Sephora N’kosi (Je suis)
Hi, my name is Sephora N’Kosi and I’m the author of Je suis. I was born in Toronto but I’m originally from Congo. I love writing and art in general. I explore several mediums but I’m most interested in theatre. I’m currently studying at the National Theatre School in Creation and Production. As for writing, I love poetry, so my dramatic style is strongly influenced by poetic SLAM. I hope you enjoy the show.
Philippe Paré (Zarathoustra)
I was born in Indiana in 2006 and moved to Canada for the first time in 2012. That was also the year I began, not without difficulty, to learn the French language. Until last year, I wasn’t interested in playwriting at all. That was until I saw Les Zinspiré.e.s last year on a school trip with my French class, and I was so inspired by the quality of some of the acts that I wanted to do one myself. So, at the beginning of the year, I decided to do two different pieces, one inspired by Nietzsche’s magnum opus and modern internet humour and the other, called Les Caricatures, a metafictional piece about the absurd nature of most entertainment that touches on the ideas of existentialism that I was very proud of but unfortunately didn’t get chosen. Anyway, I didn’t really think I was going to win the competition even after submiting it, so it was with great surprise that I found out in June that one of my entries had been chosen and that I would be moving on to the writing stage over two weekends in the summer (the best weekends of the summer). Special thanks go to my Year 11 French teacher and my Year 8 English teacher, as well as everyone else involved in this special trip.
Alexandra Pokas (Les princesses et l’épée)
My name is Alexandra Pokas and I’m currently in my first year at OCAD, where I’m studying drawing and painting. This isn’t my first experience of theatre, but it’s the first time I’ve written a play (in French, no less!!). I love all aspects of the arts and I really enjoyed being involved in the creation of this production. It was a new experience, very different from being in a play or helping out on stage.
Shannon Villeneuve (Impostor Syndrome)
Shannon wrote this play as part of a grade 12 class project, and it wouldn’t have been possible without her teacher Ms. Malete, who submitted the piece to Les Zinspiré.e.s (thanks Ms. Malete!) She is currently a student at the University of Toronto, where she is studying life sciences and hopes to double major in human biology and toxicology. Before this play, Shannon had no theatre experience, so it’s a whole new world she’s discovered and been able to navigate thanks to the incredible help of her coach Lara Arabian and the Théâtre français de Toronto community. This play is personal for Shannon and she hopes that her words will touch people.
Leyao Xiao (The Girl Is Not Dead)
Leyao has a long history with the arts. She enjoys writing short stories, screenplays and stage productions. She has written many plays for her drama course, but this is the first time she has written one in French. As well as creative writing, Leyao has also played cello and double bass in an orchestra, sung in a choir, and acted in school plays. She hopes to publish more of her stories in the future, whatever the medium.
Lara is a trilingual performer based in Toronto, having spent time in Beirut (Lebanon), upstate New York and Paris (France). A Dora Award-nominated actress, she has worked with companies across Canada, including: Citadel Theatre, Modern Times, Aluna Theatre, Neptune Theatre, Canadian Stage, Theatre Passe Muraille, TfT, Studio 180, Cahoots, Pandemic Theatre, Nightswimming. Her recent television and film credits include: The Handmaid’s Tale, Kim’s Convenience, Rabbit Hole, Paris, Paris, Ghostwriter, Murdoch Mysteries, Taken, Dark Matter. She completed her acting training at the Banff/Citadel Professional Theatre Program. As a writer, she was a member of the Banff Playwrights Unit and Nightwood Theatre’s Write from the Hip program. She was twice nominated for the Dora Award for Outstanding New Play (Youth Division) as a member of the writing team for Les Zinspiré.e.s 8 and 10 (Théâtre français de Toronto). Her latest play, Convictions, had its world premiere at the Festival Les Zébrures in France this fall, before launching the season at Théâtre français de Toronto. Lara was recently named the inaugural winner of the Joël Beddows Award for playwriting.
Lara is also a passionate arts educator and is on the faculty of George Brown College and Sheridan College. At Sheridan, she chairs the Expanding the Lens series, dedicated to historically marginalized voices. Upcoming: a revival of Lara’s one-woman show, Siranoush, at the 2024 Next Stage Theatre Festival in Toronto.
Djennie Laguerre is an actress, writer and storyteller; she is a graduate of the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in New York and has a BA in Theatre and Literature from the University of Otawa. Her theatre credits include Le Malade imaginaire, Les Zinspirés and Les Zinspirés 3D (Théâtre français de Toronto), and Rendez-vous Home/Lakay (Black Theatre Workshop), which she also wrote. She is also the writer and performer of Manman la mer (Théâtre Catapulte), which premiered in Ottawa in February 2020 before being presented at the MASA festival in Côte-d’Ivoire (March 2020). The show won two Prix Rideau Awards 2021 - ‘Production of the Year’ and ‘Performance of the Year’. Djennie received the Spotlight Award at the SummerWorks Festival in 2008 for Rendez-vous with Home/Lakay. She was nominated for a Dora Award for Les Zinspirés 3D, in the categories of Outstanding Performance - Individual and Outstanding Performance - Ensemble Performance, and a Best Actress nomination at the METAs Awards 2018 and Dora Awards 2020 for Rendez-vous with Home/Lakay. Arts educator with CAO, and Theatre Direct. ** Theatre Project ⁄ Film and Television. Taking Care of Maman with Roseneath Theatre. Her charming Hélène in the TV series Paris, Paris season 1 & 2 (Unis, Radio-Canada 2022) and her moving Madame St-Aimé in the TV series Après Le Déluge⁄ Still I Rise (Noovo.ca and CRAVE).
François is a four-time Dora Mavor Moore-nominated actor and writer. As an actor, he has appeared onscreen in The Expanse (Amazon Prime), Letterkenny (Crave), Mayday (Discovery), Canada: The Story of Us (CBC) as well as in several short films and commercials. He has also appeared onstage in numerous productions, including Le Menteur (Théâtre français de Toronto), Les Zinspirés Puissance 4 (TfT), The Wager (Theatre Gargantua), East of Berlin (Essential Collective Theatre) and Our Town (Buddies in Bad Times/Rusticle). As a writer, François presented his first play Aquarius, a solo show in which he also performs, as part of Queer Pride in Toronto and the Queer Acts Festival in Halifax. Involved with LES Zinspirés since 2015, François is delighted to have worked with Philippe Paré and Leyao Xiao this year. He thanks them sincerely for their generosity, creativity, sense of humour and patience during the writing process!
Merlin Simard is a performer, writer, playwright and screenwriter originally from Tiohtiá:ke (Montreal), now based in Tkarón:to (Toronto). As a performer, Merlin has worked with Factory Theatre, Stratford, Crow’s, Outside The March, Buddies In Bad Times, Talk is Free, Toronto Dance Theatre and many other theatre companies across Canada. They have also appeared in Grand Army (Netlix) and This Life (CBC), and in the short film Poils Anyways (Fitonia Inc.), which they also wrote.
Merlin is also developing several projects in theatre, television, and VR, in both English and French. Her practice focuses on themes of access, gender euphoria, technology, and multilingual performance. @hussy4hussy | merlinsimard.com Photo credit: Mark Binks.