Stage Door News

Toronto: Cahoots Theatre announces 10 winners of the Promising Pen Prize

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Cahoots is pleased to announce the Promising Pen Prize. We are thrilled to support 10 creators whose works-in-progress have particularly inspired us with their originality and captured us with their imagination.

Promising Pen Prize Artists:

Aria Evans


Aria Evans is a queer, Tkaronto-based, award-winning interdisciplinary artist whose practice spans dance theatre; creation, performance, and film. Aria draws on their experiences with Afro-Indigenous + settler heritage to capture meaningful social and cultural themes through their interactive art. With a large-scale vision, collaboration is the departure point to the work that Aria creates with their company POLITICAL MOVEMENT. Advocating for inclusion and the representation of diversity, Aria uses their artistic practice to question the ways we can coexist together. With a decolonial mindset and a personal interest in intimacy, Aria creates work that centers on the needs of the artists involved.


Bessie Cheng 


Bessie Cheng is a queer Chinese-Canadian performer and playwright. She graduated from the Playwriting and Devised Theatre program at York University. Bessie was a member of Foundry, a playwriting unit facilitated by Nina Lee Aquino at Factory Theatre where her play, Dirt, had its first stage reading. Dirt was named one of the winners of the Ellen Ross Stuart Award from the Ontario Arts Foundation and was nominated for the RBC Emerging Playwright Award from Playwrights Guild of Canada. Bessie is a member of Silk Bath Collective, creating the Fringe hit, Silk Bath. Silk Bath Collective’s latest production, Yellow Rabbit, enjoyed a sold-out run at Soulpepper Theatre in 2018. The collective is currently the company-in-residence at Theatre Passe Muraille with their newest work in development, Woking Phoenix.

Bessie has also worked with theatre organizations including AMY Project, fu-GEN, Studio 180, Cahoots Theatre, and Theatre Direct. Bessie was selected by Cahoots Theatre as one of their 30 theatre-makers who will help shape the next 30 years in Canadian theatre.

Camila Diaz-Varela


Camila (they & she) is a theatre artist, musician, and community organizer with Mexican roots. They were born in Kjipuktuk on unceded Mi’kmaq territory, also known as Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, produces live and digital sound and music projects, and performs both as an actor in theatre and as a singer-songwriter. They are currently the Metcalf Foundation Artistic Intern at Aluna Theatre. Camila is passionate about the capacity of live performance  to transform social and political barriers.

Chase Lo


Chase Lo (they/them). I am a queer, nonbinary Chinese-Canadian emerging interdisciplinary artist, actor, and playwright based in Toronto.
In 2009, I was selected as one of the 8 Asian Canadian Playwrights to develop a play in fu-GEN’s (Asian Canadian Theatre Company, Toronto) Kitchen Program. A staged reading of Blood Stain was showcased at fu GEN’s Potluck Festival. For a year, I was mentored by Andrea Nann, who is a choreographer, performer, arts educator, and artistic director of Dreamwalker Dance Company (DDC). My mentorship was funded by the Ontario Arts Council - Access and Career Development Grant (2012). 

From 2015-2016, I was a participant in Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s Emerging Creators Unit (ECU), which was directed by Sunny Drake, providing me with mentorship and training to devise and perform Al/Lex — a 25-minute solo interdisciplinary performance with dramaturgy from Mel Hague and direction from Tawiah Ben Eben Mfoafo-M'Carthy at the 37th Rhubarb festival.

In 2019, I participated in the Taipei Shorts II Festival in Taiwan as both a playwright (Lucky Stars) and a performer (Flight 109).

Presently, I am developing a play called Ruby— about Asian and migrant transfeminine and gender non-conforming sex workers who act as vigilantes to seek justice and impact laws governing sex work—with support from OAC theatre recommender grants (Nightwood Theatre, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto Fringe Festival, and Theatre Passe Muraille).

As a recipient of the Promising Pen Prize, I am immensely grateful to Cahoots Theatre for their recognition and support.

James Dallas Smith


James Dallas Smith is a Six Nations Mohawk actor/writer/musician and has been performing on stage & screen for over twenty years. For several seasons he was a cast member of the groundbreaking and now cult OMNI tv series, "Metropia". He has just completed his first play, “Crossroads”, which was commissioned by the Blyth Festival and is writing a new work titled, “The Messenger”. Selected theatre credits include: Almighty Voice & His Wife (Dora Nomination for Outstanding Performance), Our Town, The Time of Your Life, King Lear, The Government Inspector (Soulpepper), This is How We Got Here, Ipperwash (Native Earth Performing Arts), The Berlin Blues, Ipperwash (Blyth), The Drawer Boy, Proof (Centaur), Hard Times for These Times (NAC), A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It (Driftwood Theatre), Danny, King of the Basement (MTYP), Hayfever, Guys & Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof, Anne of Green Gables (Thousand Islands Playhouse) and Heart of a Distant Tribe (CIT/Equity Showcase Theatre).



Kitoko (They/Them) is a Black, Non-binary, disabled emerging multidisciplinary performance arist, media artist, and community artist.  They’re a  graduate of the Theatre/ Film studies and Multimedia studies at McMaster University (which they both love and regret) and the APT program at Generator (currently no regrets). Kit’s primarily interested in creating performance-based work that challenges the notion of binaries, and explores lateral violence and power dynamics within marginalized communities.  Their work is rooted in social justice, anti-oppression, accessibility, #femmeaesthetics, community care, and the pursuit of messiness. It’s best described as a chaotic poetic collage. Website:

Marie Beath Badian


Marie Beath is a Toronto-based playwright and theatre maker. Her plays include Prairie Nurse, The Making of St. Jerome and Novena.

She was Playwright in Residence for fu-GEN Asian-Canadian Theatre Company, Project Humanity and The Blyth Festival.  She has been a member of several playwright units including the HotHouse Playwright Unit with Cahoots Theatre Company,  The Tarragon Playwright Unit, The Natural Resources Unit at Factory Theatre and The Banff Playwrights Lab.

Recently, Marie Beath's play Common Part I and II,  set in the common room of an urban youth crisis centre, was long-listed in the top 30 for The 2019 Brentwood Prize for Playwriting - the U.K’s biggest national competition for playwriting.

With the generous support of The Promising Pen Prize, she will be completing the Common Trilogy with Part III: Chester Breaks His Glasses [or Bricanyl].


Mohammad Yaghoubi


Born and raised in Iran, Mohammad Yaghoubi is a playwright, director, screenwriter, theatre instructor, Co-founder and the co-artistic director of Toronto-based NOWADAYS THEATRE company.

His plays have been translated and produced in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Kurdistan, Russia, Sweden, The Czech Republic, Turkey, and the USA.

With over a decade experience in theatre, Mohammad moved to Canada in 2015. After founding NOWADAYS THEATRE company in 2016, Mohammad Yaghoubi staged the English premiere of his highly acclaimed play ‘A Moment of Silence’ at 2016 SummerWorks Performance Festival.

In 2018, with the support of Canada Council for the Arts, he wrote his first play in English 'Persimmon'.  He has been also awarded a grant by Toronto Arts Council in 2020 to write his second play into English titled ‘Earworm’.

Recent Credits: The English premiere of his celebrated play ‘Winter of 88’ (Next Stage Theatre Festival, 2020, Factory Theatre MainSpace), The Only Possible Way (Canadian Stage, 2019).

Selected Awards: The National Theatre Critics Society Award for Outstanding Play - ‘Drought & Lies’, Winner of the Iranian Playwrights Society and Third place winner of the New Play Contest in Toronto’s Fringe Festival - ‘A Moment of Silence’, The Iran’s National Theatre Critics Society Award for Outstanding Writing – ‘Geraniums’.

Ophira Calof


Ophira Calof is a multi award winning Disabled writer, performer, and producer. Her work weaves together music, comedy, and storytelling, centring disability and chronic illness experience. They co-created the sketch comedy revue Generally Hospital (Canadian Comedy Award Nominee, Patron’s Pick, David Seguin Memorial Award), her solo show, Literally Titanium, was developed through the Buddies in Bad Times Emerging Creator’s Unit before premiering at the 2020 Next Stage Theatre Festival, and hosted Slumber Party, a talk show on Bad Dog Comedy TV. Ophira also works as a curator, workshop facilitator, consultant, and keynote speaker with projects including COVID-19 through a Disability Lens: Storytelling and Filmmaking Project, Making Space: Stories of Disabled Youth in the GTA, and Bad Dog Theatre’s 5th annual Our Cities On Our Stages Symposium. Ophira graduated from Second City’s Writing and Sketch Conservatory programs, was featured in the Second City 2018 Toronto Diversity Fellowship Showcase, and is the 2018 recipient of the Tim Sims Encouragement Award. They also have an extensive background as a vocalist, training through the University of British Columbia’s opera performance program, and completing Berklee Music Online’s songwriting specialist certificate. 

Rinchen Dolma


Rinchen Dolma (རིན་ཆེན་སྒྲོལ་མ་|) was born in Kathmandu, Nepal and is currently based in Tkaronto. She is the founder and Artistic Director of MADE IN EXILE, an arts-based initiative that engages young Tibetan creatives in exploring their complex identities through contemporary mediums of storytelling in exile. She is a community arts practitioner, an emerging playwright, dramaturge and director currently interning at Theatre Passe Muraille in Artistic Direction as the recipient of the 2020 Metcalf Foundation Performing Arts Program.