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conVERGE is a new residency and mentorship program that supports emerging and early-career Indigenous, Black, and artists of colour to develop new work, offered through a partnership between Intrepid Theatre and Puente Theatre. The program was founded in 2021 by Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, artistic director of Puente Theatre, and Holly Lam, former associate producer at Intrepid Theatre. The 2022 program is produced by Mercedes and past conVERGE artist, Olivia Wheeler.
Thank you to all of the artists who applied, and shared their history, vision and artistry with the curators. Thank you to Regina Rios, Rory Keewatin & Olivia Wheeler for being a part of the inaugural program as artists. If you have any questions, contact Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2022 conVERGE micro-residency program is supported by the Victoria Foundation.
2022 conVERGE artists:
Chai Sullivan (April 2022)
Chai, 21 is an emerging neo-soul singer-songwriter, producer and dancer based in Victoria, BC. Her style incorporates organic instrumentals with dreamlike soundscapes, soulful vocals and honest lyrics.
My project is to complete and perform my debut EP “Dunno.”
Dunno explores my first experiences defining love in its many forms – through the lens of a self-raised young woman growing increasingly (and deceivingly) confident & tenacious – as a semi-conscious act of resistance to her environment; a primarily white and antiquated town.
Being selected for this residency gives me the space, time and guidance needed to revisit existing pieces of my project and refine them to a level that aligns with the quality of work I want to share with the world. My songs that have been on the backburner can finally take center stage and help me define my sound in the world of neo-soul.
Amira Rose Abdel-Malek (May 2022)
Amira Rose Abdel-Malek is an award winning recent graduate of the Master’s program in Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria which resides on the traditional territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən People known today as the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. As a mixed person (Egyptian, Irish & English), Amira’s hybrid-identity and mixed-ability family informs her ethics of care and dedication to community wellbeing through the arts. Her background includes bringing artistic opportunities to a variety of settings in her work with children, young people, and families, including at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society and the Shelbourne Community Kitchen. More recently, she co-facilitated the Garth Homer Society’s Drama Program by supporting their artists in performance, story, set and puppet-making, as well as co-writing and recording original songs.
Amira has experience with many modes of theatrical expression. She has received training in multiple types of puppetry with Tim Gosley and SNAFU’s Ingrid Hanson and Kathleen Greenfield, as well as Therapeutic Puppetry and Clowning with the international organization Nose-to-Nose. Highlights from her work include puppeteering giant puppets for the artist Roy Henry Vickers’s Peace Dancer (2017/2019) and shadow puppeteering for Theatre Inconnu in Dead Man’s Cell Phone (2019). Amira’s has also dabbled in stop-motion animation, shooting, performing, and co-editing music videos for the psych-rock band Grimwood’s “Lil’ Bandit,” with face paint on live models, and electronic music artist Cougher’s “High Speed Hallucinations,” using silhouettes with an ‘old-school’ overhead projector.
Amira is excited and grateful to have the opportunity to receive creative mentorship through the conVERGE micro-residency with Intrepid and Puente Theatre to continue her work on a short piece called The Clever Prince. This project is a multi-level narrative that includes a mix of tales from the 1001 Nights tradition and real-world stories inspired by Amira’s father’s own life experiences. Using a variety of types of puppets, including object, stick, and overhead projectors The Clever Prince tells a story of adventure and magic, exploring themes of friendship, the corruption of authority, and
migration and transformation. The Clever Prince promises to take audiences on a whimsical ride into the unique and the familiar, from poetry to pomegranates!
“This opportunity for mentorship and supportive space fulfills my dreams of being a storyteller and is one I cherish. I look forward to taking my artistic abilities into the next phase and share this knowledge in my work with young artists in my community.”
Niah Davis (June 2022)
Niah Davis is a nonbinary, mixed race, emerging artist based in Victoria BC (W̱SÁNEĆ and Lkwungen territories) Niah is a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts’ Enriched Performing Arts, and Applied Performing Arts diploma program. There, they developed their skills as a performer, playwright, and director. As a part of the New Works Festival in their second year, they collaborated with a local musician and songwriter to create Lilies: an original musical. The experience inspired them to pursue a future in the development of new work. They set their sights on cultivating their skills as a director and playwright and began applying for theatre residencies. After receiving a spot in Puente Theatre’s WorkPlay residency last year, they started writing their play Gorgó, a retelling of Medusa’s myth. Currently they are in rehearsals, partially staging the piece for a public performance.
My project Gorgó is based on Ovid and Hesiod’s ancient Greek myths about Medusa. It’s an interdisciplinary piece; a play with elements of music, dance, and physical theatre. For the music, I have incorporated ancient Greek music and poetry, as well as original songs and vocal harmonies/melodies. The play is an origin story for the famous gorgon, where she herself takes us through her memories when she was still a young girl fighting against a devastating prophecy.
My goal was to not only get it as culturally and historically accurate as possible but to also address topics like sexism, gender identity, patriarchal power structures, and sexual assault. I wanted to combine both the Greek and Roman versions to explore and further build upon her story in a way that current audiences would understand and possibly relate to. These are topics which are especially important to me as an afab nonbinary person, and as someone who has intergenerational trauma connected to sexual assault.
But I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to further workshop my play during the conVERGE residency. While developing the piece, I took on the roles of sound designer, music director, prop master, costume designer, choreographer and stage manager. This was all on top of being the director and playwright as well. Some of my actors were kind enough to offer their assistance during the process, but handling so many tasks presented many challenges for me. I have yet to fully experience the process of self-producing a play, and so this residency will be extremely beneficial in teaching me how to do so with personalized mentoring. It’ll help me pave a clear path forward so my future work has a chance of being professionally produced and shared with bigger audiences. Slowly but surely, I’ll work towards that goal and I’m very grateful Intrepid Theatre and Puente Theatre will be a part of that journey.
2022 conVERGE mentors: coming soon
Full list coming soon.
Mentor for Chai Sullivan | conVERGE program mentor
Canadian singer-songwriter Hanorah grew up to the sound of the classic rock and soul
music her parents were fond of. Early on, she developed a passion for powerful vocalists,
such as Etta James, Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone (to whom she has been compared
many times). Following a sexual assault in 2012, she plunged into a state of deep
distress. After seeking psychological help and reading testimonies of other survivors, she
decided to dive head first into songwriting. Her chance meeting with guitarist Paul De Rita
(who became her partner and closest collaborator) marked a creative turning point.
Hanorah signed with Dare to Care Records and released her debut EP ‘For The Good
And The Bad Guys’. In 2019, the young artist toured Canada as an opening act for
international artist Coeur de Pirate; won the FEQ (Festival d’Été de Québec) contest and
grant; and secured slots at Ottawa Bluesfest, POP Montreal (with Mavis Staples),
International Jazz Fest of Montreal, and more.
Her debut EP has since amassed more
than a million and half streams and counting with a live video concert being debut
released through ELLE Canada. Most recently, Hanorah signed with Ensoul Records and
is working on her first full length album set for release in 2022.
Mentor for Amira Rose Abdel-Malek/ conVERGE Program Mentor
Izad Etemadi is an Iranian-Canadian actor and writer based out of Toronto. Born in Germany and raised in Victoria, BC, he is a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts. After relocating to Toronto, Izad won the Emerging Queer Artist award from Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2017. Represented by the Characters Talent Agency, he plays Simon on Overlord and The Underwoods (CBC/Nickelodeon), Kevon on Revenge of the Black Best Friend (CBC)and is currently a resident of the 2021 CBC Actors Conservatory at the Canadian Film Centre
Most recently, he originated the role of Samuel in the new Canadian musical Grow (from the producers of Come From Away). Since 2014, Izad has written and starred in several solo comedy shows that have sold out across the country and earned Izad awards including the 2016 Broadway World award for Best Independent Production. As a screenwriter, he is working on shows in development and production with Shaftesbury Kids, Family Channel, and OUTtv. His work uses comedy to explore issues of queer identity, immigration, body image, and the terrors of being a millennial.
Mentor for Olivia Wheeler
Seri Yanai is a visual artist, performer and theatre director based in Japan. She is known for her innovative and cinematic shadow puppetry. She is the executive director of the Mochinosha Puppet Company, which she co-founded in 2012. She has directed and performed numerous award-winning plays, which have toured in eight countries and been performed in English, Japanese, Chinese and Portuguese.
Her most recent work, a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, was given the rare honour of being featured in the 2021 edition of Japan’s international Theatre yearbook. Recently she has been experimenting with video based shadow art to produce a music video and several short films.