characters in her career, notably in Toutou, La Miss et la Madame, and Oz at Vox Théâtre, Lavalléville for Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, and Maïta for Théâtre de la Vieille 17 and Théâtre de Sable. She has received several awards, including the Rideau Award for Performance of the Year in 2017 (Le gars qui voulait se faire phénix).
Winner of the 2016 Prix Dramaturgie en chantier for her poetic play Les couleurs de Floyd, Marie-Thé has written plays, novels, tales, screenplays, songs, stage adaptations, and translations. Her miniseries Eaux turbulentes was televised on Ici Radio-Canada in 2019-2020. The first volume of a trilogy, her novel Errances, was published by Éditions Prise de parole in 2021. She translated Joan MacLeod’s Another Home Invasion (Intrusions in French), a production of Théâtre de la Vieille 17 and Théâtre populaire d’Acadie, and Dave Deveau’s Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls (Mesdames et messieurs, garçons et filles in French), a production of VOX Théâtre.
Artistic Director of KasheDance and Program Manager at Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO), Kevin A. Ormsby has performed with companies in Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean. He has been featured in works by Marie-Josée Chartier, Allison Cummings, Patrick Parson, Ronald Taylor, Ron K. Brown, Menaka Thakkar, Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones, Garth Fagan, Liz Lerman, Bageshree Vaze, and Lemi Ponifasio, among others.
A recipient of Canada Council for the Arts’ Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award and named an inaugural TAC Cultural Leaders Fellow, Kevin is on the faculty of Centennial College’s Dance Performance Program, and has been a Guest Artist-in-Residence at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at the University of the West Indies (Mona), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Northwestern University. His research and creative practice through KasheDance’s technical approach exists in a space of constant interrogation and navigation of Caribbean cultural nuances towards a methodology of understanding space in creation, research, and presentation.
Kevin is on the Boards of Dance Collection Danse and Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, and has served on the Boards of Canadian Dance Assembly, Prologue to the Performing Arts, and Nia Centre for the Arts, where he was Chair of Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary centre for African-Canadian art.
Juliet Palmer’s music has come to life under a highway off-ramp, in a swimming pool, in the plastic flotsam of a remote beach, and in concert halls across North America, Europe, and Oceania. Originally from Aotearoa New Zealand, she makes her home in Toronto where she is the Artistic Director of Urbanvessel, a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration.
Recent works: Choreography of Trauma (Element Choir and Continuum ensemble); Oil & Water (Detroit Symphony Orchestra); Every Word Was Once An Animal with artist Carla Bengtson and choreographer Darion Smith (Jordan Schnitzer Museum, Oregon); Ukiyo, floating world (Urbanvessel and Thin Edge New Music); and the a cappella opera Sweat (CalArts, Los Angeles; Bicycle Opera, Canada; National Sawdust, New York).
Juliet was Composer-in-Residence at the New Zealand School of Music and Orchestra Wellington (2011-12), and an OAC Artist-in-Residence at Sunnybrook Research Institute (2018). She was the winner of the Detroit Symphony’s Elaine 2018 Lebenbom Award, and was a Chalmers Arts Fellow (2018-19).
Juliet holds a PhD in composition from Princeton University and an MMus in performance, composition, and time-based art from Auckland University.
Anishinaabe Elder Peter “Alo” White is the founder and conductor of the Ki’eshgitabaaning Cultural and Healing Lodge on Lake of the Woods, Ontario — a teaching lodge dedicated to keeping Anishinaabe culture and traditions alive.
He grew up immersed in traditional ceremonies, stories, songs, history, and traditional medicine from his late father, Alphonse White, and his late uncles and aunties from the White family. Alo is the spiritual guide and conductor of sacred ceremonies such as the Cheeskaan (shaking tent), sweat lodge, and teaching lodge. He has shared his traditional knowledge with people in both Canada and the United States, facilitating and conducting traditional workshops for over 40 years.
Alo is an original member of the renowned Whitefish Bay Singers and started the traditional drum group Lynx Clan. He is a drum keeper, a grass dancer, and a master of ceremonies (MC) for numerous pow-wows.
As owner of Alo White Recording Studio, Alo records and produces Elder traditional songs and has recorded four of his own albums, along with 15 albums from other Elders. In addition to song recordings, he produces Elder preservation videos with English subtitles and Elder podcasts.
Norman Yeung is a writer, actor, and filmmaker devoted to creating opportunities for underrepresented people. His play Theory premiered at Tarragon Theatre and had an American premiere by Mosaic Theater Company of Washington, DC. Theory won The Voaden Prize, was nominated for the Carol Bolt Award, and is published by Playwrights Canada Press. Pu-Erh received four Dora Award nominations, including Outstanding New Play, and was a finalist for The Voaden Prize.
Other plays and performance pieces include The Zoonotic Story (Stratford Festival/National Arts Centre), I Know I’m Supposed to Love You (Touchstone Theatre), Deirdre Dear (LaBute New Theater Festival, St. Louis), In this moment (Scotiabank Nuit Blanche), and Black Blood (Tapestry Opera). Theory and Ms. Desjardins were recorded as audio dramas for PlayME/CBC. Norman is Playwright-in-Residence at Outside the March to write Eunuch X Pirate, and has been a member of playwright/creator units at Stratford Festival, Tarragon Theatre, fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre Company, Tapestry Opera, Canadian Stage, and Crow’s Theatre & Mongrel Media Loughborough Lake Writer’s Retreat. He is performing at the Stratford Festival in 2022.
Norman holds an Honours BFA in Film from Ryerson University and a BFA in Acting/Theatre from UBC. Norman was born in Guangzhou, grew up in East Vancouver, and lives in Tkaronto/Toronto.