Even the busiest artists need a break! Take Five with some of the hardest working and celebrated individuals in the performing arts scene today. We ask them a series of five questions to learn what inspires them and how their careers have been influenced by fellow community members.
Joanne Vannicola is an Emmy award-winning Canadian actor and writer, who has been working in film, television, and theatre since she was eight years old. She has also been nominated for a Genie, a Gemini, an ACTRA award, and received the Leslie Yeo award for volunteerism on June 3rd, 2019. Joanne is a long-time advocate for the LGBTQ community and has an essay in the anthology Cuarenta y Nueve, a book by 49 artists for the 49 victims of the Orlando Pulse club massacre. She is the Chair of the first LGBTQ+ committee for the actors union, ACTRA, and sits on the sexual assault ad-hoc committee at ACTRA for women in film and television. She is a recipient of the Ontario Arts Council Grant in 2016—Writer’s Works in Progress for her memoir. Joanne was selected for the Diaspora Dialogues Program in 2013 and worked with author David Layton for six months.
Tricia Black is originally from the east coast. She studied improvisation, sketch and musical improvisation at Second City Toronto & Chicago. She writes, composes and produces original Canadian musicals with her theatre company, Tweed & Company Theatre. She was a long time member of Toronto’s sketch troupe “The Sketchersons”, an ensemble member of the queer sketch show “ A Sketch Comedy Extravaganza Elaganza”, which was named one of the Top Five Comedy shows of 2018 by Now Magazine, and won a Canadian Comedy Award for Best Live Production. She could recently be seen performing with the Canadian Comedy Award Winning show for Best Ensemble, “She The People” (Second City). And you may also know her as Jane from that Lotto Max commercial!
Tarah is an actor and voice performer based in Toronto and Los Angeles. She’s an alumna of the Second City Touring Co. where she performed in The Best of Second City and Abbreviation Nation. She also co-wrote, produced and starred in the Award-Winning web series So Awkward. Selected Film & TV credits: Running Mates (opposite Henry Winkler and DJ Qualls, where she won Best Supporting Actress – MockFest Film Fest), Impulse (NBC Universal/YouTube Originals), Flatliners (Columbia/SONY), The Cat in The Hat Knows A Lot About That! (PBS Kids), Get Blake (Nickelodeon), SuperWhy! (PBS Kids), Crash Canyon (MTV), Breathing Through A Straw, Best Ed, Dan For Mayor (CTV), Train48 (Global), Run Robot Run, and The Ron James Show (CBC). She also lends her voice to the audiobook trilogy Masterminds by Gordon Korman, and R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. She has performed at various comedy venues in Los Angeles such as iO West and The Upright Citizens Brigade with her improv troupe, Brunch. Tarah is a graduate of York University.
KAREN KAEJA (CO-ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, CHOREOGRAPHER, PVD CONCEPT) is an award-winning performer for stage and film, choreographer, community builder, project instigator and educator. Co-AD of Kaeja d’Dance with Allen Kaeja, her awards include the CDA “I Love Dance” Community Award for her invention of Porch View Dances (PVD) and the Fleck Fellowship for Innovation. A 7-time Dora Mavor Moore nominee for Choreography and Performance, including 4 Dora’s for Crave which won one, plus another for XTOD: Solo Dance Xchange (SDX), she is distinguished in The Canadian Who’s Who, was a finalist for the TAF Muriel Sherrin Award for International achievement in dance, the CDA Innovation Award, and NOW’s Best Local Choreographer and Best Dance Company. Her work is presented around the world, including residencies at MUN/Dance NL, the Guelph Dance Festival (GDF), DJD – Calgary, Banff Centre for the Arts (6X) and Mukogawa Women’s University – Japan (3X). She is an International performer with recent tours in Mexico and Japan. Karen has created 16 original Porch View Dances works with brave and beautiful families and community members. Mentor to many instrumental dance artists, Karen is also Co-AD with Claudia Moore of Cloud 9 and Artistic Advisor for Jaberi Dance Theatre. Upcoming commissions include Blue Ceiling, Guetcha Guaritcha, Chimera Project, Downtown Dances Moncton and PVD, among others.
Tracey Erin Smith is a “Tour de Force Theatre Artist” who works with people from all walks of life to help them tell their life stories on stage. She works with actors, comedians, bankers, lawyers, clergy, drag queens and everyone in between. Smith is an international artist, teacher and speaker who transforms the individuals and groups who work with her. Smith is also an award-winning performer and director.
Ashley Comeau is an actor, producer, and writer hailing from Brampton, Ontario. Ashley is a Second City alumna who wrote and starred in three revues which garnered her a Dora nomination and a Canadian Comedy Award nomination. She was named Best Female Improviser from NOW Magazine’s “Best Of Awards 2015” and her comedy troupe The Lusty Mannequins were just named ‘Best of the Fest’ at the 2018 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. The Lustys have toured Europe, North America and have been to South Africa twice for the Mama City Improv Festival (which Ashley co-founded!). Select theatre credits include: Little Black Dress The Musical, People Suck, Songbuster: An Improvised Musical, Noises Off & Girls Night Out! She writes, acts and produces for TV and stage now, used to be a tour guide, and almost became a funeral director. That pretty much sums her up. She’s very grateful to you for coming and to everyone who made this happen.
KIRA, The Path | La Voie is produced and commissioned by Lua Shayenne (Shayenne Productions) and co-presented with Lua Shayenne Dance Company (LSDC) at this year’s Luminato Festival. This production celebrates humanity as one village and its sacred bond to nature. It features a dynamic cast of dancers and percussionists whose evocative chants and powerful drum beats invoke Mother Earth’s wisdom and echo her auspicious warning: the invisible cord that links us to her is wasting away. The interpreters are guided by the voices of our ancestors – the guardians of our moral code and spiritual guides. Choreographer and composer Fara Tolno is one of the most influential African artists of this generation, actively increasing the professional recognition of African Dance in North America. He brings an innovative perspective to African dance and music, steeped in his knowledge of Guinean culture.
Born & raised in Singapore, of Peranakan descent, Yvonne Ng, B.F.A., M.A., is the founder, choreographer, presenter, arts educator and artistic director of princess productions (since 1996), which houses tiger princess dance projects (TPDP) and the biennial dance: made in canada/fait au canada Festival (2001). TPDP’s repertoire includes Yvonne’s works and commissioned works, creating original roles for Bill James, José Navas, Dominique Dumais, Kevin O’Day, Marie-Josée Chartier, Robert Glumbek, Stephanie Skura, Deborah Hay and Tedd Robinson. tiger princess dance projects has toured to Singapore, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Australia, China, Canada and the USA. Yvonne is a certified Open Source Forms© and Dance for Dementia (Baycrest NBS Sharing Dance) teacher with training in Partners for Youth Empowerment Creative Facilitator (Level 1& 2), C-I Training™, Senior Fitness (CCAA), Dance for PD™ (Parkinson’s) and functional anatomy with Irene Dowd, Yvonne is the recipient of the 2017 Muriel Sherrin Award, the 2016 Jacqueline Lemieux Award, K.M. Hunter Artist Award, New Pioneers Arts Award, Chalmers Arts Fellowship, Soulpepper’s Community Artist Award and the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts – New Talent. In 2000, received a Dora Mavor Moore Award for best performance and has received multiple nominations.
Jani Lauzon (Creator / Performer) is a Metis, Multidisciplinary theatre creator, a musician, director, and puppeteer. She is a five-time Dora Mavor Moore nominated actress, a Juno and CAMA nominated singer/songwriter, a Gemini Award-winning puppeteer, and an award-winning screen actress. She recently won the Toronto Theatre Critics Association award for Best Director. Jani is also artistic director of Paper Canoe Projects.
Clare McConnell is Toronto based actor performing with The Second City Touring Company and moonlighting as Klingon Leader Dennas on CBS’s Star Trek: Discovery. She was recently cast in a few other exciting TV roles with episodes slated for release this fall. Her first feature film, Dim the Fluorescents, took home the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival, and she was nominated for Breakout Artist at the 2018 Canadian Comedy Awards. If you’re bored at intermission, find her on Instagram and Twitter @frecklegalaxy or at claremcconnell.com.