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January 19 - February 3, 2024

BETTER LIVING
by George F. Walker

Director: Liz Best
Producer: Helena Raposo

*Mainstage Theatre

Written by the multiple-time winner of the Governor General’s Award, Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and Chalmers Awards, Better Living is a black comedy that revolves around a family of women and the father who deserted them after trying to burn down their house.

*Please note: This play deals with issues of domestic violence that may be disturbing and upsetting. There is profane language, and a prop gun is fired.

This production is generously supported by

Find out what George F. Walker has to say about ...

The Writing Process

Dark Comedy

The Directors and Producers

LIZ BEST/
​DIRECTOR

Liz is an actor, director, playwright, and producer. 2022/23 acting credits include: Immaculate Emasculation and I Love You More. She directed History of Visual Sources, Fireworks Festival 2022 and associate produced Tunnel at the End of the Light, SITA Foundation. Her play, Surrender, Dorothy, was produced at the Curtain Club, Richmond Hill. Liz is a proud member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

HELENA RAPOSO/
​PRODUCER

Helena works for the CBC as a Rights Coordinator and has been an active member of Alumnae Theatre’s New Play Development group since 2018. Her short plays were featured on the National Arts Centre website #CanadaPerforms and in Haven Theatre’s 9 Plays in 90 Minutes. Helena co-produced the 2022 FireWorks Festival and is delighted that her first Mainstage production as a producer is George F. Walker’s Better Living. Gratitude goes out to the cast and crew for their time and enthusiastic commitment to this production.

The Cast

JANE HUNTER/
​NORA

​Having just completed a run as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, Jane hopes the audience couldn’t hear the grinding sound as she changed gears to play Nora. The two characters could not be further apart, and Jane would like to thank the director Liz Best for the opportunity to make this 180-degree turn: the challenge actors live for. Thank you, too, to the remarkably accomplished and professional team at the Alumnae Theatre, who made this happy production one to be proud of.

MATTHEW McCONNACH/
​JUNIOR

​Matthew McConnach is making his Alumnae Theatre debut in Better Living. Matthew, a graduate of the University of Ottawa, was born in Toronto and raised in Ajax. He had a strong focus on sports while growing up, particularly hockey, even going as far as getting drafted by the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. Since his graduation, he has been working in marketing while taking acting and improv classes in Toronto. Matthew plans to continue pursuing acting along with his own creative writing projects.

STEPHANIE KOOMEN/
​ELIZABETH

​Stephanie is thrilled to be stepping back onto the stage and is even more excited to be working with such a wonderful cast and crew. Stephanie is a 2020 graduate of the Music Theatre Performance program at St. Lawrence College. Some of her credits include Grimsby in The Little Mermaid, Jesus Christ Superstar, Narrator in Into the Woods (SLC), Anne of Green Gables, Rita in White Christmas (VOS) and various productions with 4th Line Theatre. When she’s not on stage (or working her 9-5), you can find Stephanie romanticizing life at a local café, exploring the city with friends or curled up on the couch with a comfort film. Thank you to Mom, Dad, Court, Jess, Mich, and her Mirvish family for the constant love and support.

DAVID CAIRNS/
​TOM

​David is no stranger to George F. Walker or Alumnae Theatre, having played Tom here in Escape from Happiness almost a decade ago. In between, he starred in Art, Witness for the Prosecution, Anne of Green Gables, and the premiere of Walker’s We the Family, where he originated the role of Sonny. He is a seasoned classics performer with notable Shakespeare roles: Macbeth, Petruchio, Falstaff, Polonius, Feste, and Friar Laurence. He has also Oscar Wilde’s Ernest and Lord Windermere, and had leading roles in Walker’s Criminals in Love, Twelve Angry Men, Urinetown, The Wild Guys, and the Canadian premiere of the musical Chrystanthia.

CHLOE MATAMOROS/
​MARY ANN

​Chloe is thrilled to be part of this wonderful production as her Alumnae Theatre debut! Chloe most recently wrote, performed, and produced her own show called Voice: song and scream with the Toronto Fringe Festival, 2023. Chloe graduated from Dalhousie University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance and continues to sing in a variety of styles. Chloe is delighted to be back where she grew up in the east end of Toronto and would like to thank her family for their loving support.

PHIL DIONNE/
​JACK

Phil is happy to be making the trek from the far north to Alumnae Theatre for the second time. He has wanted to do a Walker play for so long, and the chance to play with such a talented and giving cast and crew is a great bonus.

KEREN EDELIST/
​GAIL

Keren Edelist is a classically trained actor and creator based in Toronto and a recent graduate of George Brown’s Theatre Performance program. She performed the role of Rooney in the new play Featherhead at the 2023 Toronto Fringe, which won “The Spirit of The Fringe” Award. In her graduating year, she also performed the role of Karen Wright in The Children’s Hour and portrayed Elsa in Anatol, directed by Severn Thompson. Recently, Keren has been writing her own work and performed in the short film Joynazine. She looks forward to what the coming years will bring!

The Production Team

LESLIE MACMILLAN/
CO-STAGE MANAGER

Leslie is a member of the Alumnae’s New Play Development Group. Her play A Modern Man was part of the 2023 Big Ideas Festival. She is thrilled to be making her stage management debut with Better Living and working with such a fabulous team.

ANNE MARTIN/
​CO-STAGE MANAGER

Anne is a member of Alumnae Theatre’s New Play Development group. Anne’s first play, Family Portrait, was part of the 2021 Big Ideas Festival. Anne’s second play, Fallen Angel, was part of the Next Stage Reading Series in March 2023. Anne will be contributing to the upcoming Shadows in the Nooks production and is delighted to be part of the production team for Better Living, providing support to cast and crew.

MAGDY ACUNA/
​STAGE MANAGER MENTOR

Musicals and theatre were part of Magdy Acuna’s whole life back in her home country, Argentina. She participated as an actor and backstage in amateur musical productions like Aladdin, The Lion King, In the Heights, We will Rock You, and different classic plays like Julius Cesar, The Barber of Seville, The House of Bernarda Alba, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, among others. Looking to build her way to the scenes in Toronto, she joined Alumnae Theatre as assistant stage manager for Albertine in Five Times in 2021. She enjoyed it so much that she returned for more learning and experience as stage manager for Nested and History of Visual Sources in 2022. In 2023, she’s supporting the stage management team as a mentor in this amazing new production! Instagram: @Magdy_Acuna

LALEH BEHZADIAN/
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER

Laleh Behzadian (la-lay) is a Persian-Canadian actress with a foundation in film production from the Claude Watson School for the Arts and a BA in Psychology from Western University. She currently works as a marketing manager, dedicating her free time to honing her acting skills and working with Alumnae Theatre. Most recently, she has accepted a leading role as Jennifer in York University’s production Bound by Defiance.

EILEEN WHITCOMB/
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER

Eileen was born and raised in East York. She is excited to be part of the Better Living production. This is her first Alumnae project. She wants to pursue an undergraduate degree in theatre production.

MARY BARNES AMOROSO/
​PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Since retiring, Mary has pursued her love of theatre. At Alumnae, she has been involved in the New Play Development group, the Mainstage Programming Committee, and the New Ideas Festival and has produced works for the Mainstage and for the Fireworks Festival. She is happy to take advantage of the many opportunities that Alumnae provides to its members to be involved in putting on live theatre.

KATHERINE HAMBLETON/
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Katherine is an RN, Psychotherapist with 20 years of healthcare experience. She has a diverse portfolio that includes emergency medicine, critical care, and health and safety, as well as psychological services. Katherine has provided her expertise in the film, television, and theatre industry to support cast and crew who are exposed to or are performing sensitive subject matter. Katherine became interested in producing after working on Tunnel at the End of the Light (Jonathan Lewis), a play centred around veteran suicide, as the on-site Trauma Counsellor for cast and crew. Katherine’s other credits include Luckiest Girl Alive (Netflix), Out of My Mind (Disney), The Accused (Sony Television), and Fingernails (Apple).

MARYSIA BUCHOLC/
SET DESIGNER

​Marysia has been designing and building sets for over twenty years and has been twice nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award, for Treasure Island (Solar Stage, 2018) and Kafka and Son (Theaturtle, 2006). Last spring, she designed and built sets for I Found My Horn (Toronto production, visiting from the UK), and Tunnel at the End of the Light (SITA). Other favourite recent sets include The Importance of Being Earnest (Alumnae, 2018), Motherland (Toronto Fringe, 2017), The Gut Girls (Alumnae, 2017). Upcoming in March: set designer for Mary’s Daughters at The Space, London UK (BiLLO Studio).

MARGARITA POPOVA/
​SET ASSISTANT

​Margarita came to Toronto in 2021 from Western Siberia, Russia. She has been working at the Graduates Theater since 2022, when she participated in the FireWorks Festival as a set designer and lighting operator. Margarita created props and painted sets this season, including the stage floor and backdrop for the play If We Were Birds. In addition to her work in data analytics, she has a passion for and education in graphic design. Margarita develops her painting and sculpting skills and studies the history of art and culture in her free time. Margarita thanks the producers and director of Better Living for the opportunity to show her artistic side.

FABIANA MERCURIO/
​WARDROBE

​Fabiana holds a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre production from York University. Her recent credits include costumer designer for Milton Players’ Steel Magnolias and assistant talent manager for Fever/Netflix’s Stranger Things: the Experience. Fabiana previously worked with the Liz Best and Alumnae Theatre as the costume designer during winter 2022’s FireWorks Festival. Designing History of Visual Sources was a blast, and she is beyond excited to be stepping back into her role as wardrobe personnel for Better Living. She would like to thank the cast and crew for their prolific kindness and talents.

ILANA LINDEN/
PROPS MISTRESS

As the founder of Montreal’s Bulldog Productions, she produced acclaimed productions including the Canadian Premiere of David Mamet’s Oleanna, winning the Masque Award for best English language production, and directed several plays including Terrance McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, and Homeward Bound by Elliot Hayes. In 2005, Ilana wrote and directed Josef’s Daughter, a feature documentary about aging and mortality that aired nationally on CBC’s The Passionate Eye. A member of Alumnae since 2019, Ilana directed the Mainstage production of The Heidi Chronicles.

JOHN CORCELLI/
​SOUND DESIGNER

John was born and raised in Scarborough. He graduated from TMU (Ryerson) in 1984. His theatre experience includes acting, directing, and sound designing. In 2022, he designed the sound for three plays in the Fireworks Festival at Alumnae. Corcelli is a musician who plays soprano sax and clarinet, but not at the same time. He’s the author of two books, one about Frank Zappa and a biography of comedian George Carlin called Outside Looking In. www.johncorcelli.com

NATALIYA KOZYRINA/
SOUND OPERATOR, LIGHTING ASSISTANT & VIDEOGRAPHER

Nataliya Kozyrina is a recent graduate of the Music and Digital Media program at St. Lawrence College, Kingston, ON. This program allowed Nataliya to explore different art forms and their integration, like immersive installation art, film, video production, livestreaming, sound design, musicianship, graphic design, dance, and animation. One summer day, months after graduation, Nataliya was walking around Toronto looking for opportunities. That’s when, by a miracle of luck, in an empty theatre, she came across Brenda Darling, the president of Alumnae Theatre, who introduced her to Alumnae. Now Nataliya has done lighting and sound operating for the FireWorks Festival. She has done and will be doing lighting, sound, and props for other shows like When We Were Birds and the upcoming Better Living.

MARY JANE BOON/
LIGHTING DESIGNER

Mary Jane has worked as a set and lighting designer for over twenty-five years. Recent productions have included The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time for Scarborough Players, The Seafarer for the Toronto Irish Players, and, earlier this year, String of Pearls for Alumnae Theatre.

LUCY MUIR/
LIGHTING OPERATOR

Lucy is very excited to be a part of the Better Living crew. This is her first show with Alumnae Theatre. Lucy first got involved in theatre at age ten when she was cast in the titular role in her school production of Stuart Little, and she has been in love with the stage ever since. Lucy has been involved in countless productions both as an actor on stage and crew member behind the scenes with theatre companies all over southern Ontario including Markham Little Theatre, Markham Youth Theatre, Studio 410 in Teeswater, and HAWK Theatre in Lucknow.

KARLY FRIESEN/
​INTIMACY COACH & FIGHT COORDINATOR

Karly is a Toronto-based multidisciplinary actor originally from Sudbury, Ontario. She is a 2021 graduate of the Theatre Performance program at George Brown College where she was lucky to have the opportunity to work with such brilliant theatre artists and creatives. Along with acting, Karly is an Arts Educator for The Harbourfront Centre School Visits Program, where she teaches dance and theatre fundamentals to students from all over the GTA. Chosen fight direction credits: If We Were Birds, 2023 Fireworks Festival (Alumnae Theatre), and Cyrano De Bergerac (Theatre on the Ridge). Chosen acting credits: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (STC/YES Theatre), Innocence Lost, Punch Up, The Living End: Madame Winnifred’s Circus of Wonders (Theatre on the Ridge), Boom Baby, Nested (Alumnae Theatre), Three Sisters & Co., The Corsican Complaint, Love and Information (George Brown Theatre School). Instagram is @karlyfriesen. Enjoy the show!

STELLA KULAGOWSKI/
MEDIA AND MARKETING COORDINATOR

Stella Kulagowski (she/they) is a performer, producer, creator, and movement teacher (saintstella.com). They have produced three years of sold-out Toronto Fringe productions: Lysistrata (2017), Carmilla (2018), and Mayhem at Miskatonic (2019). Stella also produced, choreographed, and performed in the ‘Shakesqueer’ adaptation, Ill Met by Moonlight. ‘Saint Stella’ is also an award-winning burlesque performer, having twice performed at the Burlesque Hall of Fame. They also produced and performed in a digital cabaret and ‘web-crawl’ called ‘Pointed Cap Cabaret’ funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and received an emerging queer artist award from Buddies in Bad times in 2020. Stella is so proud to be working with Alumnae Theatre to foster diverse and women-led theatre in Toronto.

SUZANNE COURTNEY/
GRAPHICS

Suzanne is an artist with over 30 years experience in design, illustration, and website creation. She is also an actor (Pride and Prejudice, A Lie of the Mind, and The Pear is Ripe for Alumnae) and playwright. Her current obsession is creating a collage comic book, The Plague Doctor Diaries.

​Accessibility

Alumnae Theatre’s Berkeley Street entrance and the Mainstage Theatre are wheelchair accessible. ​There is a wheelchair accessible restroom on the ground floor.

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