Emerging Creators Unit


“I knew coming in that I had a lot to learn about the creative process, about my own writing, and how to breath energy into its performance. I can honestly say that learned much more about the above in the YCU than I did in my four years at theatre school.”

-Michael David Lorsch, Young Creators Unit 2012


2018 Emerging Creators Unit

The Emerging Creators Unit will present their work as part of The 39th Rhubarb Festival in February.


Week One
February 16 + 17 at 6:00PM


A woman is trapped in purgatory and forced to navigate a space she has no power to escape. As she waits for an ultimate judgement, she grapples with various fractured memories of her life. Inspired by the work of avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren, Becoming delves into a stream of consciousness exploration of the ever-evolving perspectives we are subjected to, and the ways in which it informs the identities we take on for ourselves. 

Erum Khan / creator + performer
Liz Peterson / director

Maame: A Queer Black Fairy’s Tale

Description: A journey that spans space, time, and the killer closet his mother left behind, Maame: A Queer Black Fairy’s Tale follows the story of a Ghanaian boy coming to grips with the sudden passing of his mother. At the crossroads of his queerness and his mother’s death lies self-discovery beyond his wildest imagination, but what will it cost him to get there?

Kwaku Okyere / creator + performer 
Audrey Dwyer / director


Week Two
February 23 + 24 at 6:00PM


The one and holy Gay Jesus is a fluid king serving mouth-watering communion with latinx wine and non-binary bread. Born of virgin-ish loins and baptized in sex-appeal, Gay Jesus is best known for bending politics and gender with multidisciplinary protest pieces. In Virgen, our sultry saviour spits garter-clad gospel restructuring scripture and stripping down the chastity belt. The Church of Gay Jesus is in session and this propheta puto is pounding out prayer after prayer for Purity.

Heath V Salazar / creator + performer
Alec Butler / director

There Are No Rats In Alberta

There is a [         ] with cropped silver hair and a man with long fingers and endless patience. They are pressed up against the window – a hand flies up, is caught in another hand. Flesh against the cool summer glass. We take a photo – we’re looking for a rat. Brutality can be oh so delicate. 

Rhiannon Collett
/ creator + performer
Moe Angelos / director

What is the Emerging Creators Unit?

The Emerging Creators Unit offers an intensive opportunity to develop your artistic voice through the creation and performance of your own 25-minute show at Buddies. Artists who receive training are paired with either a professional director or actors in preparation for a presentation of their work at the annual Rhubarb Festival.

The Emerging Creators Unit is an artist-driven, mentor-supported creative model; we look for strongly motivated emerging queer or trans artists who have an ability to work independently, are interested in creating original, text-driven, theatrical work and are ready to take their practice to the next level. The Emerging Creators Unit supports a wide definition of “performance”, and is open to a wide variety of themes, form or content. Proposed projects could be autobiographically or community inspired or entirely fictional, use conventional or unconventional theatrical forms, and could include a strong physicality although should also have a text base.

What’s Involved?

Application to the program is open to queer-identified, emerging artists, age 30 and under with less than three years of professional theatre practice. Selected participants meet weekly as a group with Emerging Creators Unit director Sunny Drake and Buddies dramaturge Mel Hague (Monday afternoons, October to February) and are guided through a unique creative process that takes their project from idea to a performance-ready draft.

Individual creators who will also perform their own work will be paired with a professional director to stage the work for presentation; individual creators who will direct their work will be supported to engage professional or suitable actors; collaborative creations may include a director in their creative team, or be matched with a professional director.

Applications are due annually in the fall and are reviewed by a jury.  Short-listed applicants are invited to an audition/interview where they perform a short selection of their own work and discuss their project proposal in greater depth.

Program Director // Sunny Drake

Sunny Drake is a writer, actor, director and independent theatre producer. He has toured his theatre works to over 50 cities across Canada, Australia, the USA and Europe. His play “No Strings (Attached)” has been translated into 3 languages and is part of the upcoming Buddies in Bad Times Theatre main season. For “X”, he won the 2013 SummerWorks RBC Arts Professional Award, as well as being named by NOW Magazine for “Outstanding Performance” and “Outstanding Design”. Sunny is also the author of a blog, sunnydrake.com, which uses personal stories to explore queer and trans* politics, with over 70,000 readers in the past year. Sunny was born in Australia on Indigenous Jagerra-Turrabul land and has been a permanent resident of Canada for almost five years.

Past Participants

2017 // Bilal Baig, Teiya Kasahara, François Macdonald, Sofia Rodriguez
// Marina Moreira, Joshua Middleton, Chase Lo, Monica Garrido
// kumari giles, Faith-Ann Mendes, Andre Prefontaine, Brian Postalian
2014 // Jackie Rowland, Ramon Vitung, Rory Jade Grey
2013 // Sina Gilani, Shaista Latif, Aemilius (Milo) Ramirez, Katie Sly
2012 // Jamie Ebbs, Daniel Jelani Ellis, Michael David Lorsch, cassy walker
2011 // Meg Gennings, Olive-or-Oliver, Andrew Robinson, Evan Vipond
2010 // Tyson James, Flerida Pena, Zita Nyaraty, Jonathan Schuster
2009 // Cole J. Alvis, Kim Crosby, Tawiah M’carthy, Rob Salerno
2008 // Jessica Michael Reynolds, Mark Shyzer, Alisha Stranges, Jordan Tannahill
2007 // Andrew Bathory, Shannon Curry, Waawaate Fobister, Dawn Nearing, Jay Stewart

Queer Youth Arts Program Supporters

Education Partner:
TD Bank Group

Additional Program Support:
The NigE Gough Shine On Foundation at the Toronto Community Foundation

photo of the 2018 Emerging Creators Unit by Tanja-Tiziana