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September 22 - October 7, 2023

IF WE WERE BIRDS
By Erin Shields

Director: Tessa Bourchier
​Assistant Director: Robert Follows
Producer: Arlene Stanley
Associate Producer: Samantha Unger
Assistant Producer: Linda (Nance) Gibson

*Mainstage Theatre

Intricately woven by Shields, If We Were Birds breathes new life into the age-old narrative of “Tereus, Procne, and Philomela.” King Pandion’s act of giving away his daughter, Procne, to the war hero King Tereus sets in motion a tale of love, betrayal, and tragedy. This harrowing journey unveils the stories of a chorus of ravaged women, each echoing the pain of conflict from different corners of the 20th century.

The Directors and Producers

TESSA BOURCHIER/
​DIRECTOR

Tessa Bourchier (she/her) is an emerging performer, creator, and director. Born and raised in Alberta, she spent her late teens studying classical voice at the local conservatory and obtained a degree of association in Speech and Drama from Trinity College. In 2019, she had her directorial debut at the Alberta One Act festival with her production of Almost Maine. She moved to Toronto to study theatre performance and devised creation at Humber College. In the summer of 2022, she had the opportunity to produce two original works: Cafe Piccolina (Hamilton Fringe All-Access) and My Mother Didn’t Tell Me This (Dandelion Theatre). ​

ROBERT FOLLOWS/
​ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

​Robert is an interdisciplinary theatre artist who works in multiple areas of creation including devising, writing, sound design, performing, producing, production management, and more! He is absolutely thrilled to be on board with this project as Assistant Director. Recent credits include Producer/Sound designer, Thistle Gardens (Nightlight Productions/Toronto Fringe 2023); Chorus, Trial By Jury/Strawberry Cabaret (St. Anne’s MADS); Stage Manager, The Millionaire (North Toronto Players); Assistant Director, Dance Nation; Production Manager, love in the time of werewolves (both Theatre@York); Dylan/Deviser/Sound Designer, Wet (LGWP/Hamilton Fringe 2022). He’d like to thank Tara, his family and friends, the folks at Alumnae Theatre, and the rest of the dedicated cast and crew for working tirelessly to bring this powerful work to life.

ARLENE STANLEY/ LEAD PRODUCER

Arlene Stanley, photographer and former member of the Alumnae Theatre lighting crew, returns after 15 years and is very excited to now venture into production. Arlene is delighted to be back, daring to do what she loves most, and is eager to contribute her wide variety of experience and knowledge to the production team

SAMANTHA UNGER/ ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

​Now that Nance has retired, she is pursuing her favourite pastime: theatre. She has acted in, and now directed, several plays with Alumnae Theatre, Act2, and Mixed Company Theatre. She is happy to be participating in If We Were Birds and hopes to contribute, and she is taking this opportunity to learn more about other aspects of production. Nance lives a quiet life in deepest Scarborough. Her grandchildren live nearby, and she tries to see them often.

LINDA (NANCE) GIBSON/ ASSISTANT PRODUCER

Samantha Unger is excited to be involved with Alumnae Theatre for the first time as Associate Producer for If We Were Birds. She looks to explore some of her childhood interests once again. Samantha is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this passionate team and to support this production. When Samantha isn’t collecting bios and headshots, she is getting started with her PhD in biomedical engineering.

The Actors

VICTORIA GALLANT/ PHILOMELA

Victoria Gallant (she/her) is an actor, singer, songwriter, and sound designer based in Toronto. Victoria’s love for play and curiosity have led her to explore movement and rhythm, and she seeks to embrace the physicality of performance and evoke meaning through every gesture. Her career in the arts started with music as she studied classical voice at the age of twelve while performing in multiple choirs across the GTA. She went on to study Creative Industries at TMU and later graduated from Humber College’s Theatre Performance Program with Honours in 2022. Victoria strives to combine her new love for physical/devised theatre with her love for music to push the boundaries of storytelling. Her selected credits include Dolls in Space, an experimental musical by Humber students (directed by John Millard and Martha Ross), Seven Stories (directed by Christopher Legacy), and Crushed, a short film (directed by Rowan O’Brien, York University).

SHANNON PITRE/
PROCNE


Shannon Pitre is an interdisciplinary actor/creator and a graduate of the University of Windsor’s BFA Acting program (2019). Her passions include new play development, devised and contact-based theatre, reimagining of classical works, and arts education. Shannon is inspired by art that is ugly, raw, uncomfortable, and spectacular. Her recent projects are String of Pearls (Alumnae), Inflections in Greatness (NIF), Measure for Measure (GLT), Commedia Noir (TTT), God of Carnage (UP). “Thank you for every ounce of support I’ve received. I’ll love you always.”

CHRISTOPHER STERLING/
TEREUS


​Christopher is a Toronto-based actor ecstatic to be performing at Alumnae Theatre again. His most recent credits include Back To The Bar (Toronto Fringe), Inflections in Greatness (New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre), Cursed Histories, Castle Secrets, A Cold War of Spies (all on Super Channel), and two comedy short films (Forced Friendships and The Bored Room) that both won Best Comedy at the Los Angeles Film Awards. He is a Meisner actor, having studied the technique with Playhouse North Acting Studios and The William Esper Studio, as well as an alumnus of The Toronto Academy of Acting for Film & Television and The Second City. When not acting, Christopher can be found recording music.

ERIC KINSELLA/
PANDION


Eric Kinsella is a settler, artist, and caregiver based in Treaty 13 territory (Toronto). Eric’s artistic practice includes theatre creation, acting, clown, and musical improvisation. Recent credits include solo shows, The Big Lie at the 2022 Hamilton Fringe and The Cafe at Buddies in Bad Times’ QueerCab1. Eric was recently a contestant in the Save The Show III clown competition at Sweet Action Theatre.

JONA VILLA/
CHORUS - THE PIOUS ONE

​Jona Villa (she/her) is a proud Filipino-Canadian actor, singer, and creator based in Toronto. She is a graduate of Humber College Theatre Performance Program where she specialized in physical and devised theatre. She prioritizes unearthing her voice and experiences through her work. She is passionate about telling stories that are truthful, human, challenging, and joyous. Jona is looking forward to the future of her creative career and expanding her talents in theatre as well as film and TV. Selected credits include Pin-Pin The Eggsplorer (directed by N. Khokhlova), Ride the Cyclone (directed by L. Song), and The Dream (directed by A. Karolyi).

JOVALERIE CARRIER/
CHORUS - THE PREGNANT ONE

​Valérie’s involvement in theatre started in Montreal where she interpreted various roles, notably Gulnara in la robe de Gulnara with Theatre Parenthèses. Expatriated in London (UK), she got involved with the French theatre community and played in Ring (Camille), several characters from Under Milk Wood, Les Belles-soeurs (Germaine Lauzon), and finally produced and played Isabelle in The Orphan Muses. Back in Toronto, she performed in a few short movies, commercial spots, TV shows, and web series. Also, her prior involvement with Alumnae Theatre Company includes interpreting the role of Madeleine in the hybrid theatrical rendering of Albertine in Five Times and Brooke in the play Boom Baby, which was part of the 2022 edition of the FireWorks Festival, and she was part of the ensemble of String of Pearls presented on the Mainstage during the 2022-2023 season. Valérie is also a board member of the Theatre français de Toronto.

SANDY RAMDIN/
CHORUS - THE ONE WITH DWINDLING DIGNITY

I have been acting off and on for a period of 25 or so years. It started as a way to get over crippling shyness, and I found a way to speak to the world and express myself in a way that I never could as myself. Acting has been inside of me and a part of me for most of my life. I currently work in health care, which gives me incredible insight into how human beings tick and how they navigate themselves through the world. I was married for 29 years to a wonderful man that unfortunately passed away last year. Other than that, I have no kids but two cats who are basically my children.

CASSANDRA SINNAEVE/
CHORUS - THE YOUNG ONE

Cassandra Sinnaeve is an actor, dancer, and aspiring choreographer. She trained at Humber College for Theatre Performance and has studied at George Brown College for Dance Performance. Cassandra has received professional dance training at various dance schools, including Joffrey Ballet in New York, Alberta Ballet School of Canada, and Canada’s Ballet Jorgën. Some of her choreography was featured in Humber Theatre’s online play Red Dog and her dance piece, Disequilibrium, was featured in Humber Galleries collaborative project REACTIVATION. During her time at Humber, Cassandra has appeared in Dolls in Space (directed by Martha Ross and John Millard), Inversion (an experimental film directed by Tatiana Jennings), and Seven Stories (directed by Christopher Legacy). She was also in Henrique Santsper’s It Happened During the Quarantine, an online play produced by Third Wheel Theatre Co..

RENEE WONG/
THE BLEEDING ONE

Renée Wong (she/they) is a queer, non-binary, Hong Kong-Canadian actor, playwright, arts administrator, and emerging filmmaker based in Toronto. She is a graduate of Humber College Theatre Performance Program and has obtained her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Toronto. This is Renée’s second time working with Alumnae Theatre, and she is very excited to be a part of If We Were Birds. Selected credits include Escape from Shanghai (Kitchen Potluck 2023, fu-GEN Theatre Company), Genieology (New Ideas Festival 2023, Alumnae Theatre), Harabogee (할아버지) & Me (Weston Folktale Festival, Shakespeare in Action), FOLDA Thought Residency (Spiderwebshow & Theatre Direct). Follow more of her work on Instagram: @reneeewcs

The Production Team

VICTORIA STARK/
STAGE MANAGER

Born in Calgary, AB, and receiving her BFA in Theatre from the University of Victoria, and now having resided in Toronto for six years, Victoria is an actress and stage manager with a passion for Greek mythology and transgressive theatre. Her stage management credits include Mending Fences (Village Playhouse, March 2023), The Female of the Species (Alumnae Theatre, September-October 2022), NeverWonder (Toronto Fringe 2022), and In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play (April 2022) and The Trip to Bountiful (as assistant stage manager, Alumnae Theatre, January 2020). Recently, she returned to the stage as one of the letter readers in The Fighting Days (Village Playhouse, January-February 2023) and is looking forward to what else the future holds for her. Victoria is deeply honoured and humbled to be part of a production that features so many up-and-coming talent within the theatre community, along with veterans who continue to create amazing work. She would like to thank her cast and crew for being by her side throughout this entire process, her friends and family for their everlasting love and support, her tiger for making her life even brighter than it already is, and you, the audience, for coming out and supporting live theatre and the people that make the magic happen.

DANIELA OLMOS/
​ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER

Daniela Olmos is an English Literature major from Concordia University who has dedicated many years to theatre and the dramatic arts as an actress and behind the scenes. She graduated in 2020 with an emphasis on drama and scriptwriting. She currently works as a writer and research assistant for the Bogota Fashion Film Festival (Bogfff) and as a freelance writer.

KATHERINE LI/
​ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER

Katherine Li graduated from New York University as a Cinema Studies major in 2018. She worked in her hometown Beijing on film festivals and film marketing for three years and decided it was time for a change. She moved to Toronto in May 2023 with her dog Peador, who is obsessed with greeting every squirrel on every block. So far, Katherine has tried seventeen things she had not done before since she came to Toronto, including becoming an ASM. Katherine loves being part of the creative process and is very excited to be supporting the production of If We Were Birds.

CASSANDRA SINNAEVE/​
MOVEMENT COACH-DANCE CAPTAIN-CHOREOGRAPHER

Cassandra Sinnaeve is an actor, dancer, and aspiring choreographer. She trained at Humber College for Theatre Performance and has studied at George Brown College for Dance Performance. Cassandra has received professional dance training at various dance schools, including Joffrey Ballet in New York, Alberta Ballet School of Canada, and Canada’s Ballet Jorgën. Some of her choreography was featured in Humber Theatre’s online play Red Dog and her dance piece, Disequilibrium, was featured in Humber Galleries collaborative project REACTIVATION. During her time at Humber, Cassandra has appeared in Dolls in Space (directed by Martha Ross and John Millard), Inversion (an experimental film directed by Tatiana Jennings), and Seven Stories (directed by Christopher Legacy). She was also in Henrique Santsper’s It Happened During the Quarantine, an online play produced by Third Wheel Theatre Co.

KARLY FRIESEN/
DIALECT AND INTIMACY COACH

​Karly is a Toronto-based actor and avid mover 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. This past year, Karly has had the pleasure of becoming an Arts Educator for The Harbourfront Centre School Visits Program, where she teaches dance and theatre fundamentals to students from all over the GTA. Selected credits include Punch Up (Carey Nicholson) and The Living End (Andy Massingham) at Theatre on the Ride, Boom Baby (Kimberley Radmacher) and Nested (Molly Thom) at Alumnae Theatre, and Three Sisters & Co. (Rob Kempson) and The Corsican Complaint (Sue Miner) at George Brown Theatre School. Instagram @karlyfriesen.

CLAIRE WEST/
COSTUME DESIGNER

​Claire is very excited to bring to life the world of If We Were Birds! She has previously costume-designed for Soundmixing, Da Kink In My Hair, and Waiting for Godot. She wants to thank her friends and family for their support and encouragement to be creative! A full professional portfolio can be found on Instagram @clairewestofficial

JD JOUTE/
​SET TEAM LEAD

JD Joute is a jack of all trades. She is an independent filmmaker, creator, and entrepreneur. She is self driven, creative with an eye for details, ambitious, and knowledgeable of all stages of the filmmaking and theatrical (production) process. She volunteered with the Village Playhouse for close to seven years where she brought her experiences and helped with many of their productions. She’s currently a volunteer at Alumnae Theatre where she is getting involved in some amazing projects. She also has a few personal projects coming up, from stage productions to short films and web projects. Stay tuned for her next big splash.

MARGARITA POPOVA/
PROPS AND FURNITURE COORDINATOR

​Margarita arrived in Toronto in 2021 from Western Siberia, Russia. She has been active in Alumnae Theatre since 2022 when she participated in the FireWorks Festival as a set designer and light operator. Besides her work in data analysis, she has a passion for and education in graphic design. Margarita develops her skills in painting and modelling and studies the history of art and culture in her free time. Margarita thanks the producers and the director of If We Were Birds for the opportunity to show her artistic side in producing props.

VICTORIA GALLANT/
SOUND DESIGNER-COMPOSER

​Victoria Gallant (she/her) is an actor, singer, songwriter, and sound designer based in Toronto. Immersed in the world of classical music from an early age, Victoria weaves the threads of melodic emotion seamlessly into her performances and sound design, infusing each role and piece with a heartfelt musicality that resonates with audiences. Victoria describes her sound as a dark pop sun, choral moon, and experimental rising. Her work with local artists was included in the Toronto Youth Short Film Festival in 2019 where the film Crushed featured both her acting and songwriting skills. Her music has also been featured in multiple productions at Humber College, including Dolls in Space (directed by John Millard and Martha Ross), Red Dog (directed by Colin Edwards), and The Jogdenstrumer Debacle (directed by Sharon Moore).

DANIELLE CAREY/
​SOUND TECHNICIAN-TRAINER

Danielle is a Toronto-based designer and technician. She received a BFA in Theatre Production and Design from York University. Selected credits include Lighting Designer for Silence S’il Vous Plait (Illusion, Coffee and Poetry) and Head à Tête (YUFFA Fringe) and Sound Operator for Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life (Outside the March/The Musical Stage Company). Previous credits for Alumnae are Projection Designer, String Of Pearls (2023) and The Trip to Bountiful (2020); Projectionist, Boom Baby (2022); and Lighting Operator, The Heidi Chronicles (2019) and the New Ideas Festival (2019).

EMILY POPLE/
​LIGHTING DESIGNER

​Emily Pople is an all-round theatre tech with a passion for lighting design. They are overjoyed to be working with Alumnae Theatre for the second time. They have recently graduated from UTSC and are excited to dive into full-time theatre. They have previously worked on Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Alumnae Theatre, as well as other shows including Godspell, X and Da Spirit, Yes, Venus, I Am, and We Are Proud to Present.

MATTHEW LORETO/
​HEAD CARPENTER

Matthew Bird Loreto is a graduate of what’s now called OCAD University and has been a freelance animator, motion designer, and video content producer for over thirteen years. He has worked with a variety of clients ranging from provincial and federal labour unions to large commercial clients such as BMV, Shopify, and McDonalds, to name only a small few. With an interest in many hobbies and creative pursuits, Loreto is most fulfilled engaging with community and meeting new and interesting people. His work can be found online at mattthewbirdloreto.com and Instagram, @inthebirdnest.

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.

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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