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New Ideas Festival 2023

Week 2/March 22-26, 2023

Festival Artistic Director: Cassidy Sadler
Producers: Trisha Harlan, Meliz Posta, and Sonali Sambherao
Associate Producer: JD Joute
NIF 2023 is generously supported by

Watch the trailer!

Back Mirror

* I have come to the conclusion that this thing I have with myself is not possible. *


Sandra Castillo is a performer, producer, and playwright originally from Caracas, Venezuela, and currently based in Toronto. Her career started in her native Venezuela with Teatro Nueva Era and Gimnasio de Actores and expanded internationally, producing and performing in South Korea, training in Italy with The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, and now in Canada. Sandra is delighted to showcase Back Mirror with Alumnae Theatre’s NIF, a play inspired by the poems of Natasha Tiniacos, Otrova Gomas, and Roman Chalbaud, as an exploration of the personal journey of an immigrant coping with changes and life experiences of living in exile. 


Ethan Joshua (they/them) is a multidisciplinary theatre practitioner working in Toronto. Their focus within dance is on contemporary, abstract/conceptual work, with underpinnings in clown, physical theatre, and voice-movement. They are currently majoring in Drama, and Law and minoring in Equity Studies at U of T. Credits include: The Pipeline Project and Constellations (self-produced), Black History Month Luncheon with honoured guest Cameron Bailey (Hart House), They All Rolled Over (FOOT 2023), Snow in Midsummer (Wychwood Theatre), Cancel Culture (Alumnae Theatre), and Drag Heals Season 3 (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre). They want to thank the cast, crew, and especially Sandra, for creating this absolute masterpiece and Alumnae Theatre for giving Ethan the opportunity to be part of the New Ideas Festival again!


Kyra Keith is delighted to be making her New Ideas Festival debut. Kyra is a developing actor, director, creator, and poet with a passion for queer, clown, and absurdist work. She graduated from UTM/Sheridan College in the Theatre and Drama Studies Specialist program. Kyra has worked to better her craft at Second City and the Repertory Theatre In Practice workshops at the Shaw Festival. Credits include: Mother in the upcoming indie horror movie Near; Madame Arcati in Theatre Erindale’s Blithe Spirit; and creating her own one-woman show, Enough. Kyra received a Best Director award for her work on The Fourth Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide as a co-director for the UTM Drama Club. Kyra is thankful to be working alongside such a talented and inspiring group of people in Back Mirror.

The Cast


Aleksandra is thrilled to be part of Back Mirror, and she is honoured to be working with such a talented, open, and supportive team! She has been an Alumnae member for several years, and this is her fourth NIF. Treasured stage appearances include: Edith Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank; solo performance in Red Lacquered Box; and Estelle/Inez in two different productions of Sartre’s No Exit. In film, her favourite projects are Bosniak (shot entirely in Bosnian); Valentina (shot on 35mm); a Cuban docudrama, Un Traductor, filmed in Havana; and working on The Shape of Water as a dialect coach and translator.


Karen is excited to be a part of Sandra Castillo’s Back Mirror at this year’s New Ideas Festival! Karen is an actor, improviser, and educator who brings joy and silliness to all that she does. Currently, Karen is beginning a new role as Alice (from Wonderland) with Escape Show, is demon hunting in a horror-western short film, and is about to start work on a play at Assembly Theatre. She sends a big thank you to all of the people in her life that support her and her art! You are appreciated!

Joyce and Florence

* As winter approaches, two fiercely independent women dismiss attempts to provide them housing. *


​Having retired from a career in nursing, Pat stumbled across Act 2 Studio at TMU and immediately fell in love with all aspects of theatre, most especially playwriting. Now, after ten years, she has enjoyed watching several of her plays performed on stage by her fellow Act 2 students, five of which have won Stella Awards. Pat’s plays are always character driven, and she loves exploring the human condition, whether in a comedy, drama or something in between … This is her first experience at Alumnae (aside from being in the audience), and she is excited to have her work included in this celebration of New Ideas!


Grace Lamarche (she/her) is a Toronto-based director, actor, and founder of UNSPECIAL Creative House. Previous directing: BIRTH (Gears Theatre Company), DADA [as part of The Storyboard is Dead] (George Brown Theatre School), Waiting for Hello (George Brown Theatre School), and The Velveteen Rabbit (George Brown Theatre School). Grace is a graduate of George Brown Theatre School where she studied theatre performance and is currently studying dramaturgy at the University of Toronto. This is her New Ideas Festival debut.


​Heather worked on her first Alumnae Theatre production back in 1978, when she ran sound (on a reel-to-reel!) for a Studio production that featured Diane Polley. This was followed by a number of years stage managing at the Alumnae and over 20 years stage managing, producing, and sitting on the Board of Directors at the Village Playhouse. Life got in the way, resulting in a too-long hiatus from theatre, so Heather is very glad to be back at the Alum. The technology may be newer, but the rest feels like home.


Leslie spends many hours in the Alumnae basement working as the wardrobe manager and also lots of time online trying to master her role as VP Membership. She recently performed in the play ASSASSINATION!!! with Act 2 Studio at TMU and in Prisoner of Second Avenue with the Village Players. Leslie is delighted to bring Joyce to life in this well-written, poignant, and funny play. Kudos to director Grace, AD/SM Heather, and fellow cast members for bringing in solid performances and making rehearsals so much fun!  Many thanks to family and friends for their ongoing support.


Nancy L. Stewart is an actor with a keen interest in Shakespeare and portraying interesting characters. She is a member of the Alumnae Theatre involved in acting and membership, as well as a member of Act II Studio and Act II Studio WORKS as an actor. Nancy performed in King John with Act II and was the lead in The Reading Circle for NIF 2018. As a passionate player, she has performed in Our TownTomorrow Love and A Community Target with Outside the March and Convergence Theatre.


Vail Rhodes is a new arrival in Toronto. Joyce and Florence is his first time acting on stage since before the pandemic, and he is so excited to be back! He was previously seen as Dr. Flemming in the Torchlight Theatre production of Prescription: Murder (2019, Calgary), among other shows out West. He is a graduate of the Company of Rogues Masterclass program as well as the LAMDA Shakespeare Summer School. This is his first show with Alumnae Theatre. 


Patrick Speagle is thrilled to be back onstage for the first time since COVID began! He is an accomplished voice performer, bartender, and proud plant dad! He is very excited to be joining the cast and crew of Joyce and Florence for his Alumnae debut.


Elizabeth Rodenburg (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist from Guelph, Ontario. She is a recent graduate of the University of Windsor where she had the exciting experience of writing and performing a one-person show entitled Shapeshifter. Previous acting credits include Procne (If We Were Birds), Nancy (The Sweet Science of Bruising), Molly (The Smell of the Kill), and Claudio/Margaret (Much Ado About Nothing). Elizabeth has achieved their Basic Stage Combat Certification and is a current participant in the National Young Playwrights Unit at Tarragon. They are passionate about telling often untold stories in a way that celebrates artists and their identities.

Recipe for a Riot Grrrl

* When the punk dream dies, what's a Riot Grrrl do next? *


Mel Stevenson is a playwright, actor, and writing instructor. She is delighted to premiere her script Recipe for a Riot Grrrl at NIF 2023, with a fantastic creative and production team. Recent plays include Home and Native Land (a play about Canadian racism abroad) for the Alumnae Theatre’s Big Ideas Festival and A Little Bite of Paradise (about class, revenge, and the opioid crisis). This is her second time at NIF as a playwright: her very first play, Mad, was workshopped at a previous NIF. For more information about her work, please see or @quirkster_at_play on Instagram.


After being away from theatre for several years, Ian is excited to be a part of the creative team on Recipe for a Riot Grrrl. He would also like to thank the producing team at the New Ideas Festival for all the great work to support the productions throughout rehearsals. When not in rehearsals, Ian designs and facilitates processes to guide groups as they create responses to complex social challenges. Ian would like to express gratitude to his wife Kanchan for being a supportive and insightful voice.
*The participation of this Artist is arranged by permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.


This is John Acuna’s first production at Alumnae in the New Ideas Festival. It is also his first as an Assistant Director/Stage Manager. John began his involvement in theatre with the Village Players in 2019. Since then, he has produced plays with the Village onstage and online. Credits include Love Letters (2021), Old Coots Commune (2022 online), Gloria’s Guy (2022), and The Fighting Days (2023). He was also the sound designer in an online version of Nested (2022). Old Coots Commune (Kristine Greenaway), Gloria’s Guy (Joan Burrows), and Nested (Liz Best) were plays developed at the Alumnae Theatre.



Lawrie Carruthers is pleased to be back at the Alumnae’s New Ideas Festival. She appeared in Joule’s Odyssey in last year’s NIF and has more recently performed as Jane in Silver Dagger and as Miranda in The Impossibility Of Now. She also spent some time overseas with English Theatre Madrid where she appeared as Juror 7 in Twelve Angry Jurors and as Amanda in The Glass Menagerie. Lawrie is thrilled to be working with all the creative forces involved with Recipe For A Riot Grrrl!


A graduate of QUT (Theatre Studies), Natalie has made Toronto her home since January 2022. Recent credits include Thistlepatch (FireWorks 2022), Gloria’s Guy (Bloor Village Players), and Government Inspector (Javeenbah Theatre Company). She is excited to share the riot grrrl revolution with you.


* Which witch wins with Win's one wish, and other Puritanical problems. *


Jean Ciampi is a playwright, columnist, Dramatists Guild of America member, passport holder, scuba diver, actress, baseball fan, director, Texas lover, and cilantro hater. She’s also a member of the 2022 Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive. Her play, Potato Gumbo, which she wrote while living in Saudi Arabia, won a Robert J. Pickering Award for Playwriting Excellence but did not win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. She still has sour grapes with Hamilton about that. She has other award-winning, full-length plays currently in production in Houston, Los Angeles, and Michigan. For more about Jean Ciampi, visit


Emma Jo Conlin is a director and stage manager with a love of the supernatural and absurd. She completed her BFA in Theatre Production Management at the University of Victoria working on a variety of productions including OthelloDeath by Horoscope, and The Drowsy Chaperone. She recently worked with Tarragon Theatre as the Apprentice Stage Manager for Post Democracy. After NIF, Emma Jo is thrilled to join the production team at the Stratford Studio Theatre.


​Katherine is an immersive theatre enthusiast, recent graduate of Queen’s Film and Media, and excitable theatre creative trying to have the most fun possible working in Toronto! She is excited to be back on the creative side of theatre after working in marketing at Alumnae and Rare Day Projects over the last two years. Genieology is Katherine’s first time as an AD/SM and she can’t thank the amazing cast, the festival producers, and director Emma Jo enough for all the support and fun along the way! Shoutout to her exceptional partner Ryan and foster dog Gamboge. #adoptdontshop

The Cast


Jordan Kewell is an alumnus of Niagara College’s Acting for Film and Television program, as well as a graduate of the Second City’s improv program. Jordan is the co-founder of Reverie Arts, an indie film production company based in Toronto. Jordan was the recipient of the Best Male Performance Award in the 2018 InspiraTO festival. Jordan also enjoys writing and directing thought-provoking pieces.


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 also obtained her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Toronto. Renée has also worked with Factory Theatre as an apprentice sound designer for You Can’t Get There From Here, Vol. 2. Selected credits include: Harabogee (할아버지) & Me (Shakespeare in Action), FOLDA Thought Residency (Theatre Direct), TomorrowLove (Humber College). She is extremely excited to collaborate with fellow artists as a part of the 2023 New Ideas Festival. Follow her work at Instagram: @reneeewcs 


Anne is a psychiatrist and actor at the Alumnae Theatre and Village Players. She is a psychotherapist, has three adult sons, and sings in the Toronto Physicians Choir. She acts in music videos, as an aging hippie in Life of the Party with Chris Larocca. She recently completed a film on elder abuse called Stop It in Markham. She played an unlikable childcare worker in Thistlepatch at the FireWorks Festival last fall. She adores playing creatures, witches, and zombies and has found her calling as Aunt Dorcas in Genieology. She will next appear in the independent production of Without Whom.


Kelly O’Donnell is an actor and singer/songwriter from Vancouver who graduated with a BFA in Theatre from the University of Victoria. After a long pandemic-fueled break, Kelly is excited to make her Toronto debut as part of the 2023 New Ideas Festival in Genieology. Having spent the last two years working on her debut E.P., Kelly is ready to move her creative energy into the theatre once again. Select credits include: Rachel in Perestroika, Leading Player in Pippin, Leo in Zodiac Misfits, Donna in Mamma Mia!, and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Click Here for Music/Sound Attributions

Festival Artistic Director


A director, actor, and producer, Cassidy began working with Alumnae Theatre at age 17 in the 2012 New Ideas Festival. She is passionate about new works, immersive experiences, and experimental theatrical forms. She has performed in London and New York, and across the Canadian Prairies. She is a permanent company member of Live History, whose site-specific work can be seen internationally. Cassidy is the Associate Producer at Roseneath Theatre. Additional credits include: A Tonic for Desperate Times (Theatre Gargantua); The Curious Voyage(DopoLavoro Teatrale/Talk is Free Theatre); and The Pride of Life and Mankind (Poculi Ludique Societas/Stan’s Cafe/Metropolitan Museum of Art).


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