Theatre Alberta is thrilled to provide an update on the 2023 Michelle Dias Community Service Awards. In 2023 the award was presented to four artists, with an additional four honourable mentions. These awards of $2,500 and $750 each respectively supported the recipients’ participation in a professional development opportunity relevant to their theatre practice/discipline.
We are pleased to support eight artists from across Alberta attending professional development locally, nationally, and internationally. Theatre Alberta extends deep gratitude to the Edmonton Community Foundation and CITT Alberta for their support of our Michelle Dias Community Service Awards this year.
The four award recipients for 2023 are: Daniela Fernandez, Betty Hushlak, Kodie Rollan, and Cathleen Sbrizzi.
The four honourable mentions for 2023 are: Deedra Salange Ladouceur, Amanda Samuelson, Meegan Sweet, and Connor Yuzwenko-Martin.
Read about each artist’s professional development.
Daniela Fernandez (She/her)
This award has given me the ability to learn specific skills and acquire knowledge that I was missing from previous training. Being able to learn about what speakers and mics to use and where to place them, how they’re routed and how to build a speaker plot using industry standard programs have all been invaluable skills to my craft. My mentorship with Tori Morrison has been of so much value to me as a female sound designer because it’s important to have more female representation in this field. We’ve been meeting on zoom every two weeks to do two hours of training and I’m grateful she has taken the time to do so. I hope someday I can pass along the knowledge to up and coming female sound designers.
Betty Hushlak (She/her)
This award enabled me to attend the Prague Quadrennial 2023 where the vast array of performance, and design in so many forms was truly inspiring. From the Exhibitions of Countries and Regions to the Fragments I and II Exhibitions to the Student Exhibition, there was no shortage of creativity. Emerging and student designers and performers excelled at creating clever exhibits and experiences. In fact, the Student Exhibition gave the professionals a run for their money! The festival theme was Rare. The Canadian student/emerging artist concept– Troubled Waters. Schools across Canada, (including our own Alberta contingent!), were invited to create either suspensions or figurines inspired by poems written by emerging artist, Tarique Lewis.
Take a peek of what’s under the tip of the iceberg:
Kodie Rollan (He/him)
I am so grateful for the funding I received from the Michelle Dias Award, which I used to support mentorship opportunities with The Musical Stage Company (TMSC) focused on musical theatre dramaturgy. This award allowed me to shadow two script workshops for the development of two new musicals by three exciting racialized musical theatre creators. Sadly, my time with the second workshop was cut short because I contracted COVID. That said, TMSC has offered me an open invitation to shadow any further musical development workshops they host, thereby allowing me to continue growing my practice as a dramaturg in this area. Specifically, the funding I received has been impactful in my artistic development as it allowed me to learn more about how to curate workshop processes that involved both script and musical development. Overall, I am very grateful for the support that Theatre Alberta has provided me. I am very excited to take my learnings and share it with the rest of my artistic community here in Alberta, and continue to contribute to its robust artistic ecology.
Cathleen Sbrizzi (She/her)
The Michelle Dias award not only provided me with the opportunity to begin training in digital patterning software Clo3D, it was also a foothold in helping me attain further funding from the Canada Council for the Arts who have agreed to pay for the remainder of my training. I have completed the first class of four from Parsons NY, and it has furthered my online patterning capabilities and understanding of what can be built in the software so much. I have already begun using it in my work, and was able to cut a costume for Theatre Calgary’s Mousetrap using the software. It gave me excellent fit information and we had a very successful first fitting. I’m so excited about where this software could take costuming for theatre in the future, and so grateful to the Michelle Dias award for bolstering me on this journey.
Examples from the final project of the class.
2023 HONORABLE MENTIONS
Deedra Salange Ladouceur (She/her)
The Michelle Dias award helped me financially in affording the expenses having to do with obtaining my Master’s Degree at The University of Calgary. As I go into my second year of the Interdisciplinary Creation and Research program based in theatre, I am elated to report that through my thesis project I have developed a firm foundation for the next show I intend to create and have evolved my artistic practice further along. My aim for this new academic year is to strive towards understanding my Métis community’s history more thoroughly, and give space to both celebrate that history, and eventually help in informing the public of it through my show. I truly look forward to continuing my efforts in gaining a deeper understanding of Canada’s true history, and finding various mediums, to simultaneously share and expand on that knowledge. Thank you for this honorable mention, and for supporting my journey.
Amanda Samuelson (She/her)
The funds received from my honourable mention allowed me to travel to my hometown of Grande Prairie, Alberta, for the first ever Great Canadian Playwright Showcase. This professional development opportunity allowed me to connect with other theatre artists and playwrights from across Canada. There were many highlights of my time in Grande Prairie. Rebecca Lashmar from Principal Intimacy led an insightful seminar on “Writing Intimacy”, explaining how a writer can shape the intimate moments in their script. Rebecca Burton from the
Playwrights Guild of Canada led an informative seminar on the importance of contracts for playwrights, and explained how playwrights can advocate for themselves with producers and directors. An invaluable part of my experience was connecting with established playwright Keith Barker and getting to hear about his experience as a playwright in Canada. I am excited to share what I’ve learned with other playwrights and theatre artists in Edmonton.
Meegan Sweet (They/them)
Since 2018 it has been a dream of mine to study with Karen Hines at One North Clown and Creation (Formerly “Clown Farm”) in Ontario. I had planned to finance the trip with a grant and savings. Unfortunately the grant was not successful, however, I was still able to attend thanks to the generous support from the Michelle Dias Community Award. With the help of this award I was able to cover the cost of tuition for the Neo-Bouffon class taught by Karen Hines. Following that class I attended Developing New Work and have started my journey on writing and developing a solo show. Without the help of this award, this training and experience would have been out of reach, and I look forward to sharing my knowledge and skills from this adventure with the rest of the artistic community!
Connor Yuzwenko-Martin (He/him)
The generous funding from Michelle Dias Award was used to support the production and people costs of mounting a workshopped script reading on May 30, 2023 at Alberta School for the Deaf. Thirteen Deaf students showcased their prowess in theatrical storytelling and technical proficiency in remembering cues, lines, and important characterizations. The audience included many Deaf community members who were delighted to see this opportunity for Deaf youth on stage. A professor from the University of Alberta also visited and was profoundly impressed with the commitment and passion of the group. The draft resulting from this work will form the future base of a production-ready script to be performed by 4-5 participants who continue to express interest in exploring possibilities in theatre.