Storyteller Bios

AVIVA ARMOUR-OSTROFF
Aviva works in Toronto as an actor, director, writer and producer. Working primarily in theatre, Aviva has been nominated for several Dora Awards, recently winning best ensemble for VideoCabaret’s The Great War. Aviva was the founder and Artistic Director of The Lab Cab Festival, an annual multi-arts festival that she produced for thirteen years. As an actor, Aviva has a successful stage career and was applauded for her work in Layne Coleman and Bill Hominuke’s film The Shape of Rex. Aviva has been named one of the top theatre artists and best producer of work-in-progress by NOW magazine. Aviva’s connection to The Drawer Boy began when she saw the premiere of the play in 1999. This is her first experience directing film.

AVIVA ARMOUR-OSTROFF

EVA CROCKER

CHERIE DIMALINE

MARNI JACKSON

BRIAN D JOHNSON

FALEN JOHNSON

LEE MARACLE

KYO MACLEAR

SCOTT McKOWEN

EVA CROCKER
Eva Crocker has a Masters Degree in English Literature from Memorial University where she received the 2015 University Medal For Excellence in Graduate Studies as well as 2015 Department of English Award for Thesis Excellence. She is the Associate Editor and Chief Staff Writer at The Overcast, Newfoundland’s alternative newspaper. Her short story collection, Barrelling Forward (House of Anansi Press), was shortlisted for the 2015 NLCU Fresh Fish Award and included in the Toronto Star’s  “25 Books We Can’t Wait To Read”.  She lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland with two big cats and a little dog.

MICHAEL ONDAATJE

ARTURO PéREZ TORRES

MERILYN SIMONDS

PAUL THOMPSON, O.C.

JANE URQUHART

CHERIE DIMALINE
(Georgian Bay Metis Community)

Cherie Dimaline is the author of the novels Red Rooms, The Girl Who Grew A Galaxy, and the collection of short stories titled A Gentle Habit. 

In addition to writing, Cherie has edited numerous publications including Spirit, FNH and Muskrat magazines. She was named the 2014 Emerging Artist of the Year – Ontario Premier’s Award, and was named the first Writer in Residence – Aboriginal Literature for the Toronto Public Library. Cherie also held the position of Writer in Residence for First Nations House at the University of Toronto. She sits on numerous literary and arts boards and councils and continues to advocate for Indigenous literature and writers globally, work which has taken her from the Banff, Alberta to Gujurat, India. 

Cherie currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she coordinates the annual Indigenous Writers’ Gathering and is building a national Indigenous literary organization. 

Her latest work, a dystopian YA novel 'The Marrow Thieves' was released by Cormorant Books in the spring of 2016.

 

 

 

 

MARNI JACKSON

Marni Jackson is a Toronto writer who has won numerous National Magazine Awards for her humour and social commentary. Her writing has appeared in publications that include Rolling Stone, the London Sunday Times, The Walrus, Maclean’s and Brick magazine, and her three nonfiction books have challenging conventional thinking on subjects that range from motherhood to the medical treatment of pain. 

Last fall she made her fictional debut with a novel-in-stories called “Don’t I Know You?”, published by Flatiron Books. This spring, she has collaborated as a writer on a Soulpepper Theatre concert show, “True Patriot Love”, which will have performances in New York city this July.

BRIAN D JOHNSON

Brian D. Johnson is a Canadian writer, filmmaker and cultural commentator. His is best known from his three decades as the longtime film critic and senior arts writer at Maclean’s magazine, where he remains a Contributing Editor. He is also past president of the Toronto Film Critics Association (2006-2017), and created the annual TFCA Awards Gala, with its $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. He has worked professionally over the years as a journalist, author, musician—and, most recently, a filmmaker. In 2015 he produced and directed Al Purdy Was Here, a documentary feature about the legendary Canadian poet, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was runner-up for the TIFF Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award. The film played theatrically in some 70 towns and cities, aired on the CBC Documentary channel, and is now available on iTunes Canada.

FALEN JOHNSON

Falen is Mohawk and Tuscarora (Bear Clan) from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. She is a writer, producer, dramaturge and actor currently living in Toronto. Her first play Salt Baby has been staged with Native Earth Performing Arts, Planet IndigenUS, The Next Stage Festival, Live Five,  The Globe Theatre and has toured across the country. She has worked as a performer, producer, creator, and administrator.  She is a former artistic artist for Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble, and Native Earth Performing Arts as well as the former coordinator for the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance. She is a graduate of George Brown Theatre School and the former playwright in residence at Native Earth Performing Arts and Blyth Festival Theatre. She was nominated by playwright and poet Daniel David Moses as the 2015 recipient of the OAC Emerging Aboriginal Artist Award. Her second play Two Indians was recently debuted at The SummerWorks Performance Festival. This summer, her new work co-written by Jessica Carmichael titled Ipperwash will debut at the the Blyth Festival Theatre.

LEE MARACLE

Lee Maracle is a Sto:Loh nation; grandmother of four, mother of four who was born in North Vancouver, BC. Her works include: the novels, Ravensong, Bobbi Lee, Sundogs, short story collection, Sojourner’s Truth, poetry collection, Bentbox, and non-fiction work I Am Woman. She is Co-editor of My Home As I Remember and Telling It: Women and Language Across Cultures, editor of a number of poetry works, Gatherings journals and has published in dozens of anthologies in Canada and America. Ms. Maracle is a both an award winning author and teacher. She currently is Mentor for Aboriginal Students at University of Toronto where she also is a teacher and also the Traditional Cultural Director for the Indigenous Theatre School, where she is a part-time cultural instructor.

KYO MACLEAR

KYO MACLEAR is a novelist, essayist and children's author. She was born in London, England and moved to Toronto at the age of four. Kyo holds an Honors B.A. in Fine Art and Art History and an M.A. in Cultural Studies from the University of Toronto, and is currently a doctoral student at York University, where she holds a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. She is the author of two acclaimed novels for adults, The Letter Opener and Stray Love, and numerous beloved books for children, including Julia, Child and The Good Little Book. Kyo lives in Toronto where she shares a home with two sons, two cats, a musician and a truckload of books.

SCOTT McKOWEN

Scott McKowen is an illustrator, art director, and graphic designer. He was born in raised in Michigan, and his studio is in Stratford, Ontario. He designs posters for theaters and other performing arts companies across North America, and he creates illustration for books and magazines. He is known for his drawings on scratchboard, a process in which he uses a knife blade to carve white lines onto a black board. It is somewhat similar to engraving or woodcutting, in the sense that images are formed by carving white lines. In the last stages, color is often added to the illustrations.

Photo by Linda Spalding
MICHAEL ONDAATJE 

Michael Ondaatje s the author of five previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. The English Patient won the Booker Prize; Anil’s Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje now lives in Toronto.

ARTURO PéREZ TORRES

Arturo Pérez Torres was born and raised in Mexico City, studied film at San Francisco State University and completed a Master’s degree in sociology at the University of Amsterdam. 

After working five years in advertising as Art Director in Amsterdam and Austin, Arturo moved to Toronto where he directed his first documentary film in 2003. 

In 2009, two years after becoming a Canadian citizen, Arturo was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, making him the only Canadian to win the prestigious award that year. In 2010 he received an Honorable Mention by the Freedom to Create Organization, in 2011 he was inducted into the Mexican Hall of Creators and in 2015 he was awarded the Chalmers Fellowship. 

Arturo has directed five feature documentary films and has received 15 awards from national and international major festivals. His films have screened at the MoMA in New York City, on the National Geographic Channel, CBC and the Sundance Channel.

The Drawer Boy is his first Narrative Film. 

FILMOGRAPHY:
Wetback – The Undocumented Documentary (2005)
Super Amigos (2007)
City Idol (2008)
Las Aguilas Humanas (2010)
Bill No. 945 (2014)
The Drawer Boy (2017)

MERILYN SIMONDS
Merilyn Simonds is the author of 17 books, including The Convict Lover, a Governor General’s Award finalist; and most recently The Paradise Project, flash-fiction stories developed simultaneously as an ebook and a book-arts edition, hand-printed on an antique press. That experience is the subject of her latest work, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: Paper, Pixels, and the Lasting Impression of Books She writes a biweekly books column and teaches creative writing, mentoring emerging writers across the continent.


PAUL THOMPSON, O.C.
Paul Thompson ran Toronto's Theatre Passe Muraille from !970 to 1982.     During that time, as part of a movement of national self-discovery, he nurtured and helped bring to life over 100 original plays.  He was responsible for a new approach to the collaborative making of plays that became known as collective creation and this movement swept the country.   The Farm Show, which was created and performed in a barn in Goderich township near Holmesville in the summer of '72 is perhaps the most celebrated example.   It was hugely successful and had endless numbers of revivals and tours – the 1979 tour to agricultural regions of England and Wales is perhaps worth singling out.   
PAUL THOMPSON, O.C.

 

There were of course many other notable and popular works, including 1837, whose definitive version was created in the then-condemned Blyth Memorial Hall,  Doukhobors, I Love You Baby Blue, Les Maudits Anglais, and Maggie and Pierre.   Passe Muraille organized a program of regional touring of southern Ontario creating new pieces including Them Donnelleys, The Horsburgh Scandal, and Shakespeare For Fun and Profit, as well as hosting sister productions such as Codco from Newfoundland and Billy Bishop Goes To War.   Somewhere in there, the Blyth Hall was made safe and the founders began the Blyth Festival.

Paul followed his career at Passe Muraille with a guest Artistic Directorship of a Populist Theatre company in England, 7/84, a touring creation to Latin America with Tango For Two Continents, and a stint as Director General of The National Theatre of Canada.

In the 1990"s, in what he sometimes refers to as Act Four of his journey, Paul returned to the Blyth area and began a flurry of creativity with Artistic Director Janet Amos (and her husband Ted Johns).   During the following ten years, more than half a dozen original works filled the Blyth stage, plays with titles such as Barndance Live!,  He Won't Come In From the Barn, and The Outdoor Donnellys.   Parallel to that, Paul was directing The Manitoulin Incident for De-ba-je-muh-jig Theatre, touring a small company to the Republic of Georgia, and collaborating with author Timothy Findley on several projects culminating with Elizabeth Rex at the Stratford Festival.

Eventually Paul would follow up with another original work for Stratford, Hirsch, co-created with actor Alon Nashman, and subsequently touring to Winnipeg, Vancouver, The Edinburgh Festival, and South Africa.

Paul also returned to Blyth in the summer of 2016 to collaborate with Gil Garratt and Beth Kates on The Last Donnelly Standing.

Awards include: Officer of the Order of Canada; Governor General's Performing Arts Lifetime Achievement Award; Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Canadian Play; Honourary Doctorate (Western University);  Silver Ticket from the theatres of Toronto, and a special Honouring from his home town of Listowel.

He is now waiting to see if there might be an Act Five.

JANE URQUHART

Jane Urquhart was born in the far north of Ontario. She is the author of eight internationally acclaimed novels, among them The Underpainter, winner of the Governor General’s Award and a finalist for the Orange Prize; Away, winner of the Trillium Book Award; and The Stone Carvers, a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award and the Man Booker Prize. Her work, which is published in many countries, has been translated into numerous languages. Urquhart has received the Marian Engel Award and the Harbourfront Festival Prize. She is a chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. Her most recent novel, The Night Stages, was published in 2015. Urquhart lives in southeastern Ontario with her husband, artist Tony Urquhart.