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New Ideas Festival 2024

Week 2/May 1-5, 2024

Double Down Helix

CAROLYN BENNETT/ PLAYWRIGHT

Writer/Comic Carolyn Bennett has written for television, film, radio, theatre, and inanimate objects in her office. Bennett won the 2013 TIFF Studio Screenwriting Intensive Jury Prize, and was in the 2017 Thousand Islands Playwright Unit. She has had short plays in previous New Idea Festivals. Bennett’s debut novel Please Stand By (NON Publishing, 2019) is available at fine book stores and flea markets everywhere. She is now at work on a collection of short stories. She freelances for the Toronto StarThe Fishwrapper, and almost any publication that will pay her something.

NICOLE ANNE SMITH/ DIRECTOR

​Nicole is a Toronto-based director and actor who has recently returned home after completing her BFA in acting at UBC. Last summer, Nicole had the pleasure of participating in a directing workshop at Yale University. In 2022, Nicole worked as a research assistant for Professor/Director Leora Morris, which involved dramaturgical and directorial tasks for various projects. Directing credits: The Festivities (assistant director/assistant SM, UBC), Ubu (co-director, SM, UBC), The Löwensköld Ring (deviser, LML Productions). Nicole’s passion lies in bringing female-led processes and narratives to the forefront of her work, driving her commitment to empowering and representing women in the world of theatre.

BROOKE JOHNSTON/ PATRICIA

Brooke is very excited to be making her Toronto stage debut at the Alumnae Theatre.  She studied Classics at McGill University and acting at the Lee Strasberg Film and Theatre and Film Institute in New York City.  Theatre credits include Hamlet (Edinburgh Fringe), Se7en (Hong Kong), Romeo and Juliet (London), Cymbeline (NYC), Macbeth (London), and La Dame aux Camelias (London).  Film and television credits include playing the villain in the latest addition of the Never Back Down franchise for Sony Pictures as well as Fifty Shades Darker (Universal), Murder (BBC), Rush (Universal), Legends (Fox), Hurricane Heist (Lionsgate), and Accident Man (Sony). In addition to her work in the dramatic arts, Brooke also dabbles as a journalist and documentary maker focusing on women’s issues.  A documentary she made for the BBC was nominated for a prestigious Press Gazette Award in the United Kingdom.

ROBINSON OSORO/ STAGE MANAGER

Robinson is a Nairobi-based actor and stage manager, with a B.A in Theatre Arts and Film Technology from Kenyatta University. He has managed to be a stage manager for high school drama festivals in Kenya. He has also stage- managed students at the Kenyatta University Culture Week Festivals. His passion is to spread love and knowledge through the arts.

A Little Bite of Paradise

MELANIE STEVENSON/ PLAYWRIGHT

Melanie Stevenson is a playwright, actor, and writing instructor based in Tkaronto/Toronto. Her other plays include Recipe for a Riot Grrrl, which had a sold-out NIF run under the direction of Dora winner Ian Prinsloo; Brontësaurus, which satirizes British Canadians’ obsession with period drama (Big Ideas, 2022); and Mad, in which an actor playing Joan of Arc confronts a director who conflates female anger with mental illness (Alchemist Theatre, Hamilton). Her comedy The Right Leg was nominated for a Chang School TMU screenwriting award. She is delighted to be part of NIF 2024 and is grateful to the Alumnae Theatre for supporting the development of new Canadian drama.

ILANA LINDEN/
DIRECTOR

Ilana Linden is a visual artist, writer, actor, theatre director/producer, and filmmaker. 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.

JEREMY FERDMAN/ WAYNE

As a graduate of The Stella Adler Studio of Acting in NYC, Jeremy Ferdman is an award-winning actor, producer and educator (M.Ed). His film credits include Race (Amazon Prime) starring Jason Sudeikis; Stephen King’s Firestarter (Crave) starring Zac Efron; and Robbery (Amazon Prime), which earned Jeremy an ACTRA Award Nomination for Outstanding Performance. His television work includes roles on Burden of Truth, Good Witch and Man Seeking Woman. On stage, Jeremy has performed at The John F. Kennedy Centre, Off-Broadway, and The Elgin Winter Garden Theatre. Most recently, he executive-produced the feature film Last Call (Apple TV) starring John Malkovich and Tony Hale. He is elated to be making his Alumnae Theatre debut with A Little Bite of Paradise

DANIELLE COX/
EVA

Danielle has recently returned to the stage after focusing on family, her visual art, and volunteering her time teaching drama to youth. Danielle studied Drama and Theatre at Winchester University, UK, and intends to take her Master’s in Applied Theatre. Her training is in Shakespeare and Commedia del Arte, with a strong emphasis on the Stanislavski technique. She had a brief return to the stage for ‘Bard in the Park’, playing Feste in Twelfth Night. Her favourite Shakespeare roles include Lavinia in Titus Andronicus and Beatrice in Much Ado About Football. Danielle is very excited to return to the stage!

BINI SHAH/
STAGE MANAGER

Bini works as an IT Analyst during the day and spends her evenings chasing theatre and arts. She has been a part of the Toronto artistic community by volunteering at theatre festivals like The Fringe and other festivals like Elevate, Comic Con, and more. With an innate love for poetry and writing, she continues to support the artistic community in her capacity as a manager and co-ordinator. After a successful show run of Smoke Ville at Fireworks Festival 2023 and The Children, she is excited to be a part of NIF 2024 with A Little Bite of Paradise.

Victorian Closet Drama

NINA KAYE/
PLAYWRIGHT

Nina Kaye is the artistic director of Unspoken Theatre Company in Toronto. A multi award-winning playwright and published poet, she is a graduate of the masters’ program in drama at the University of Toronto. Named one of “our city’s best emergent playwrights” by Mooney on Theatre, her plays have been produced in Toronto, New York, and Washington. Toronto productions include plays with the Toronto Fringe Festival, Sterling Studio Theatre, Unit 102, and Social Capital Theatre. 

KYRA KEITH/
DIRECTOR

Kyra Keith is a developing actor, director, and creator with a passion for queer, clown, and absurdist work. She graduated from the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College in the Theatre and Drama Studies Specialist program. Some of Kyra’s credits include assistant directing Back Mirror in Alumnae Theatre’s 2023 New Ideas Festival and directing An Ode to Home in Toronto’s 2023 Fringe Festival.  Kyra received five nominations in the Beyond the Curve International Film Festival last year for her team’s work on Back mirror. She also 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 very thankful to be working alongside such a great team of artists.

ERIC AMARAL/
MISS PRISCILLA LUFF

Eric Amaral is an emerging actor based in Toronto. Recently graduating from York University’s Devised Theatre program, Eric is extremely grateful to be a part of the New Ideas Festival! Eric has been doing what he loves most: acting. He’s brought to life a wide range of characters, and he’s excited to showcase his talents in this new role. He is thrilled to be a part of this production and wants to thank the cast and crew for being such amazing creatives. He hopes you enjoy Victorian Closet Drama as much as he has enjoyed being a part of it.

JULIE VANDERLIP/
MR. VICTOR LUFF

Julie, a Toronto-based actor, eagerly joins Alumnae Theatre’s New Idea Festival and Victorian Closet Drama. She co-created and starred in Rocks On Earth From Space at Hamilton Fringe last year with her wife. Her talent transcends to screen, featured in See No Evil. Notably, Julie was a runner-up for Best Supporting Actress at the Demonic Brilliance Film Festival for Sleep Without a Dream. With a passion for storytelling and LGBTQ+ representation, Julie leaves a lasting impact on both stage and screen.

MICHELLE GRAM/
MRS. SOPHY LUFF

Michelle is thrilled to be part of Victorian Closet Drama with the New Ideas Festival. Recent credits include Timekeeper: Cunning Little Vixen (Canadian Opera Company), Co-Creator/Actor: Frankenstein(esque) (Silent Protagonist Theatre – Toronto Fringe Festival), Pharlap: The Complex (Workshop: It’s Not a Pivot Productions), and Shadow Puppeteer/Builder: Pierrot and the Moon (Metaphysical Theatre). She is a puppeteer/designer, voice actor, actress, and teacher. Michelle graduated from York University’s Creative Ensemble/ Devised Theatre program and owns Story Drama Suite, offering Arts Education consulting and workshops for educators. Visit her at www.storydramasuite.com

EMILIA MICHALOWSKA/ HELEN JEWELL

Emilia is delighted to be making her Toronto theatre debut in the hilarious Victorian Closet Drama. Originally from Vancouver, Emilia has since gone on to receive an Associates of Arts from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts in New York City. Emilia’s recent Theatre/TV credits include the aptly named Amelia in The House Of Bernarda Alba (Off-Off Broadway, The Gallery Players), Belle/Narrator #5 in A Christmas Carol Radio Show (The Metro Theatre, Vancouver), and Bea Hall in Dark Side Of the Ring

TYLER BIGNELL/
WILLIAM JEWELL

Tyler is a veteran of the stage with notable credits including Felix in The Odd Couple, Tad in Family Affair, Peter in Prelude to a Kiss, and Bouc in Murder on the Orient Express. This is Tyler’s first show with Alumnae Theatre. When not acting, Tyler can be found blowing kisses at cars in the bike lane from his bicycle OR wandering from bar to bar on Front Street. Thanks to everyone for coming to see this show. If you made it this far, you win. Likes: Theatre, Star Trek, You. Dislikes: Open mouth chewers, the 401, poorly written bios.

SRUTIKA SABU/
STAGE MANAGER

Srutika (Tika) Sabu (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist and storyteller.  Her pandemic decision was to throw away her medical degree and deep dive into theatre initially through improv comedy and clown. She’s an alumna of the Toronto Fringe TENT program and the Toronto Arts Foundation/Neighbourhood Arts Network’s ArtWorksTO program. This is Srutika’s first time as stage manager, and she is excited to be part of the New Ideas Festival.

Je Suis Morte​

R.J. DOWNES/ PLAYWRIGHT

R.J. Downes is a playwright, director, and stage manager whose plays have appeared in Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, Stratford, and Sault Ste. Marie. His most recent produced works were “Two Actresses” by Bottle Tree Productions in Kingston in February 2023 and “Last Dance of the Dark Cloaked Avenger” by Sault Theatre Workshop in May 2023. This is his sixth short play to be presented in the New Ideas Festival. He currently resides in Sault Ste. Marie.

IVANA OBRADOVIK/ DIRECTOR

Ivana Obradovik has donned many hats in the world of theatre as an actress, producer, and most recently director. She embraces shared creativity, exploration, and experimentation and believes that creativity flourishes from the meeting of diverse minds during a collaborative creative process. She is very excited to be a part of NIF for the first time and work with such a talented group of playwrights and actors, supported by the most efficient and hardworking production team.

HOPE GOUDSWARD/
ELEANOR

Hope (she/her) is excited to be a part of the New Ideas Festival! She loves getting to work on new scripts and has been so thankful for the chance to work with such a talented and inspiring team on this one! She is a recent graduate of Randolph College, where she studied musical theater. Some of her credits include Peer Gynt, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Beauty and the Beast, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. @hopegoudsward

MICHELLE BAYNTON/
LESLIE

Michelle Baynton is an accomplished actor, singer and recording artist who frequently performs internationally. She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Opera Performance program. Select credits include A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Wavestage Theatre Company), Joan of Arc w Guns (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre), Trying (Alumnae Theatre), Perfect Crime (the NAGS Players), Dogfight (Awkward Stage Productions), A…My Name is Alice (VACT/Skycorner Productions), Titanic (TUTS), Smile (Awkward Stage Productions), Adding Machine (Pipedream Theatre Project), The Sound of Music (Footlight Theatre Company) and Suor Angelica (UBC Opera).

FATMA OZBEK/
SALON

Fatma Ozbek is a photographer, storyteller, and a clown at heart. She began her improvisational comedy training at The Second City and fell in love with physical theatre at Sweet Action Theatre. From there, she trained with Toronto favourites Ken Hall (Umbrella Academy), Isaac Kessler (2-MAN NO-SHOW), Gordon Neill (Speakeasy) and renowned clown masters Chad Damiani (Clown Boss), Nathaniel Justiniano (Naked Empire Bouffon Company), and Deanna Fleysher (Butt Kapinski). Fatma is currently working on her solo show that will debut in July 2024 at The Toronto Fringe Festival.

ZAHRA ESMAIL/
STAGE MANAGER

Zahra Esmail is a theatre arts-technical production student at Humber College. She has worked as part of stage management, lighting, and carpentry teams for shows including We Are Not Separate and Three Stories by Shaun  (Humber College). This is her first time working on the New Ideas Festival.


EILEEN WHITCOMB/
STAGEHAND-WEEK 2

Eileen was born and raised in East York. She is excited to be part of the production team of The New Ideas Festival. Eileen was a costume assistant on The Children. She was an assistant stage manager for Better Living. She wants to pursue an undergraduate degree in theatre production.

 

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