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Canadian Stage x York University
Unique Collaborative Artist Mentorship

Launched in 2011 as a bridge between emerging and established theatre artists, the landmark collaboration between Canadian Stage and York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) supports the development of next-generation talent.

Professional Development at Shakespeare in High Park

Each year, a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate York theatre students share their talents on stage, backstage and on the creative teams for Shakespeare in High Park, working alongside leading professionals in performance, design, production and stage management.

York University MFA in Theatre

The MFA in Theatre – Stage Direction in Collaboration with Canadian Stage brings together one of Canada’s pre-eminent theatre schools and one of the country’s leading not-for-profit contemporary theatre companies, to offer highly specialized, advanced training in large-scale theatre directing. The two-year program allows students to develop their creative and technical skills to the highest level within a rigorous academic and professional context.

Students are deeply immersed in the professional world of theatre as they integrate their studio work at York with involvement in artistic projects at Canadian Stage. The program is customized for each student based on their experience, artistic orientation and goals. Key elements of this enriched academic experience include the opportunity to direct a Canadian Stage production and an internship with a major national or international theatre. Past internships include: Robert Carsen in Baden Baden, Ivo van Hove in Amsterdam, Peter Sellars in London, and Peter Stein in Vienna.

The Artistic Director and primary mentor Peter Hinton works closely with the graduate faculty in York’s Department of Theatre in designing the program to best suit the MFA candidates’ needs and their professional development as theatre directors.

Past and present MFA graduates include: 2011-13: Ker Wells, Ted Witzel; 2013-15: Matjash Mrozewski, Estelle Shook; 2015-17: Tanja Jacobs, Alistair Newton; 2017-19: Liza Balkan, Severn Thompson.

The next session of the MFA program in Stage Direction begins in September 2019. York’s Graduate Program in Theatre is accepting applications now: the deadline for applications is September 21, 2018.

Directors with extremely strong individual and interpretive voices and substantial professional experience are invited to apply. Candidates should be committed to developing their artistic and technical skills and have a clear interest in working on a large scale.

Find out more and apply here

Meet the current MFA candidates



Liza Balkan


Liza Balkan is is an accomplished Ontario-based opera and theatre director, writer, librettist, educator, and Dora Award-winning actor. She has directed productions at Koerner Hall, Buddies in Bad Times, Lighthouse Festival, The Canadian Opera Company, the Shaw Festival's Directors' Project, Tapestry Opera, Bicycle Opera Projects, among many others. Liza has been a movement instructor for the Birmingham Conservatory at the Stratford Festival and has been a guest artist and director at the University of Windsor, Royal Conservatory of Music, Ryerson Theatre School, and Randolph School for the Performing Arts.

Liza received a Dora Award for her performance in Theresa Tova's Still the Night as well as a nomination for Calgary's Betty Mitchell Award during the production's cross Canada tour. She is presently a resident artist with arc (Actors Repertory Company) and appeared in their recent Dora award-winning production of POMONA and arc/Theatre Smash/Canadian Stage's KISS.

Her writing projects include her early solo shows: BRANgst and Leftovers, as well as short opera works that have been performed by Tapestry Opera, Bicycle Opera Project, Canadian Stage, and others. Alongside composer Lembit Beecher, she created the song cycle Looking at Spring, which was commissioned by Scrag Mountain Music and Opera Philadelphia and premiered in Vermont in 2013. In 2008, Liza was invited into the Residency Program at the Theatre Centre where she continued to develop her documentary project Out The Window, which played to sold out houses during its limited run. Out the Window will see a production at the 2018 Luminato as the inaugural Luminato/The Theatre Centre Residents Project.



Severn Thompson


Most recently, Severn directed and co-created The Pigeon King for the Blyth Festival. Other directing credits include a new musical production of Peter Pan (Bad Hats Theatre) which won three Dora Awards, including Outstanding Direction; Madam Mao (SummerWorks & remount), Beyond the Farm Show (Blyth Festival), and The Munsch Bunch (George Brown).

As an actor, Severn has performed in theatres across the country including several seasons at both the Shaw and Stratford Festivals. Last winter, she toured to Vancouver and Winnipeg (with Theatre Passe Muraille), performing the title role in Elle, a play which she also adapted (Dora nominated). She is an acting graduate of the National Theatre School as well as Stratford's Birmingham Conservatory.

Severn is the Associate Artistic Director at the Blyth Festival and will be remounting Bad Hat's production of Peter Pan this December with Soulpepper Theatre.

Former Candidates

2015-2017

Tanja Jacobs

Director, Twelfth Night, Shakespeare in High Park (2017)

Co-director, Love and Information as part of Canadian Stage's 17.18 season (upcoming)

Alistair Newton

Director, King Lear, Shakespeare in High Park (2017)

Co-director, Love and Information as part of Canadian Stage's 17.18 season (upcoming)
2013-2015

Matjash Mrozewski

Directed The Comedy of Errors at Canadian Stage's Shakespeare in High Park (2015)

Directed Botticelli in the Fire as part of Canadian Stage's 15.16 Season

International residency with Peter Sellars at English National Opera, London, on The Gospel According to the Other Mary

Estelle Shook

Directed Julius Caesar at Canadian Stage's Shakespeare in High Park (2015)

Directed Sunday in Sodom as part of Canadian Stage's 15.16 Season

International residency with Peter Stein at Vienna State Opera, Vienna, on The Markopulos Case
2011-2013

Ted Witzel

Directed Taming of the Shrew at Canadian Stage's Shakespeare in High Park (2013)

Directed Yukonstyle as part of Canadian Stage's 13.14 Season

International residency with Robert Carson at Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden, on The Magic Flute

Ker Wells

Directed Macbeth at Canadian Stage's Shakespeare in High Park (2013)

Directed The Flood Thereafter as part of Canadian Stage’s 13.14 Season

International residency with Ivo Van Hove at Toneelgroep, Amsterdam, on The Fountainhead