Toronto: Soulpepper announces the 2022 Soulpepper Academy Ensemble

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Soulpepper Theatre Company is pleased to announce the five selected members taking part in the esteemed Soulpepper AcademyWill Dao, Varun Guru, Annie Luján, Shaquille Pottinger and Kiana Woo. More information about the Soulepper Academy can be found at soulpepper.ca.

Following the successful return of the program in 2021 the Soulpepper Academy continues to develop and grow to support the needs of the next generation of leaders in Canadian theatre. The Academy will focus on the member’s disciplines while exposing them to a variety of theatre making skills. This intake will provide training in Acting & Performance and Directing. Varun Guru, Annie Luján, Shaquille Pottinger, and Kiana Woo will take to the stage alongside some of the most celebrated Canadian artists in Soulpepper’s production of King Lear, while Will Dao joins Directors Kim Collier and Weyni Mengesha as an Assistant Director on King Lear and Queen Goneril.

Under the guidance of Artistic Director Weyni Mengesha and the new and returning faculty members including d’bi young anitafrika, Ins Choi, Kim Collie­r, Ravi Jain, Gregory Prest, Lorenzo Savoini, and Guillermo Verdecchia, the five vibrant emerging artists will gain hands-on professional theatre experience through Soulpepper’s Mainstage programming, and will further develop their artistic voice with original creations throughout the 24-week paid training program. The Academy curriculum will be taught through rehearsals, classes, studio intensives, and workshops, with more exciting Canadian and international instructors to be announced.

“As an Academy Graduate myself it was so meaningful to work with the Academy that graduated in 2021. To watch them take risks and hone in on skills they had not had the chance to explore. It only reinforced my belief in the importance of a program like this, to ensure the next generations voices are supported and amplified” said Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director. “These five new Academy members are exceptional artists whose curiosity and bold creativity will help us shape the future of the company. I’m excited to watch them learn and grow and share their work with our audiences.”

In their applications, each of the selected artists expressed common desires: to find their voice, build a sense of community, invest time and space in exploring new areas of their craft, and to authentically represent themselves and their communities on Canadian stages. The new Academy members were selected out of a national talent pool of applicants by the selection committee: Raquel Duffy, Rohan Kulkarni, Jani Lauzon, Diego Matamoros, Weyni Mengesha, Gregory Prest, Luke Reece, and Guillermo Verdecchia.

Artistic Director Weyni Mengesha, a graduate of the inaugural class, and Executive Director Gideon Arthurs, a notable leader in Canadian artistic training (National Theatre School) continue to champion the renewed principles of the re-established Soulpepper Academy. Soulpepper’s ambition to be a civic leader and provide a supportive home for all artists is brought into focus through the Academy, and it has played a significant role in the development of generations of Canadian artists and arts leaders since 2008.

As with all past Academies, the members will be paid during the 24-week training program. It is thanks to the generosity and commitment to supporting future generations of Canadian artists shared by the RBC Emerging Artists Project, the Government of Canada through the Canadian Arts Training Fund, long-time donor Sylvia Soyka, and the Kingfisher Foundation that this is possible.

“At RBC, we care about investing in the places where we live and work. Our support of the arts has been a long-standing priority as we recognize that the arts plays an important role in building vibrant communities and strong economies. Through RBC Emerging Artists, we are thrilled to continue our support of the Soulpepper Academy and its commitment to provide artists the opportunity to advance their career trajectory in a meaningful way” said Ramin Fazel, Regional Vice President, RBC Downtown Toronto.

Classes, studios, rehearsal and workshops are planned to be held in person, in adherence to any public health guidelines, but given the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual learning may be incorporated as required.