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Notable Alumni

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Philip Akin

Philip Akin is a voice actor and theatre director who has been active for over 35 years on the Canadian stage and in film and television. In 1975, he graduated from the Ryerson Theatre School, becoming the school’s first acting graduate. In 2000, Akin was a founding member of Obsidian Theatre, Canada’s leading black theatre company, and has served as its Artistic Director since 2006. In this role, he has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities and guidance for emerging artists. In 2002, he was part of the team that launched the Obsidian Mentor/Apprentice Program, a program that has helped black artists embark on careers with some of the most established Canadian performing arts companies.

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Rukiya Bernard

Rukiya is an award-winning actress, writer, and producer in the film and television industry. Her acting credits include Van Helsing (Netflix/Syfy), numerous Hallmark movies, and appearances on Supernatural (CW/Warner Brothers),The Magicians (Syfy), Travellers (Netflix), Cabin In the Woods (Warner Brothers) and more. In an opinion piece titled Dear Becky,, external link Bernard calls out the film and television industry in Canada and Hollywood for the negative representation of Black people. She has also participated in numerous panel discussions. She uses her skills as a writer and producer for her latest project, The Blactor (previously titled Becky), a comedy about a Black actress struggling with stereotypes in the Film and TV industry.

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Thom Allison

Thom's professional career began in the Young Company of the Stratford Festival before going on to appear in the original Canadian companies of Miss Saigon, The Who’s Tommy and Rent. TV/film credits include KILLJOYS; Murdoch Mysteries; Repo: the Genetic Opera; Private Eyes. Thom was seen on Broadway in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Thom has also been a part of many season at both the Stratford and Shaw Festivals. Thom has been nominated for  most major Canadian Theatre awards and is a Canadian Screen Award (Canada’s “Emmy”) winner for his role, Pree, in the SciFi series, KILLJOYS.

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Marc Cardarelli

Marc's film credits include The Music Man, Honey, Camp Rock, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, and American Girl: Isabelle Dances into the Spotlight. For TV, he was a guest star on the BBC Kids show Wingin’ It as well as The Next Step. Marc has worked with several contemporary dance companies in Toronto, including ProArte Danza, Helix Dance Project, and Bridge to Artists. Since moving to New York City in 2015, Marc has worked with Al Blackstone on several projects, including How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore? for the 2017 Fire Island Dance Festival and Freddie Falls in Love at the Joyce Theater. Marc has performed in the immersive show Sleep No More.

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Justine A. Chambers

Justine A. Chambers is a dance artist living and working on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Her recent projects have been hosted by Sophiensaele (Berlin), Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver), Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (Vancouver), Agora de la Danse (Montreal), Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery (Pennsylvania), and Canada Dance Festival (Ottawa), to name a few. Chambers is the recipient of the Lola Dance Prize (2018), was selected for the Visiting Dance Artist Program at the National Arts Centre (2018-2019), and is currently Artist in Residence to SFU's Community Engaged Research Initiative. She is Max Tyler-Hite’s mother.

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Lisa Codrington

Lisa Codrington is a first generation Canadian whose family emigrated from Barbados to Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is playwright-in-residence at Theatre Direct Canada and co-director of Youth Initiatives at Nightwood Theatre, where her first play Cast Ironreceived its world premiere in association with Obsidian Theatre Company. Most recently Cast Ironreceived its Caribbean premiere. It has been published in Canadian Theatre Review and Beyond the Pale: Dramatic Writing from First Nations Writers and Writers of Colour and heard on CBC Radio. In 2006 it was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award. As an actor, Lisa has performed for Mirvish Productions, Prairie Theatre Exchange, and many festivals.

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Emilio Colalillo

Emilio Colalillo is a professional dancer and choreographer. As a dancer he has toured the world internationally with Corpus Dance Projects, Creativiva, A2D2 and his own company EMiMOTION, external link. He has danced for the Canadian Opera Company as a lead dancer and performed for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. Colalillo has choreographed 5 full length dance works known for his use of physicality, emotion and avant garde nature.  Colalillo is inspired by his Italian culture and incorporates commedia dell'arte in his works.  Colalillo has also choreographed musicals to toured internationally with Creativiva. Emilio is currently finishing his Masters of Fine Arts Degree at York University researching about posthumanism in dance.

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Lauren Cook

Lauren Cook is the Artistic Director of Alias Dance Project and owner of The Cornerstone Studio. Cook has been teaching students of all ages in different styles across Canada since 2001. She is an artistic mentor and instructor for TDSB Creates, a guest choreographer for pre-professional training programs across the country, and a personal trainer at The Cornerstone Studio. Her work with adult non dancers, primarily focuses on strength conditioning and her work with professional artists focuses on power and speed training through the lens of contemporary dance, drawing influences from different street art and martial art forms. 

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Justin de Bernardi

Justin De Bernardi is the proud CEO of VIEW Dance Challenge, external link and VIEW Entertainment Group. Justin had the honour of being recognized as one of Canada’s Youth In Motion, Top 20 Under 20 Finalist for his dedication, work ethic and passion to his craft and is also awarded Student Business of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, Justin has spent four years as a Faculty member of Ryerson University acting as the dance instructor for the World Theatre & Dance course. He spent four summers abroad on Hydra Island working with dancers & actors and acting as choreographer for Director/Producer Peggy Shannon. Recently, VIEW Dance Challenge has expanded to Australia and VIEW Entertainment Group has emerged into casting for television, film and events! 

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Howard J Davis

HAUI aka Howard J Davis, is a mixed multidisciplinary artist who has worked in performance, directing, design and visual arts for theatre and film. As a director, he was invited to partake in the inaugural Bud's program to assistant direct as part of the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction. As a video/projection designer, he has worked across Canada. Recently, his award-winning feature-length film debut entitled MIXED↑ explores the isolation of being BIPOC and LGBTQ+ and demands that we celebrate what is unique about each of us. Howard is also part of Wildseed Black Arts Residency in association with Black Lives Matter Toronto. Upcoming Howard is devising a new operatic work about the history of Canadian singer Portia White. In 2020 he was nominated for a Montreal English Theatre Award for Outstanding Contribution to Theatre. 

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Christopher Dennis

Christopher Dennis is currently in his 10th season as the Production Director for the San Francisco Ballet, and has been working in the performing arts industry for over 20 years. Prior to his relocation to the Bay area, he served as the Resident Lighting Designer and Lighting Coordinator at The National Ballet of Canada for 14 seasons. As Production Director he sits on the Executive Team and manages 4 labor unions. In addition,  he oversees all of the technical logistics on major tours both nationally and internationally to all parts of the world. Christopher also served as President for The Associated Designers of Canada for 2 years.

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Rodney Diverlus

Black Lives Matter Canada, external link co-founder, transdisciplinary artist and school of performance alum Rodney Diverlus is at the forefront of a movement that supports and celebrates Black artists. As a movement artist, Diverlus uses performance and dance to speak truth to power, blurring the lines between protest and performance. For Diverlus, the challenges faced by BIPOC artists today also offer opportunities for finding their voices and genuine growth. It also offers opportunities for participating in and expanding networks of support, and to be creatively visionary.

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Rachel Forbes

Rachel is an award-winning set and costume designer creating for theatre, dance, opera and film. Her work has been seen across the country including at the Shaw Festival, Buddies in Bad Times, Obsidian Theatre, Neptune Theatre, YPT, and Centaur Theatre. She has designed and mentored at educational institutions such as Ryerson University and UTSC. Rachel is on the board of directors of the Associated Designers of Canada. She is particularly interested in the development of new works and interdisciplinary explorations. Rachel is invested in exploring the artistic expressions of the African diaspora in North America and beyond.

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Catherine Hernandez

Catherine is an award-winning author and the outgoing artistic director of b current performing arts. Her first novel, Scarborough, won the Jim Wong-Chu Award for the unpublished manuscript; was a finalist for the Toronto Book Awards, the Evergreen Forest of Reading Award, the Edmund White Award, and the Trillium Book Award; and was longlisted for Canada Reads. She has written the critically acclaimed plays and children’s books. She recently wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Scarborough, which is currently in post-production by Compy Films with support from Telefilm Canada and Reel Asian Film Festival. Her second novel, Crosshairs, was published in 2020.

Photo by Marko Kovacevic.

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Jesse Griffiths

After over a decade working as an actor in film, tv and theatre, Jesse switched his focus to behind the camera. Learning the trade from some of the top casting directors in Toronto, he opened Jesse Griffiths Casting (JGC) with the goal of combining his passion for the arts and knowledge of local talent. His focus is, and will always be, to push for more inclusion and diversity in the casting process and to nurture the next generation of artists. His projects have been screened at festivals around the world. Jesse is a graduate of Ryerson Theatre School with a BFA in Theatre Performance. 

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Cassandra James

From putting on shows in home videos for family to moving across the country to attend Ryerson’s School of Performance — Cassandra James’ love of storytelling and acting has always been a huge part of her life. That’s why when she booked a recurring role on General Hospital, America’s longest running daytime drama still in production, it wasn’t only huge for her personal success but also history in the making. James was cast as Dr. Terry Randolph, becoming the first transgender woman to be cast for a transgender role on a soap opera. “It’s such an overwhelming thing to navigate and embody,” she said. “But I’m also aware that the career I’ve chosen has a social responsibility and the work that I do will have a political resonance — it’s something that really excites me and something that I take very seriously.”

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Raha Javanfar

Raha is a performer, theatre designer, and educator. She has worked for numerous prestigious companies as lighting/projections designer, including Tafelmusik, Soulpepper, and Opera Atelier. Raha has also worked as a head lighting electrician for Much Music, Christie Lights, and Light & Dark Creative. She has sat on juries for the Dora Awards, Factor, Toronto Arts Council, and the OAC's Pauline McGibbon Award. Active regularly as a musician and performer, she is front-woman and singer/bassist of Toronto based blues/R&B, Bad Luck Woman & Her Misfortunes, performs frequently at Soulpepper Theatre and Musical Stage Company.

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Peter Katz

Peter Katz is a JUNO Award, Canadian Screen Award and 2-time Canadian Folk Music Award-nominated singer-songwriter who has spent the past 10+ years touring internationally. Peter’s music has been featured on several TV shows and movies like Lethal Weapon, Reign, Sign Sealed and Delivered, Felicity, For Your Consideration, Hello Goodbye, Alias, Heartland and more, as well as on CBC Television’s 2016 Rio Olympics coverage. Peter is also a 4-time TEDx fellow and gifted public speaker, being called on to give keynote talks to everyone from the 4000 delegates at the International Aeronautical Federation Conference, to countless companies and organizations like Bell, Xerox, Royal Lepage, RBC, The Canadian Securities Establishment, The C-Suite Network and more.

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Julia Kim

Julia Kim is a Toronto-based set and costume designer, working in theatre and dance. She graduated from Ryerson University with a BFA (Hons.) in Performance Production in 2015. She started working at Shaw Festival as a design intern in 2015 season. In 2016 season, she has been working closely with William Schmuck, Sue LePage, Charlotte Dean, and Judith Bowden as an assistant designer.

Photo Credit, David Cooper Photography.

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Camellia Koo

Camellia is a Toronto based set and costume designer for theatre, opera, dance and site-specific performance installations. Designs for opera and ballet include collaborations with Against the Grain, Banff Centre, Boston Lyric Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Edmonton Opera, Helikon Opera (Moscow), Minnesota Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Santa Fe Opera, and Tapestry New Opera. Designs for theatre include collaborations with major theatres companies across the country. Camellia has received many awards and recognitions, including a the 2006 Siminovitch Protégé Prize, the 2016 Virginia and Myrtle Cooper Award for Costume Design, and was named as a 2018 Siminovitch Prize Finalist.

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Rebecca Liddiard

Rebecca is a Dora nominated actress working professionally in both film and theatre in Canada and around the world. She has starred in several premier series including Frankie Drake (CBC), Houdini & Doyle (GlobalTV/ITV/Fox), Mslabelled (Shaftsbury SmokeBomb), and Alias Grace (CBC/Netflix). Other film and TV credits include Saving Hope (CTV), Between (CityTV/NetflixUS), Murdoch Mysteries (CBC) as well some fantastic, homegrown, independently produced feature length and short films that have been featured in film festivals across North America and Europe. Theatre credits include Mustard (Tarragon, 2016). 

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Adrienne Lipson

Adrienne has performed with Typecast Dance Company and was a founding member of Rock Bottom Movement. Adrienne moved to Chicago, Illinois as an apprentice with Hubbard Street 2, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s second company. In August of 2016, Adrienne joined the main company of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the internationally renowned and celebrated force in contemporary dance. Adrienne has had the pleasure of working with choreographer Penny Saunders in a piece for the newly founded company SFDanceworks. She has also worked closely with choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams on her development of the UNDER(cover) series; both in Episode 001: Williams’ Baryshnikov Arts Center Residency in New York, and in Episode 002: a full evening work at Links Hall in Chicago.

Photo Credit, Austen Browne

EarlyAlumniFeature
Simon Marsden

Simon is the Director of Production for the Stratford Festival. Previous to that he worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company in a similar capacity. His time leading production departments has included the reconstruction of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, renovation of the Avon and creation of the Studio and recently the new Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford. His other work has included various companies across Canada, the U.S. and Macau..

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Maryanne Marsh

Maryanne Marsh is an artistic director, choreographer, notable dance educator and curriculum leader. As the director for the last 26 years, Marsh pioneered and cultivated an explosive program of a variety of dance arts and musical theatre at Rosedale Heights School of the Arts. Marsh is known for creating an innovative curriculum where students not only develop mastery skills in jazz, ballet, modern, musical theatre, improvisation and composition but also in history, anatomy, culture, and global issues in relation to dance. Marsh is also the recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in 2002.

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Alyssa Martin

Alyssa founded Rock Bottom Movement, external link in 2012 as a creative home and has since created over twenty new works. She’s earned the Canadian Stage Award for Direction, a Dora Award Nomination for Outstanding Choreography and was the 2018/19 Emerging Director in Residence at Canadian Stage. Alyssa has worked in residence at many art centres throughout the country. Her work has been presented in festivals in Toronto and abroad. Alyssa has been commissioned to create new work for many educational institutions. Outside of dance, Alyssa has worked as a choreographer for theatre and musical theatre in the educational, experimental and professional spheres. 

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Kristen Maurice

Kristen Maurice is the CFO and Co-Owner of VIEW Dance Challenge Inc., external link VIEW Dance Challenge Australia and VIEW Dance Convention. She is also the Co-Owner and Executive Producer at VIEW Entertainment Group. For a period of four years, Kristen managed a team of dancers for the Toronto Blue Jays. She has trained and choreographed for audiences of 30,000 fans and worked on advertisements and promotional material for numerous clients during live broadcasts. Kristen was the Executive Producer for TMG_103 (Rough Cut), which premiered at tiff in 2016. Additionally, she runs an elite training program for 20 selected dancers from across Canada and Australia to train in perform in Greece.

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Mena Massoud

Born in Cairo and raised in Markham, Ont., Mena graduated in 2014, then moved to L.A. where he landed a featured part in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series before starring as Aladdin in 2019’s live-action remake of the 1992 animated Disney classic. Massoud then took lead roles in Reprisal, an intense Hulu drama, and Run This Town, a film about former Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Off set, Massoud is the author of Evolving Vegan, external link, and founder of The Ethnically Diverse Artists Foundation, external link (EDA). Photograph by Benjo Arwas/Contour by Getty Images.

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Eric McCormack

Upon graduating, Eric immediately joined the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. He spent his twenties in theatres across this country, and finally reached Broadway in 2001, starring as The Music Man. Over thirty years, Eric has played lead roles in dozens of films and TV series, including Lonesome Dove, Trust Me and The Andromeda Strain. He was a producer and director on Perception from 2012-14. He just completed three seasons of the all-Canadian Netflix hit Travelers, and receiving a 2019 Canadian Screen Award nomination. Since 1998, he is best known as Will Truman on NBC’s Will & Grace, for which he won the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy in 2001. Eric was honoured with a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2010 and last fall he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Shawn Newman

Shawn is the Research & Impact Manager at Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing the evaluation of TAC grants programs and Foundation initiatives and initiating collaborative research projects that support the arts and culture sectors through bridging academia and industry. Having had an international career as a dancer and choreographer, Shawn then completed his PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. He has taught at Queen’s and York University. His research focuses on representation and power in and through critical race, disability, and gender studies.

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Peter Pasyk

Peter Pasyk, recently recruited as the youngest director to work the Stratford Festival — one of Canada’s oldest and most prominent arts festivals — has worked with Canada’s leading theatre companies, including: Tarragon Theatre, Soulpepper Theatre, Shaw Festival, Royal Manitoba Theatre centre and Canadian Stage. Pasyk’s upcoming shows include Hamlet for the Stratford Festival and Comedy of Errors for Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park. Peter returned to the School of Performance in 2020 to direct Hamlet.

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Alysa Pires

Alysa Pires has created works for companies such as the National Ballet of Canada, Ballet Kelowna, Ballet Edmonton, Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, Ryerson University, and more. Her choreographic has been presented worldwide, and been celebrated with numrous awards and recognitions. She also creates under the umbrella of Alysa Pires Dance Projects, which made its critically acclaimed full-length debut with Exterminating Angel at the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival. In the 20/21 season, Ballet Kelowna will present the world premiere of Pires’ Macbeth, the company’s first full-length commission.

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Marshall Pynkoski & Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg

Marshall and Jeannette’s performances and education programs have had a major impact on the Canadian music scene. Co-founders of the Opera Atelier, external link, they have garnered national and international recognition for their highly collaborative productions, representing Canada at Milan’s La Scala and at the Royal Opera in Versailles. Despite an extensive international touring schedule, the couple shares their passion for the arts by hosting free workshops in the community for inner-city youth and emerging artists.

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Annemarie Roe

As President of BaAM Productions since its inception, Annemarie Roe has led the company’s Creative and Production resources, working in partnership with leagues and teams to design and execute some of the world’s most prominent sports and entertainment events. Annemarie’s determination to find solutions and push her team to make it all happen is recognized across the industry. Over recent decades, Annemarie’s organizational philosophies of agility and innovative thinking have been vital to maintaining BaAM’s status as a trusted industry leader and go-to-resource for leagues and teams looking to carve new paths for fan engagement. Her influence spans a client list that includes the IOC, FIFA, Pan Am Organizing Committees, NFL, MLB, NHL.

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Janet Sellery

Janet Sellery is one of Canada’s leading experts in health and safety and the arts, entertainment and live events. Janet pioneered the health and safety program at the Stratford Festival, Canada’s largest repertory theatre, and one of her favourite projects was working as the Health & Safety Manager for the Opening, Closing and Victory Ceremonies at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Janet was a Co-Founder of the Canadian Event Safety Summit (2016-2018) and is now involved with Event Safety Alliance Canada. Janet is an active volunteer with the Ontario Ministry of Labour Live Performance Health & Safety Advisory Committee, the Scott Johnson Working Group, the Event Safety Working Group and the Board of Directors for the Event Safety Alliance. 

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Christianne Ullmark

Originally from Edmonton, AB, Christianne Ullmark began her professional career in 2007 on tour to Beijing and Mongolia with Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie (CLC), with whom she worked until 2014. While dancing with CLC, she worked closely with James Kudelka, and also helped create an original role in From The House of Mirth (2012). In the fall of 2014, Christianne joined Toronto Dance Theatre as a full-time company member and has been dancing with the company ever since. Independently, she works with Company Vice Versa (Valerie Calam) and also is working on developing her own choreographic voice. In the summer of 2014, after presenting a short site-specific solo at the NextFest emerging artist festival in Edmonton, AB, Christianne has been interested in exploring the relationship and intersections between visual/sound installations and living art performance; taking a step beyond her initial research at York, but still grounded in ideologies of site-specific practices. Ms. Ullmark has participated at the Impulstanz Vienna International Dance Festival, and most recently at the MELT Summer Intensive in New York City.

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Tim Welham

Holding a BFA from Ryerson University and an MA from the Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, Tim is a current member of the coaching team at the Stratford Festival, where he works primarily as a text coach on the Festival’s Shakespeare productions and has taught for their education department. In addition to being a contract faculty member at Ryerson University, he is an instructor at the National Theatre School of Canada. Tim has performed on stages in Canada, England and Europe, and coached and taught theatre throughout Ontario. He was the apprentice of Text Coach and Master Teacher Ian Watson, a former instructor at Ryerson, and is grateful for that endlessly inspiring relationship.