Introducing #Paprika23

19 young and emerging artists are joining our training programs, led by some of the industry’s most ingenious artists, to learn, create, and share new work at our 23rd Annual Paprika Festival this Spring at Native Earth Performing Arts.

Artists will work with Paprika over the year to develop skills in playwriting, directing, collective creation, costume design, producing and beyond!

Say hey to some new (and returning) faces!

Directors Lab

Grace Lamarche

Grace Lamarche (she/her) is a mixed Cree/Metis multidisciplinary artist and recent George Brown Theatre School graduate based in Toronto. She is beyond excited to be a part of the Paprika Festival's Directors Lab this year and is so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with all the incredible artists involved. Previous directing; Joyce and Florence (New Ideas Festival), BIRTH (2022 Toronto Fringe Festival), DADA [as part of The StoryBoard is Dead] (George Brown Theatre School). Previous acting; J Namez (Unspecial Creative House), thatismyface (Unspecial Creative House), SKYSCRAPER (2023 Paprika Festival), Blood Wedding, Cymbeline, Per Gynt and Engaged (George Brown Theatre School). Her latest project is a web series called J Namez that has episodes released on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube every Friday. For more information visit

Hemali Ratnaweera

Hemali has a background as a director and actor. She finds theatre to be a compelling, wonderful art that brings people from all walks of life together. She is excited for the opportunity to develop her practice further and produce work that makes a statement. She is particularly interested in the exploration of storytelling through intersections of identity. Directing: Hamilton Fringe 2023-Cursed! (Bad Monster Theatre), Between the Sheets (VCDS). Acting: Chamber Music (SMC), WANT (VCDS), Rock of Ages (AIS) .

Autumn Davis

Autumn Davis is a Des McAnuff award winning artist and actor. She obtained her BFA in Acting from TMU (Ryerson University) in 2022. Born and raised in Scarborough, she passionately attacks performance and creation with curiosity and joyful collaboration.

This enthusiastic mover and singer is simply jazzed to continually explore classic texts, dark comedies, directing, filmmaking and writing in whatever forms they may take.

Design Lab

Scotia Cox

Scotia Cox is a Tkaronto-based stage manager, multi-disciplinary theatre artist/designer & a recent Performance Production graduate from TMU’s School of Performance. Throughout her career in theatre she has had the privilege of working with a multitude of creatives who have pushed the boundaries of theatre in experimental and exploratory ways. She hopes to integrate their boundlessness into her own creative process.

Select theatre credits include: A Christmas Carol (Soup Can Theatre, Three Ships Collective) The Effect (Coal Mine Theatre), X and da Spirit (Theatre Passe Muraille), Trojan Girls (Outside the March, Factory Theatre), Art in Transit: Luminato on the Go! (Luminato Festival)

Camilla Farah

Camila is queer, Brazilian-Canadian costume designer and performer. She is a Randolph College for the Performing Arts graduate and purchased her first sewing machine in 2020, during lockdown. Since then, she has worked as an actor and costume designer for several theatre companies in Toronto. Credits as a costume designer include: Pinkalicious: The Musical; The Rainbow Fish Musical; Elephant and Piggie’s: We Are in a Play! (TYT); I Love You and it Hurts; Selah’s Song (Theatre of the Beat); The Other Place (Talk is Free Theatre). Welcome to her world full of music, fabric and glitter!

Gabriel Woo

Gabriel Woo (they/them) is a natural born shopaholic turned costume designer and a recent graduate of the University of Toronto where they held a design monopoly on campus theatre during their final year of study. Their designs tend to draw inspiration from and reference pop

culture and media while also emphasizing queerness and having a colour story being told in their work.

Recent works that featured their costume design work include: Into the Woods (SMCT 22/23), Connections (TCDS 22/23), Acepto: I Do the Musical (VCDS 22/23), The Gray: A Wilde Musical in Concert (Hart House Theatre 2023), Featherhead (Birdbrain Theatre Collective for Toronto Fringe 2023) Outside of costume design, Gabe moonlights as the drag performer Milkshook, a local drag queen based in Toronto who performs irregularly at various venues and events including Queens of Dim Sum, Drag Pho the Win and other local queer stages.

Playwrights Unit

Ameer Idreis

Ameer Idreis is a Palestinian-Canadian writer, playwright, and emerging urbanist with a passion for cities and storytelling. Self-publishing his debut novel at twelve, Ameer has been writing ever since, penning three novels, several academic and popular articles, and most recently his award-winning play Ships in the Night. With a Master of Science in Planning from the University of Toronto, he brings this perspective to his exploration of both urban environments and fiction. Writing and urbanism aside, he enjoys coming-of-age movies, exploring forest trails, and making niche playlists. Ameer is ecstatic to be joining Paprika Festival’s Playwrights Unit.

Mina Zaghari

Mina Zaghari (She/Her) originally from Iran and now based in Toronto, is a versatile artist, seamlessly blending acting, devising, puppeteering, and contemporary dance. While holding a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, she pursued her passion for acting, ultimately earning a graduate degree in art performance theatre from Humber College, enriching her artistic abilities.

Her artistic journey involves collaborations with renowned companies like Cahoots Theatre, Paprika Theatre, and Tirgan Theatre. Alongside acting, she has directed and choreographed performances. As a passionate advocate for physical theatre, she values the expressive power of the body's silent language. Her musical heart shines offstage with a mastery of the hang drum, creating harmonious symphonies that convey untold narratives through the body.

Mercedes Isaza Clunie

Mercedes is a queer, Chilean-Canadian playwright, actor, and poet from Toronto. Her work explores topics such as girlhood, culture, sexuality, and language through diverse formats that both disrupt traditional conventions and celebrate the essence of theatre. She holds a BFA in Acting from York University and is the recent recipient of the Wildfire Playwriting runner-up prize for her play 'Gringas'. Mercedes is passionate about creating work that celebrates her communities and makes strides towards a better and more art-filled Canada. She's PUMPED to be a part of Paprika's Playwriting Unit and has plans for world domination. Her friends refer to her as 'Meche' - colloquially.

Indigenous Arts Program

Aleria McKay

Aleria McKay is a proud Indigenous woman, with roots that intertwine a tapestry of Teme Augama Anishnabai, Onondaga, Dene Tha, and Red River Métis nations. Hailing from the vibrant community of Six Nations of the Grand River, Aleria carries a diverse ancestry that deeply informs her identity. Armed with a passion for storytelling and a commitment to education, Aleria holds an undergraduate degree in Theatre and Indigenous Studies.

Currently, she is pursuing her Bachelor of Education, driven by a desire to contribute meaningfully to the future of Indigenous education. Aleria's creative spirit finds expression in the written word. As an author, she has self-published two poetry books, "Thunderstorms" and "Sweetgrass & Cigarettes,". Her passion for writing has also extended to the stage, and she wrote her first play, "And She Split the Sky in Two" in 2018. Beyond academics and the arts, Aleria finds joy in cultivating her garden, getting lost in a good book, and spending time with her pets

Cindy Dzib

Cindy Dzib (she/her) is a Mexican international multidisciplinary artist and facilitator living in T’karonto since 2019. She’s been a theatre creator since 2010, producing, designing, performing and facilitating visual and performing arts in Mexico, USA and now in Canada. She’s worked with Outside the March, Jumblies Theatre, The Coal Mine Theatre, Community Arts Guild, the Royal Ontario Museum, The Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity, Grandview Theatre Company and other communities in Turtle Island. She’s the Lead Artist and Communications Manager at Shadowland Theatre where she collaborates closely with the Artistic Directors bringing a new perspective to the company. Her work focuses on unity and community, aiming to serve in the evolution of the world consciousness.

In her free time she loves healthy living, performances, training in boxing/kickboxing and learning to dance afro and dancehall.

Kole Dunford

Hi! My name is Kole Durnford, and I am a Métis actor, playwright and creator originally from Stony Plain, Alberta. I received Dora nominations in 2022 and 2023 for my performances in Killing Time: A Game Show Musical and Niizh.

Beyond acting, my first play ECHO was recently produced in October as part of the 2023 Next Stage Festival. My follow up, SKYSCRAPER, is currently in development with support from Native Earth Performing Arts. Recent credits include: Insert Clown Here (Parlous Theatre), Killing Time: A Game Show Musical  (Mixtape Projects), SKYSCRAPER (Paprika Festival 2022), Niizh (Native Earth Performing Arts). @koledurnford

Emily Granville

Emily Granville is an Odawa-Cree student from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, ON. She learned trumpet and piano while in high school, after which they attended Cambrian College for Music Performance, opting to major in piano. Now in the Bachelor of Music program at Wilfrid Laurier University, she aspires to further their career and education in music, with an interest in composition, performance and ethnomusicology.

Emily has participated and is involved within the Indigenous community and music; being involved as a National Indigenous Ambassador of Youth with We Matter, part of the Venus Music Festival Mentorship Program as a mentee, taking part in the Indigenous Classical Music Gathering at Banff Centre in Banff, AB, volunteering as a piano teacher for the Community Music School of Waterloo Region.

Creative Producers

Keira Marie Forde

Keira Marie Forde (Shey /They ) is a multidisciplinary performer and creator who has been working in culturally relevant pedagogy and arts for over 7 years.

Keira’s artistic contribution has focused on amplifying stories for people under the Youth category in Toronto through various work as a performer, producer arts educator and coordinator.

Keira's recent performance credits include The Christie Pits Riot based on the Christie Pits riot with Hogtown Collective, What's So Funny with Carousel Players, and her Original digital work titled No More News for Nancy with Alberta-based company Major Matt Mason Collective.

Keira, as an arts educator and coordinator, has worked with over seven different Theatre for young audience companies/festivals across Canada and was one of the artists selected Peel region school board ambassador for Wellness Wednesday.

Cassandra Henry

Cassandra Henry is a graduate of York University’s Theatre program. She participated for four years in the program, specializing in the Acting Conservatory where she focused in detail on the craft of acting, script work and movement. Since that time, she has participated in multiple independent projects. In 2020, during the lockdowns she curated and independent play and film with her fellow alumni, which later went on to be submitted to Toronto’s Fringe Festival. She has since acted in the BOOM which premiered at the Paprika Festival in 2022.

She is extremely passionate about not only acting and singing, but holistic/energy healing and medicine, linguistics, neurodiverse development, as well as working with and helping children. She aims to research, experience, participate in and create art that showcases a diverse, creative, joyful and professional community. As well as helping others heal from generational trauma and traumatic situations through the practice of holistic and somatic trauma therapy.

Creators Unit

Reid Martin

Reid Martin is a Toronto-based actor, singer, and performer. She is a graduate of Sheridan College and UTM’s Theatre and Drama Studies program, she holds a diploma in Professional Actor Training and an HBA Specialist Degree in Theatre and Drama.

Outside of theatre Reid loves everything textiles from sewing to embroidery to knitting! And yes her closet is exploding, Thank you for asking! Ask her about anything board games, cats or sitcoms and she will also talk your ear off.

Reid has a great passion for all kinds of theatre, but recently devised theatre has really allowed her to explore her love of community. And she is so excited to be welcomed into the Paprika community to see what magic we create together!

Caleigh Adams

​​Caleigh is an emerging actor, writer and theatre creator, based in the GTA. Trained in devised and physical theatre through Humber’s Theatre Performance Program, she is drawn to socially engaged and physically rigorous projects. After spending two years in film school, she hopes to combine her enthusiasm for film production with her lifelong love of theatre and pop culture. Since graduating from Humber in 2021, she has kept her craft alive by always being on the move, writing, spending time outdoors, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and doing what she calls “paid artistic research”, or what others might call “working in the service industry”. Caleigh is eager to collaborate with more extraordinary Canadian artists and create work with kindness, joy, a sense of humour and camp!

Mackenzie Mccallum-Mallory

Mackenzie Mccallum-Mallory is a transgender artist, playwright, puppeteer, and image maker. He’s currently working on a trans-adaptation of Giselle, and continuing to develop his solo show, BODY PLAN. He has recently worked with Clay and Paper Theatre as a puppeteer in their annual Night of Dread and as a Summer Company Apprentice. He likes to experiment with projections, overhead projectors, and weird sound designs! He also has an interest in intimacy, specifically intimacy in queer stories, and wants to learn more about becoming an intimacy director. He was recently almost hit by a flock of pigeons and knows how to juggle.

Reena Goze

Reena Goze (she/they) is a Filipinx-Canadian multidisciplinary theatre artist and educator from Milton, ON. Armed with a deep love of collective creation, discovery, and eggs benedict, Reena seeks to learn and execute as many methods of storytelling as possible! Recent acting credits: Everybody in Everybody; #7 Striker in The Wolves (Theatre Erindale); Swing/Helen of Troy and Medea in Mythic Women and Their Cabaret to Save Humanity (UTM EDSS Mainstage). Select directing credits: Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties (EDSS); PHOTOGRAPH (Beck Festival of Creation). Reena is honoured to create alongside the stellar artists that is the 2023/4 Creator's Unit, xLq, and the Paprika Festival team. <3

Paprika-Its Priceless

Thank you for reading all the way through! If you're one of the amazing people who are deeply invested in Paprika, we ask that you consider becoming a donor for our Paprika-It's priceless end of year campaign. This helps a lot towards creating barrier free opportunities for our participants!