Stage Door News

Stratford: Playwrights arrive in Stratford for the Festival’s 12th annual Playwrights Retreat

Monday, September 9, 2019

Eight distinguished Canadian theatre artists have arrived in Stratford for the Festival’s 12th annual Playwrights Retreat. Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Bob White, the Director of the Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program, are delighted to welcome: Katherine Cullen, Sina Gilani, Falen Johnson, Sarena Parmar, Christine Quintana, Phoebe Tsang, Norman Yeung and Marcus Youssef.

This year’s Retreat is dedicated to the late Robert Blacker in celebration of his career and unabashed love for playwrights across North America. The Retreat was inaugurated by Blacker, who served as the Festival’s dramaturge from 2007 to 2012. He died on August 29.

As part of the Festival’s Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program, the Retreat supports the development of new work and new ways of looking at the work created by the Festival. Artists from across Canada are offered a place to write both in solitude and in the company of fellow writers and artists who can provide support and dramaturgical feedback.

“Over the past 12 years, our Playwrights Retreat has hosted close to 100 Canadian theatre writers, offering them time and space to pursue their own visions and the opportunity to experience work featured on Stratford’s stages,” says White. “This season’s guests represent a vital cross-section of writers from all stages of a writing career. Their work is diverse, challenging and charting new directions for theatre in Canada.”

The seeds of many successful and engaging Festival projects have been sowed through the Retreat, including 2018’sBrontë: The World Without, written by Jordi Mand; 2017’s The Breathing Hole, written by Colleen Murphy and directed by 2015 Retreat participant Reneltta Arluk; and 2014’s Christina, The Girl King, written by Michel Marc Bouchard and translated by Linda Gaboriau

Since commissioning its first play in 1958, the Festival has commissioned or developed about 100 new plays, translations and adaptations. There are at any given time about 25 projects in active development in the Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program.

Endowed support for new play programs at the Stratford Festival is provided through the generosity of Rita & Rudy Koehler, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and Kelly & Michael Meighen. The Festival gratefully acknowledges the Canada Council’s support of its new play programs.



Norman’s play Theory will have its American première at Mosaic Theater in Washington, D.C. (October 2019). Theorypremièred at Tarragon, won the Herman Voaden National Playwriting Prize, and is being developed as a feature film.Pu-Erh received four Dora Award nominations, including Outstanding New Play, and was a Herman Voaden finalist.Theory and Ms. Desjardins are available as podcasts (PlayME/CBC). He holds a BFA in Acting/Theatre (University of British Columbia) and a BFA in Film (Ryerson). Norman is from East Vancouver and lives in Toronto and Los Angeles.



Phoebe Tsang is a Hong Kong-born Chinese, British and Canadian poet, librettist and playwright. She is a member of Nightwood Theatre’s 2019-20 Write From The Hip playwriting unit. Phoebe’s libretti have premièred at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Canadian Sinfonietta, Continuum Contemporary Music, Tapestry Opera, and Hamilton Philharmonic. The author of Contents of a Mermaid’s Purse (Tightrope Books, Toronto), she is also a recording artist with Off – record label (Belgium).



Christine is a playwright and actor based on the unceded Coast Salish territories. Her plays include Never The Last, Selfie, Stationary: A Recession-Era Musical and Good Things To Do. She is the recipient of the 2017 Siminovitch Protégé Prize, the Urjo Kareda Residency at Tarragon Theatre, a Dora Mavor Moore Award, a Jessie Richardson Award and the Sidney Risk Award. She is a graduate of UBC’s BFA Acting program and a proud member of the Canadian Latinx Theatre Artist Coalition.



Sarena is an actor and playwright. Her first play, The Orchard (After Chekhov), premièred at the Shaw Festival, making her the first South Asian playwright produced in the Festival’s history. A second production opened at The Arts Club in 2019. As an actor, Sarena has worked in theatres across Canada, including the Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, Bard on the Beach and Tarragon Theatre. Sarena is a graduate of the National Theatre School and Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre.



Katherine is an actor and playwright based in Toronto and a founding member of Outside The March, an award-winning site-specific theatre company. Select theatre credits include: TomorrowLove (Outside the March; My Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actress), Vitals (Outside the March; Dora nomination for Outstanding Performance), Mr. Marmalade (Outside the March), The Nether (The Coal Mine Theatre; Dora nomination for Outstanding Ensemble). Katherine debuted her show Stupidhead! as a part of Theatre Passe Muraille’s 2017 season. The show earned her and co-creator Britta Johnson a Dora Award Nomination for Outstanding New Play.



Sina is an award-winning Iranian-Canadian actor, writer and filmmaker based in Toronto via Tehran. He is a graduate of Humber College and York University, an alumnus of the Buddies in Bad Times Emerging Creators Unit (2013-2014), a member of the Soulpepper Academy (2016-2018), and a graduate of Canadian Film Centre Writers’ Lab (2018). Selected works: playwright – Wedding At Aulis (Soulpepper), actor – 20th of November (Buddies in Bad Times), film – In Case Of Nothing (feature in development).



Marcus Youssef’s 15 or so plays have been produced across North America, as well as the U.K., Ireland, Iceland, Greece, Germany, China, Denmark, Belgium, Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Marcus is the recipient of the Siminovitch Prize for Theatre, the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award, the Rio-Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award, the Chalmer’s Canadian Play Award, the Seattle Times Footlight Award, two Arts Club Silver Commissions, the Vancouver Critics’ Choice award (three times) and the Canada Council Staunch-Lynton Award. He is currently Senior Artist at Vancouver’s Neworld Theatre and International Associate at Farnham Maltings in the U.K.



Falen is Mohawk and Tuscarora from Six Nations (Bear Clan). She is a writer, dramaturge, director and actor. Her playSalt Baby has been staged with Native Earth Performing Arts, Planet IndigenUS, The Next Stage Festival, The Globe Theatre and the Belfry. She is a graduate of George Brown Theatre School and a former playwright-in-residence at Native Earth Performing Arts and Blyth Festival. She is the 2015 recipient of the Ontario Arts Council Emerging Aboriginal Artist Award. Her writing has been featured in Brick Literary Journal, The Canadian Theatre Review and Granta Magazine. Her podcast The Secret Life of Canada (co-hosted with Leah-Simone Bowen) is now in its second season with CBC Podcasts.