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 Cree/Metis multidisciplinary artist and recent George Brown Theatre School graduate based in Toronto. Since graduating, she's worked as a director, actor and arts administrator at varying theatre companies/festivals throughout Toronto, including the Paprika Festival, Toronto Fringe Festival, Theatre Gargantua, Alumnae Theatre, The Theatre Centre and Theatre of the Beat. Previous directing; Joyce and Florence (New Ideas Festival), BIRTH (Gears Theatre Company), DADA [as part of The StoryBoard is Dead] (George Brown Theatre School).

Hemali Sankalya Ratnaweera

Hemali (She/Her) has a background as a director and actor. Having completed her studies in Theatre and Economics at the University of Toronto, she is passionate about stories that uncover the complexities of our minds and environment, as well as how our identity and history (from our own life and before) inform our performance and how we choose to tell our stories. Her previous work as a director includes Between the Sheets (VCDS) and Cursed! (Bad Monster Theatre). She is excited for the opportunity to direct Chitra for this year’s Paprika Festival and thanks the Paprika Festival for this opportunity, as well as the cast and creative team for their hard work and time dedicated to this project.

Autumn Davis

Autumn Davis (She/Her) 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.

Acting credits include:
Badhat's Storybook Search (Bella/Ms.Locks), Obsidian's Surviving a Widowed
Father (Alison), Guildwood Festival Theatre's Alice in Wonderland (The Queen of

Directing/Writing credits include:
Paprika Festival - Mama Loves Her Pies
Human Lights Festival - All the Advice in the World
RHSA Fringe - Go Easy

Design Lab

Scotia Cox

Scotia Cox (she/her) is a Tkaronto-based stage manager, multi-disciplinary theatre designer and a recent graduate of TMU’s Performance Production program. Select theatre credits include: A Christmas Carol (Soup Can Theatre, Three Ships Collective), The Effect (Coalmine Theatre),

X and da Spirit (Theatre Passe Muraille), Trojan Girls and the Outhouse of Atreus (Outside the March, Factory Theatre), Art in Transit: Luminato on the Go! (Luminato Festival)

Camila Farah

Camila Farah (she/her) is a queer Brazilian-Canadian actor and costume designer. She is a Randolph College for the Performing Arts graduate. Credits as a costume designer include: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus; Pinkalicious: The Musical; The Rainbow Fish Musical; Princess and the Pea; Elephant and Piggie’s: We Are in a Play!; One Christmas Carol (TYT); The Other Place (Talk is Free Theatre); I Love You and it Hurts; Selah’s Song (Theatre of the Beat); A Dispute (Randolph). Follow her fabric and musical adventures on Instagram: @camilafarah.

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. Gabe’s 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) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2022) which won them Best Costume Design and Best Wig and Hair Design at the University of Toronto’s Drama Society’s 2023 Dougie Awards.

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. You can find more of Gabe’s art and Milkshook, as well as where they will be performing next at: @milkshookqueen. Gabe is very excited to be part of this year’s Paprika Design Lab team and grateful for the opportunity to further hone their talents, build skills and relationships with fellow creatives!

Playwrights Unit

Ameer Idreis

Ameer Idreis (He/Him) is a writer, playwright, and urbanist with a passion for storytelling steeped in and interrogating culture and identity. Releasing his debut novel in 2012, Ameer has been writing ever since – penning three novels, several academic and popular articles, and most recently working on award-winning and in-development plays. 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 watching coming-of-age movies, exploring forest trails, cooking his favourite Palestinian meals, and curating niche playlists.

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 hand Pan, creating  harmonious symphonies that convey untold narratives through the body.

Mercedes Isaza Clunie

Mercedes (She/Her) 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', which will be presented at this year's Toronto and Hamilton Fringe Festivals. 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 (She/Her) comes from a Haudenosaunee & Teme Augama Anishnabai mother and Michif & Dene Tha father. She was raised on Six Nations of the Grand River and is proud to call her community home.

Aleria holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Indigenous Studies and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Education. A poet and playwright, her past works include And She Split The Sky in Two and Thunderstorms. Her most recent poetry collection, Sweetgrass & Cigarettes, was released in early 2023. Aleria is passionate about animals, pageants, and escape rooms.

Cindy Dzib

Cindy Dzib (she/her) is a Mexican international multi-disciplinary artist, writer, designer, communicator, facilitator and producer of mixed Maya and Spanish descent. She’s currently working as Lead Artist and Production Manager at Shadowland Theatre with the support of the Studio Lab Theatre Foundation and is a theater facilitator for kids at Community Arts Guild. Cindy has a Bachelor of Sciences and Techniques in Communication from Mexico and graduated in 2022 from the Advanced Diploma in Theatre Arts and Performance at Centennial College with the Dean’s Award of Academic Excellence.

She came to Canada with the dream of expanding her creativity in a richer arts industry with the support of the International Scholarship for High Performance Creators by Fundación Pablo García 2019-2022 and has worked in companies such as Outside the March, Jumblies and The Coal Mine. Last year, as part of the Indigenous Arts Program at Paprika, Cindy wrote her first one-person show “My Name”, which explored the themes of war and reconciliation between her Maya and Spanish ancestors. She believes in the power art holds to bring people together and is passionate about spaces for community through art. Her work studies indigenous wisdom, connection, energy, nature, consciousness, and seeks to share the value of Unity with the world. You can find her on Instagram @cindydzib_ doing other fun stuff like dancing and saying hi to doggies on the street.

Kole Dunford

Kole Durnford (he/him) is a Métis actor and playwright based in Toronto. A graduate of the acting program at Toronto Metropolitan University, Kole is a two time Dora nominated actor. As a writer, his first play ECHO was recently produced for a third time as part of Next Stage 2023. At 22 years old, Kole became one of the youngest writers ever produced at the festival. His follow up, SKYSCRAPER, is currently in development with support from Native Earth Performing Arts and the Banff Centre. He is also currently performing in Insert Clown Here at the Theatre Centre! @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 (She/They) is a multidisciplinary performer and creator who has been working in culturally relevant pedagogy and arts for over seven years.
Keira’s artistic contribution has focused on amplifying stories for people under the youth category (under 30) in Toronto through various work as a performer, producer, sound artist, arts educator and coordinator.

Keira's recent performance credits include the sold-out production 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 eight different Theatre for Young audiences companies/festivals across Canada and was one of the artists selected to be a Peel region school board ambassador for Wellness Wednesday.

Keira is committed to her practice in culturally relevant arts and allows her intersectionality of being a Bi-racial artist with roots from Trinidad to inspire her work in movement, music and mask work. Keira is thankful for her mentors who inspired her to fulfill her passion for bringing personal arts into community spaces and especially thankful to David Norsworhty and the entire Toes for Dance team who allows her to work in her favourite discipline in the arts by being the Toes For Dance Outreach and volunteer coordinator.

Cassandra Henry

Cassandra Henry (She/Her) is an emerging actor, playwright, producer and singer. A graduate of York University’s theatre program, she has developed her craft of acting in theatre and singing in musical theatre from the age of 10. Having studied, musical theatre, classical music, the Laban movement, the Alexander technique and the The Batdorf Technique, she has learned the practice of creating a character from the inside out, creating unique voices for characters that contribute to meaningful and memorable performances for all audiences, with the emphasis and drive of creating representation and inclusivity for BIPOC and neurodiversity in theatre and film.

Creators Unit

Reid Martin

​Reid Martin (She/Her) 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.

Recent credits include Sarah in After Prom (Theatre Aquarius), Mother in Innocence Lost (Theatre on the Ridge), Swing for #11, #25, and #46 in The Wolves (All the Hats), and Desdemona in Othello (Knockout Theatre), amongst many others.

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 (She/Her) 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 time 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 (he/him) is a transgender, multi-disciplinary artist. He is a playwright, photographer, projectionist, puppeteer, dancer, and sound designer. He’s interested in creating more spaces for queer artists to share space, collaborate, and create with care. His work spans from topics of sex and sexuality, kink, queer identity, and neurodivergence. He’s interested in choreographic research and the process of experimentation and discovery over polished completion.

Selected credits include: Eyes on Beginnings (Toronto Dance Theatre, 2022), TDT Emerging Artist’s Roundtable (Theatre Gargantua, 2023), Summer Company Apprentice (Clay and Paper Theatre, 2023), Queer Youth Cabaret: Queer Icons (Soulpepper, 2022), QUEERCAB: PLAYING WITH ABUNDANCE (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 2022). He is also a graduate of York University’s Theatre BFA (’23) with a focus in Performance Creation.

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 spicy cucumber salad, Reena seeks to learn and execute as many methods of storytelling as possible! Select acting credits: Mom/Holly/Teacher in Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls (Roseneath Theatre) Everybody in Everybody; #7 Striker in The Wolves (Theatre Erindale). 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

Reena Goze appears with the permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.

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!