Toronto: Native Earth announces its new Interim Artistic Director and its new Managing Director

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

As Native Earth Performing Arts begins its 40th year, the Board of Directors announces the appointments of Joelle Peters as Interim Artistic Director and Himanshu Sitlani as Managing Director. We are delighted to welcome them to Native Earth and believe that they will bring vision, leadership, and energy to carry the company forward.

Joelle Peters is an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and Miami performer and playwright from Walpole Island First Nation, Bkejwanong Territory in southwestern Ontario. She studied Acting for Camera and Voice at Seneca College in Toronto and has performed across Canada at festivals and theatres. Joelle received the 2020 Siminovitch Protégé Playwright prize, and her new play Niizh had already been scheduled for Native Earth’s 2022-23 season. The play was written during her time with Native Earth’s Animikiig Creator’s Unit. She also co-wrote the award-winning play, Frozen River with Michaela Washburn and Carrie Costello, which premiered at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People in February 2022. Most recently, her work has expanded to include dramaturgy and directing. Joelle is committed to building on the company’s vision, values, and history, honouring the past while bringing new energy and innovation as the company moves into its next decade.

Himanshu Sitlani has been Patron Services Manager at Toronto’s Factory Theatre since 2018. He developed innovative processes for sustaining patron engagement during the pandemic. Prior to moving to Canada, he had extensive experience in multiple administrative and creative roles in theatre in Mumbai, India. In 2019, he co-founded Nautanki Bazaar Productions, which focuses on arts and artists from the South Asian diaspora and has had two successful productions that used active outreach to draw audiences who do not typically attend theatre in Toronto. Himanshu is committed to advancing IBPOC representation in theatre and to deepening engagement with Indigenous communities. Throughout his career, Himanshu has combined the skills gained through his degree in commerce and accounting with his passion for all aspects of theatre.

Both directors will be supported by a circle of Indigenous and theatre artists and mentors as they take on these new roles. The Board of Directors looks forward to supporting these two talented young professionals.

This is a time of exciting opportunities for Indigenous art and artists. Through these appointments and a celebratory season ahead of us, Native Earth looks forward to sustaining and expanding our relationships with the Indigenous and theatre communities across Canada and beyond as we move into our fifth decade honouring our Indigenous heritage, sharing our stories, and shaping the future.

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"Kwey Kwey all, as the Medicine Wheel teaches us that human beings are continuously growing and evolving along our spiritual path, Native Earth Performing Arts is also growing and evolving. I am extremely excited to welcome Joelle Peters and Himanshu Sitlani as they join Native Earth on our path forward.

I also would like to say chi miigwetch to Isaac and Keith for all of their talents and leadership they shared with Native Earth. It was an honour to walk with you.

Chi miigwetch/Thank you."

Bob Whiteduck Crawford, President of the Board

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"Native Earth has always been a home for developing new artistic leaders. Many talented people have contributed to our story. The company’s history of supporting developing artists and administrators remains a testament to its values. It is time again to add new voices and a fresh perspective.

There are many components to being a successful Managing or Artistic Director. However strong the preparation, a lot of learning happens on the job. It can be relentless, ever-changing, and at times heartbreaking, but it is always an honour, a privilege and certainly rewarding.

We step away from our roles with the knowledge that the future is brighter than it has ever been for the company in the hands of our new leadership team. We will continue to be invested in the success of the company by supporting them wholeheartedly. It is with overwhelming joy that we pass on the bundle to the incoming Interim Artistic Director, Joelle Peters, and Managing Director, Himanshu Sitlani.

May the path be easy, and the laughter in abundance.

All our relations."

Keith Barker & Isaac Thomas

Outgoing Artistic & Managing Director

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"I am so thrilled and honoured to be named Native Earth's interim Artistic Director.

It has been such a gift to witness Keith and Isaac's leadership, and I am grateful for the teachings they have given me over the past few years.

Native Earth has been instrumental to the growth of my career as an Indigenous artist.

From play workshops to apprentice director opportunities, the connections and relationships I have made at Native Earth have opened many doors for me. I am excited to give back by creating opportunities and support for others.

It blows my mind to think about all the incredible artists that have worked with us over the years; to think about the plays that had their first audiences or workshops in Aki Studio.

I am eager to support and see what is still to come.

I look forward to working alongside our new Managing Director, Himanshu Sitlani, as well as the staff, the Board of Directors, and the community towards our 40th season and the next decade.

Miigwetch."

Joelle Peters

Incoming Interim Artistic Director

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"It is truly a privilege to be appointed the Managing Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. I am extremely humbled and also excited for the challenge ahead!

After I immigrated to Canada, I witnessed groundbreaking work by artists such as Jani Lauzon and Yolanda Bonnell that gave me a better understanding of Indigenous voices and the spaces culturally specific art can create. These experiences encouraged me to continue supporting and advocating for different voices on stage.

I hope to continue the work done by Keith, Isaac, and many others, past and present, at Native Earth.

I would like to thank the Board for choosing me to be a part of their vision of the future. I am elated to be working alongside them, the staff and particularly Joelle Peters, our new Interim Artistic Director."

Himanshu Sitlani

Incoming Managing Director

Photo: Joelle Peters and Himanshu Sitlani.