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.
Ashley Botting is an award-winning actor, writer, improviser, singer and alumna of The Second City Mainstage and The Second City Guide to the Symphony. Most recently Ashley remounted her Fringe hit, Ashley With a “Y”, a completely improvised musical cabaret, to rave reviews. The show was named NOW Magazine’s top comedy show of 2018. Ashley is also a guest-host, writer and regular panelist on CBC Radio One’s Because News. Ashley has written for the Emmy-winning show Odd Squad where she also plays everyone’s favourite pizza lady, Delivery Debbie, and her voice can be heard on the cartoons The Ridonculous Race, Arthur, Z-Squad and Beywheelz.
Cliff Cardinal (Playwright and Director) was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to iconic Canadian actress Tantoo Cardinal. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School, a veteran of many stages and screens, and has played his music on three continents. Cliff has been influenced by VIDEOCAB’s ensemble since he was a teenager watching rehearsals of Michael Hollingsworth’s New France at the Cameron House in 2000. He acted in The Saskatchewan Rebellion in 2007, and over the past decade has used VIDEOCAB resources to help develop and produce his plays. As the Associate Artist of VIDEOCAB, Cliff is now collaborating with resident lighting designer Andrew Dollar, and with costume designer Sage Paul, to bring his own highly theatrical style to VIDEOCAB’s new black-box stage. He was recently honoured by double-Doras, and an Edinburgh Festival Award, for the script and performance of his incendiary solo play Huff in 2018. Huff has been published, translated into French, continues to tour, and will be released on CBC’s new podcast PlayMe in April 2019.
PJ Prudat is of proud Métis roots. PJ is Nightswimming Theatre’s 2019 Creator-in-Residence, was Playwright in Rez at Native Earth Performing Arts (2013/14); on Factory Theatre’s NRCG writer’s unit (2015); a company actor for both the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre Ensemble (2015/16) and the Shaw Festival (2017/Winter 2018); and a Laureate of the 2017 REVEAL Indigenous Art Award. Select Acting Credits: Iphigenia and the Furies (SAGA Collectif),Honour Beat (Theatre Calgary),Everything I Couldn’t Tell You (Spiderbones Theatre), Ipperwash (NEPA), Moonlodge (Urban Ink), Reckoning (Article 11),Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, Twelfth Night (NAC), Cleo in Antony and Cleopatra (SIR).
Johnnie Walker is a theatre artist, filmmaker and DJ based in Toronto. He has been developing Shove it Down My Throat in residence with Buddies in Bad Times since 2016. His solo show Redheaded Stepchild has toured North America and was published by Playwrights Canada Press. Other plays include Amusement, Scheherazade, and The Other Three Sisters. Johnnie is a co-founder of Nobody’s Business Theatre, general manager of AnimalParts, and a founding member of Boylesque TO. He also wrote, directed, and performed in the short film Saturn Devours and DJs a popular monthly queer hip-hop dance party/drag show called Hey Girl Hey.
Matt Folliott is a comedian/actor/writer from Toronto. When he’s not performing with the Second City National Touring Company you can catch him on stage with S&P and Canadian Comedy Award Nominees K$M, alongside his powerhouse comedy partner Kirsten Rasmussen. Matt has traveled across North America performing and teaching in comedy festivals like IMPROVAGANZA (Edmonton, AB), The Vancouver International Improv Festival, The Ottawa Improv Festival, MPROV (Montreal, QB), and The Seattle International Festival of Improv.
Meegwun Fairbrother is of Ojibway and Scottish origin, from Grassy Narrows First Nation and Toronto, Ontario. He is an award-winning actor, a traditional singer, and a Northern traditional dancer. He recently played a lead role on CBC’s hit series Burden of Truth.
Rachel Mutombo is an award winning actor and writer. She is a graduate of John Abbott College’s professional theatre program and the National Theatre School of Canada’s acting program. The experience of being a second-generation Canadian of Congolese (DRC) descent combined with living at the intersection of race and gender heavily influences her work as an artist. Rachel has written about these experiences and more for Intermission magazine, CBC and ByBlacks. Rachel has had the privilege of performing in the theatre across Canada. Some recent credits include: School Girls; Or the African Mean Girls Play (Obsidian Theatre/Nightwood Theatre), Selfie (Young People’s Theatre), Ruined (Pacific Theatre), Race (Montreal Theatre Ensemble), Twelfth Night (Repercussion Theatre).
Lianna Makuch is a second generation Ukrainian Canadian theatre artist. Lianna has enjoyed a diverse career working as an actor, creator, instructor, and artistic producer. Her main artistic ventures have been as an Artistic Associate and Producer with Pyretic Productions. Lianna has managed audience outreach and communications for several Edmonton arts festivals. And she co-founded, manages, and teaches at a children’s summer theatre camp, Spark! Youth Camp, which provides affordable arts education to youth in Edmonton’s Alberta Avenue Community. She is the playwright and principle performer in Blood of Our Soil, which won the ACUA-URDC Award (2018), the inaugural Rena Hanchuk & Yaroslav Kitynskyy Artist Award (2018), and was nominated for four Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards (Edmonton’s premiere theatre awards), including Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Production. Lianna was recognized as a Top 30 Under 30 Artist by the Alberta Council for Ukrainian Arts. Lianna is a graduate of the BFA Acting Program at the University of Alberta.
A choreographer, dancer, producer, director and facilitator, Shannon Litzenberger is known for creating live performance experiences at the intersection of forms. Her perspective is decidedly feminist, philosophical, socially conscious and emphatically Canadian. Her roots in Canada’s rural prairies inspire recurring themes of connection to land, environment, belonging, identity and place. Her work has been presented across Canada and the US, in collaboration with some of Canada’s leading artists including Marie-Josée Chartier, Lorna Crozier, David Earle, Noah Richler, Susie Burpee and Michael Greyeyes. She has been an invited resident artist at Banff Centre, Soulpepper Theatre Company, Toronto Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre and Atlantic Ballet Theatre. She is the recipient of the Jack McAllister award for accomplishment in dance, the recipient of a 2019 Chalmers Arts Fellowship and a twice-shortlisted finalist for the prestigious KM Hunter Award.
Evan Tsitsias is a director, writer, educator and performer. He is currently the Artistic Director of Eclipse Theatre Company and the Co-Artistic Director/Founder of the Directors Lab North, a sister program to the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, of which he is an alum. He is also a Co-Founder of The World Wide Lab, a directors collective. They have produced festivals and shows in Germany, New York, Italy, Canada, Greece and Taiwan. Evan also currently works at Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, Texas where he’s directed, been the Artistic Assistant, an Associate in the Community Engagement Department and is the Acting Department Head at the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre. His work has been published in Canada, the US and Germany.