ELIZABETH NEPJUK (She/They) is a producer, director, and award-winning queer actor, and a 2nd generation settler of mixed European descent with a deep connection to her Ukrainian ancestry and culture. They hold their BFA in Acting from the University of Saskatchewan, and are a graduate of the Vancouver Film School’s Acting for Film & TV Program. Elizabeth’s most recent acting credits include: 13 year old Jo Creedy in Persephone’s world premiere of WROL; Penelope’s son Telemachus in The Penelopiad; andthe stalwart Kay Carson in Dancing Sky’s With Glowing Hearts, for which she was nominated for an Outstanding Supporting Performance SATA. Up next: trying to survive the rest of the pandemic. Thank you for supporting live theatre!
Miki Wolf is a First Nations actor, dancer, and theatre-artist based out of the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam Nations (Vancouver, BC), and is of Indigenous, Japanese, and mixed-European heritage. Miki is a graduate of the Theatre Performance BFA program from Simon Fraser University.
Miki’s acting practice is from a Grotowski–based theatre approach, drawing recent artistic influence from their studies in Contact Improvisation at EDAM Contemporary Dance Company. Recent highlights of Miki’s artistic practice include: Creating the study guide for Kamloopa (by Kim Senklip-Harvey), being the dance-artist in residency for Boombox Vancouver in December 2019, and participating in Shortcuts 2020 as an actor. Miki is currently active in the Vancouver film and television industry, as well as developing and devising their own work for theatre.
Unmasked was created via a combination of traditional playwriting and what’s known in theatre circles as “devising.” In traditional playwriting, a playwright works alone to pen scenes and create characters. In devising work, a group of artists comes together and creates “in the room,” working more “on their feet” than as writers sitting down to put pen to paper. To achieve the blending of styles, creator Megan Zong and dramaturging director Gordon Portman created a unique format for the script. This format gave space to the dialogue and stage directions but also to music, set, lights, costumes, and props in columns running down the pages. Thus, the visual and auditory parts of the storytelling were given equal emphasis throughout the process and the relationships between these elements could be seen clearly.
The traditional process of staging a play is something of a one-way street from page to stage. In devising work, the various elements inform one another: the text changes in response to the movement, the movement in response to the music, and so on. For example, the possibilities of UV light (blacklight) were of interest from early explorations. Learning what could be done with this unique form of illumination and the paints and materials that glow under it became a recurring source of exploration and inspiration all along. Thus, sections of the text and staging elements were crafted with UV illumination in mind, relying on it to tell parts of the story. Likewise, musician and composer respectfulchild began work with the project early. This is respectfulchild’s first time creating music for theatre. They have created underscoring and soundscapes to highlight Megan’s story, but also offering insights and suggestions for how best to shape the story for the audience based on their own experiences as an artist in other disciplines. They credit movement, text, and feedback from collaborators for helping to shape the compositions in ways they wouldn’t have explored if they had been working alone.
“Theatre uses a different language than I do when I create. As we’re going through rehearsals I’m entering another community, another space, another culture.”respectfulchild
Early design visioning, including UV experimentation, evolved in collaboration with Saskatoon-based theatre artist Taegan O’Bertos, whose design-dramaturgy inspired many aspects of the project. Visual design elements as realized for this production built off Taegan’s work, and took many new creative directions as envisioned and enacted by Brooklyn Bitner with Sightline Designs, an innovative local design collective that focuses on collaborative art-making and team-based creation. Lighting designer Charlie Peters has been with the project from the beginning. Hir collaborations with both designers were a defining element in shaping the full visual world of the play. Because they have been part of the play’s development all along, design and technical elements are in many ways not “add ons” to Unmasked as a script, but rather integral parts of how the story is meant to be told.
Early UV exploration photos by Taegan O’Bertos.
The acting company participated actively in the creation by experimenting with Megan’s words, offering responses, and bringing them to life in various ways, informed by their own artistic skills and impulses, while also offering their own thoughts, words, and movement ideas to shape the performance. In this way of working, authority is less concentrated and roles are less hierarchically organized.
“Huge in my own practice as an Indigenous artist is really finding ways that I can bring my own decolonizing intention and see where other are aligned toward that in the room. Devising feels very open and mutable in that way.”Miki Wolf, performer
Though the creation of Unmasked was extremely collaborative, it was Megan and her experiences that led the process all along. To aid in the creation, Megan used a variety of techniques from crafting masks to free writing and movement-based storytelling. Each of these provided building blocks for the piece as a whole. Supported by Gordon, Megan wove the various creations—poems, movement sequences, monologues, and images—into Unmasked as audiences will encounter it.
-Article by Production Dramaturg Charlie Peters
Mitchell Larsen, a multidisciplinary artist, grew up across Saskatchewan. They are a
company member of Free Flow Dance and La Vióle Theatre. La Vióle produced the
North American premier of Santiago High Tech and is currently developing a piece
entitled Antorcha. Mitchell has performed at the Remai Art Gallery, with the Saskatoon
Symphony Orchestra, at Saskatoon Pride Mainstage and as a part of Sexual Space
Walk Theatre’s New York critically-acclaimed multiple-award-winning production, The
Gay Card. Mitchell is currently developing a play entitled Ethereal through Persephone
Theatre’s TYA Playwrighting Unit. They live in Saskatoon with their husband, two
roommates, two cats and a dog.
respectfulchild 敬兒 is an interdisciplinary artist born, raised, and living as an uninvited guest on Treaty 6 Territory. Rooted primarily in sound and composition with their violin, their practice openly engages with any medium that best serves their creative expression. Their work explores the quiet tensions and chaotic beauty of being a queer Chinese settler on the prairies, opening up space for intimate reflection and community dialogue.
The name respectfulchild is the literal translation of their Mandarin name 敬兒[jìng er]. This name was given to them by their grandmother when they were born, a name and a culture they’ve been estranged from having lived their whole life in the predominantly white world of the Canadian Prairies. respectfulchild is their space to seek meaning in 敬兒 again.
Megan Zong is a Chinese-Canadian theatre artist born and raised in Saskatoon on Treaty 6 Territory. Having graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with her BFA in Acting, she has continued to perform and create all over the province. Unmasked is the first play she has written as an emerging playwright. Select acting credits include: Pride & Prejudice, Boeing Boeing (Persephone Theatre); Mamma Mia, The Hobbit, Chicago (Globe Theatre); Earth Diver, Queen Seraphina and the Land of Vertebraat, The Young Ones (Sum Theatre); Short Cuts Festival 2017 (Hardly Art Theatre).
Born and raised in Saskatoon, Mac is proud to call the prairies home. He received his BFA in Acting from the University of Saskatchewan, and has since diversified his practice to involve playwriting, direction, and stage management. He enjoys exploring ways of working outside of the conventional theatrical space, including co-directing the outdoor on-ice musical, The Hockey Sweater / Le Chandail (Sum Theatre & La Troupe du Jour). Mac is grateful to see Unmasked take the stage as Yin Yang Theatre’s premiere production.
Stage management credits include La vie après le hockey (La Troupe du Jour), Every Brilliant Thing (Burnt Thicket Theatre), Elf: The Musical (Persephone Theatre), The Young Ones (Sum Theatre), Alone @ Home (Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre), Season’s Greetings (Greystone Theatre).
Gordon Portman has worked as an actor, playwright/librettist, dramaturge, teacher, producer, and director in theatres, rehearsal halls and classrooms from Victoria to Halifax. As a director/dramaturge for the first productions of new plays, recent work in Saskatoon includes the SATA-nominated Monday Night by Todd Devonshire, and Where It Hurts by Wendy Lockman. He has also worked as a dramaturge for Ay Caramba! Theatre, most recently on the sold-out Fringe success The Newcomer. Other directing credits in Saskatoon include the SATA-nominated Grounded, presented at Live Five in 2015. His award-winning work as a playwright has been featured at The Blyth Festival and Port Hope Festival Theatre in Ontario; at Fringe Festivals in Winnipeg and Edmonton; and in Saskatoon, where Live Five and Pegasus Productions will stage the world premiere of his latest full-length play, After Sundown, in February of 2022. As an actor, he has been seen in productions at Persephone Theatre, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, Theatre Naught, and YXE Shakespeare Lab.
Brooklynn Bitner is a designer in multiple meanings of the word. She originally set out to develop her knack for graphic design, which she continues to develop amongst her other pursuits. Near the end of her BA in Studio Art, she stumbled across the University of Saskatchewan Drama Design program, and instantly fell in love. With a passion for bringing technology and the spectacle of film to a live stage, Brooklynn wants to wow audiences with transformative, evolving, and dynamic designs that make the audience question their perception of reality. Set, Costume, and Sound Design are her fortes, but she dabbles in projection and lighting design as well. Well versed in anything from photo manipulation to video editing, Brooklynn has the digital skill set to bring theatre into the modern age of innovation.
Brooklynn has been involved in multiple Greystone Theatre productions including Machinal (Set Designer, 2019), Henry V (Projection Designer, 2018) Girl in the Goldfish Bowl (Sound Designer, 2017), Season’s Greetings (Sound Designer, 2017), Frantic Assembly Residency (Co-Designer, 2019). Outside of university, Brooklynn has done sound design for Station Arts Centre’s production of Prairie Nurse (2018), Sound Design for Skye Brandon’s production of Henry IV (2017) with On The Boards, built puppets as part of Stumped Production’s Titus Andronicus project for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, and assisted Amberlin Hsu with set for the outdoor production of Pimohtewak (2019). Working with La Troupe du Jour, Brooklynn did Set Design for Scapin (2019) and Will et Ernest (2020), as well as Costume Design for Saskatoon Summer Players’ production of Into the Woods (2019).
Charlie Peters (he/ze, him/hir) is a theatre and opera director, actor, lighting designer, playwright, dramaturge, poet, and clown. Ze holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Saskatchewan, an MFA in Theatre Practice at the University of Alberta, and has continued hir training at the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance. He is the recipient of Saskatoon and Area Theatre Awards for Outstanding Emerging Artist (2013) and Outstanding Lighting Design (Two Corpses Go Dancing, 2015) and was nominated for Outstanding Direction (Diana Son’s Stop Kiss, 2014) and Outstanding Original Script (Many Fires, 2019). Hir artistic work has been seen on stages (and in parks, fields, school gyms, living rooms, and swimming pools) across Western Canada. Charlie is Secretary of the Board and Chair of the Membership Committee of the Saskatchewan Association of Theatre Professionals, Founding Director of Embrace Theatre, a former Artistic Associate with Sum Theatre, and also works as a theatre educator, using drama skills to build community, personal awareness, and self-confidence through theatre. www.charliepeters.ca