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News & Events

Announcing the 2021 PARC Retreat Playwrights

March 31, 2021

Vanessa Cardoso-Whelan is a playwright, multidisciplinary artist, street performer and clown hailing from Brazil, with a passion for contemporary theatre and body movement awareness, especially related to Flamenco dancing. Graduating in Theatre Arts in 2004, she has performed with several artistic groups onstage and in street productions, as an actress, Flamenco dancer, puppeteer and fire flow dancer. Vanessa has been actively engaged in the local arts scene since moving to NL in 2014,  participating in diverse artistic workshops and festivals. Currently she’s involved in theatre productions, TV shows, dance adventures and clown studies. Vanessa also loves to perform as a Living Statue in the streets when the weather is nice.


Jean-Michel Tobia Cliche is a playwright, director, and educator of Franco-Lebanese descent based in Frederiction, NB. He teaches drama at the University of New Brunswick and Theatre New Brunswick’s Theatre School. He is the artistic director of Hyperloop Theatre, which seeks to explore the fusion between live performance and technology. He is also the Co-Artistic Director of Solo Chicken Production’s the coop, a platform for contemporary artists to research, develop and perform original works of physical theatre. As a playwright, his work leans heavily towards genres such fantasy, science fiction and horror. His plays have been performed and workshopped by Theatre New Brunswick, Lunchbox Theatre, NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival, Saint John Theatre Company, St. Thomas University and more. Jean-Michel is also a fight and violence director. He has trained in stage combat in Toronto, ON and Saskatoon, SK, and is a certified member of Fight Directors of Canada.


Wesley J. Colford (they/them)  is a non-binary, Dora-Nominated playwright & theatre artist from Cape Breton who is currently based in Sydney, NS where they serve as the inaugural Artistic & Executive Director of Highland Arts Theatre (or HAT). After completing the Musical Theatre Performance program at Sheridan College, Wesley studied classical acting at George Brown College in Toronto. Their plays have been produced in three provinces, won awards, been published, and been adapted for film. Their plays have been workshopped by Tarragon Theatre, Theatre Aquarius, Alumnae Theatre, and The Paprika Festival and produced at the Toronto Fringe and Atlantic Fringe. Their first professional production was in 2014 with The Wakowski Brothers at Talk is Free Theatre in Barrie, ON. In 2014 they moved home to found the Highland Arts Theatre, which under their leadership has produced 83 major theatrical productions and won numerous awards including “Community Impact” and “Favourite Thing to Do in the CBRM” from the Sydney & Area Business Awards. During this time, Wesley wrote and developed seven original works for the company which were later produced by the HAT. They were recently honoured as one of the Globe & Mail’s “Canadian Arts Heroes of 2020” for their work developing the HAT’s bold new funding model, Radical Access. Other plays include: Excuse Me, Would You Like to Buy a Bar?, Mature Young Adults, Heart of Steel, Dirty Stacee, Kitchen Party, Sex and This, and The Return of the Cape Breton Liberation Army.

Prajwala Dixit is an award winning storyteller working in journalism, playwriting, creative writing and doc filmmaking whose work has been (and will be) produced and published by CBC, The National Film Board, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, SaltWire Network, Resource Centre For The Arts, White Rooster Theatre, Artistic Fraud, PerSIStence, Eastern Front Theatre, The Halifax Theatre for Young People, Breakwater Books, Newfoundland Quarterly and Riddle Fence. Winner of the Arts & Letter 2020 award (Creative Short Fiction), 2020 ArtsNL Arts in Education Nominee & a 2020 CAJ finalist for Community Broadcast, a mother, a wife and an engineer by education, Prajwala spends any free time consuming copious amounts of stories through cinema and books.


Azal Dosanjh is a theatre artist from India, now residing in St. John's, Newfoundland. He is a fourth-year student at Memorial University, completing his double major in English and Communication Studies, and is a recent graduate of the Stage and Screen Technique Diploma. His recent acting credits include: Log Kya Kahenge by Prajwala Dixit and Metamorphoses. His recent directing credits include: Burrow by Robyn Vivian, Until Death Do Us Part by Prajwala Dixit, The Boor, and The Proposal by Anton Chekhov, Laare, and Raahat by Gursharan Singh. Azal is currently working on translating and adapting a series of political satires from India, in a collection entitled Politically Relative.


Natalie Meisner is an award winning playwright, multi-genre author from the South Shore of Nova Scotia.  She is also the current Poet Laureate of Calgary.  Her work often deploys the power of comedy for social change.  Baddie One Shoe (Frontenac) is a collection of odes to renegade women who fight the powers that be with laughter. Lesiglating Love: The Everett Klippert Story (University of Calgary Press) illuminates the life the last Canadian to be jailed for homosexuality. Her play Boom Baby about young maritimers working in the oil patch won both the Canadian National & the Alberta Playwriting Award. Her play Speed Dating For Sperm Donors (Playwright’s Canada Press) non-fiction book Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family (Fernwood) and children's book My Mommy, My Mama My Brother & Me (Nimbus) are all based on the true story of a two-mom, biracial family finding community.  Meisner is a wife and mom to two great boys and a full Professor in the Department of English at Mount Royal University where she works in the areas of creative writing, drama and gender/ sexuality studies.  

Website: www.nataliemeisner.com
Facebook: Natalie Meisner
Twitter: @natalie meisner
Instagram: natalie.meisner


Melissa Mullen is a PEI based actor, playwright, director and farmer. She has been involved with PARC for many years as a board member, Colony actor, and playwright. Her first play, Rough Waters, was developed with assistance from PARC and produced by Neptune Theatre in Halifax and  TheatrePEI. She has co-written several plays with husband Rob MacLean, including the short piece Dear Mr. Keith for Theatre Yes in Edmonton, a stage adaptation of Sir Andrew Macphail's The Master's Wife (PEI Heritage award winner), and The Man Who Saved the Songs (a tribute to esteemed folklorist Edward 'Sandy' Ives now in production development).  Melissa and Rob were co-recipients of the 2020 PEI Distinguished Contribution to the Literary Arts award.  Melissa is currently working on her new solo script, Continuing Care.


Iris Rhian is a New York based actor, theater maker, and artistic collaborator. She holds a BFA in Drama with Honors from New York University's (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts, and a Minor in the Business of Media, Entertainment, and Technology from NYU Stern/Tisch. She trained at Playwrights Horizons Theater School, The International Theater Workshop in Amsterdam, and The Classical Studio. When not acting, writing, or devising, you can find her attempting to learn a variety of musical instruments, reading the latest Booker Prize winning novel, or seeking out nature wherever she can find it.


Nicole Smith studied theatre at the University of Guelph and spent 2016-18 working as a Producer for Pat the Dog Theatre Creation. Her work as a playwright has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), the Metcalf Foundation, the Shaw Festival, mammalian diving reflex and Canadian Stage. Girls From Away is Nicole’s most recent play-in-progress – a co-creation with Bernardine Stapleton about the hundreds of women who were recruited from Newfoundland to Cambridge during WWII. Early development of this play has been generously supported by Newfoundland's Arts and Culture Centres, the Canada Council, ArtsNL, CEDP and the OAC. Nicole is thrilled to have the opportunity to work on Girls From Away as part of the 2021 PARC Retreat. Nicole's essays and short fiction can most recently be found in The New Quarterly (TNQ), Textile Magazine and Ember Chasm Review. She is currently working on her first novel through Humber’s Creative Writing Program, under advisor Camilla Gibb. Nicole is also co-founder and co-Artistic Director of the Kitchen Party Theatre Festival (KPTF) in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland. The inaugural season launched virtually in 2020 and is a partnership between Girl Power Inc., the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts, the town of Grand Falls-Windsor and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). Nicole splits her time between her home in Cambridge, ON, and her beagle in St. John's, NL.

Bernardine Ann Teraz Stapleton has been a Newfoundland- Labrador writer and performer for forty years. She found her calling in the earliest days of the Stephenville Theatre Festival. Since then she has worked for and established deep relationships with TNL, Rising Tide, Artistic Fraud, and others. From The Double Axe Murders for TNL, to Play Me Home for Rising Tide, her plays are a storyboard of the unique history of our province. PerSistence Theatre recently revisited her iconic Offensive to Some, which has been performed across the country for 25 years. Bernardine was writer-in-residence at Memorial University of Newfoundland-Labrador in 2019. Her play The Pope and Princess Di was recently listed on the Playwrights Guild of Canada Sure Fire List of top 23 plays from female playwrights in Canada. She is the recipient of the 2018 Arts and Letters best dramatic script for her one woman play Dolly. She is a recipient of The Rhonda Payne award from Arts NL. She is a past recipient of the WANL award for best work in non-fiction for her contribution to the book They Let Down Baskets. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Riddle Fence and The Newfoundland Quarterly. She is a recipient of the Ambassador of Tourism award from Hospitality NL. She is the Newfoundland-Labrador rep for PARC, and is about to expand her horizons with two works of non-fiction about to emerge this year. She is co-founder of the Kitchen Party Theatre Festival in Grand Falls-Windsor. Bernardine is grateful and excited to add Program Animateur for APTNL to her resume.


Natasha Thomas is an African Nova Scotian of more than 10 generations ascent. Natasha was the 2020 Artist in Residence at the Shipwright Company Theatre in Nova Scotia and was invited as a playwright by Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre (PARC) to workshop and have a reading of her play, In The Eyes of the Fire (via Zoom). In this same year, Natasha was commissioned by Eastern Front Theatre to produce a micro digital creation. Natasha is a graduate of the Music Arts Program at the Nova Scotia Community College. She is the Artistic Director of "The Beyond Imagination Puppet Crew" and curated a Puppet cantata Freedom Runs combining her love of puppetry, music, and scriptwriting. Natasha performed at Pier 21, in the Jerry Brown production Winter Solstice: Souls of Sirens and appeared in; Beyond the Veil of the Sorrow Songs on the Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts Stage in New York. She played the role of Addaperle in the 2017 Broadway In the Hood production of The Wiz at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and has appeared in various productions with the Charles Taylor Theatre Company. Natasha is a vocalist who also enjoys songwriting and composing.


Annie Valentina (she/her) is a theatre artist, storyteller, and currently the Artistic Associate of Neptune Theatre. Since migrating to this side of the Atlantic and graduating from Fountain School of Performing Arts in 2004, Annie has co-founded several indie theatre companies, worked as an actor in film and TV, and – as one half of The Doppler Effect Productions - helped put many new plays on local stages. Among her passions are arts mentorship, queer voices and lenses, and innovation in storytelling. Some Halifax audiences may remember Annie from her award-nominated solo show Alien, originally developed in PARC's Playwright's Colony almost a decade ago. More recent years have seen her work pivot to directing, with credits like Lo (Or Dear Mr Wells) by Rose Napoli and the world premiere of Pleasureville by Ellen Denny, both on the Neptune stage. She is also a member of the 2019 Lincoln Centre Theatre Directors' Lab. Annie's current creative projects include Ballad of the Motherland, a play inspired by political unrest in Eastern Europe and the third culture kid experience, and Dispatch, an "urban puzzle adventure" for an SMS platform.