This year, we are awarding ten Queer Emerging Artist Awards to assist emerging artists focus on their artistic practice and deepen their connection to 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Available to queer emerging artists in any live performance discipline, each award winner receives $1000, alongside a $500 stipend to be spent on professional development (mentorship, courses, workshops etc.). Click the images below to learn more about this year’s recipients.
“The resilience and ingenuity of this year’s recipients, paired with their dedication to creating opportunities and moments of connection amongst our queer communities, is inspirational and selfless. I’d like to congratulate this year’s recipients for their perseverance in their art-making and passionate commitment to Toronto’s queer communities especially during such a tumultuous year,” says Interim Programming Director Daniel Carter. “I wish these artists all the best in their respective trajectories as they develop their artistic practices and deepen their impact on our arts community.”
Steven Conway / Tago Mago
Steven Conway is an inter-disciplinary performer and musician based in Toronto. A multi-instrumentalist, Steven is a frequent collaborator in Toronto’s independent music scene, and has toured across North America as the musical director for award-winning theatre artist Pearle Harbour. Their solo project Twin Mask has been performed at Buddies in Bad Times as part of QueerCab, Pride in Place, and the Rhubarb festival, among other venues throughout Toronto. As a teacher, Steven specializes in early childhood music education and youth musical theatre. As Tago Mago, they are the producer and host of BANDS & DRAG!, a monthly event series dedicated to bridging Toronto’s queer performance and music communities.
Lucia Linares is a Trans Non-binary multidisciplinary artist. Born in Peru and now based in Toronto. Their work is heavily influenced by their experiences as a queer immigrant and finding balance between the multiple identities and cultures that live within them. They were part of the first Trans Healing Arts Residency in partnership with Sketch Arts. As a sound editor designer they have worked with Paprika Theatre Festival and Aluna Theatre. Lucia co-created Boyband the Boyband, a Drag King concert play that explores the complexity of Latinx identity. Currently, they’re developing “Reflections”, a multimedia installation exploring the relationship between trans people and their bodies.
photo by Dinaly Tran
Makayla Walker Louboutin
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Makayla Walker is a black transgender woman who thrives in the arts and constantly advocates for the black community. She began her love for advocacy and the arts in the Jane and Finch community where she was raised. It was there that Makayla learned about the importance of using your voice and the power of the performing arts. She then attended theatre school and began her journey in drag. She is now a Toronto drag staple and constant support for queer and trans youth looking for belonging.
photo by Sariena Luy
Jaime Lujan aka Lucinda Miu
he/him out of drag; she/her in drag
Jaime Lujan (he/him) is a Latinx, Toronto-based actor, writer, drag artist, and costume designer. Known mostly as his Old Hollywood alter ego, Lucinda Miu (she/her), Jaime has appeared in drag in projects such as The Christmas Set-Up (Lifetime), Queens (CBC Gem), and Private Eyes (Global). His costumes can be seen in music videos, commercials, tv, and, most recently, on the new drag reality show, Call Me Mother (Out TV) where Jaime also appears as a fashion mentor to the contestants. Moving forward into 2022, Jaime and Lucinda both hope to return to their main love, theatre!
photo by Kitty Creature
Cassandra Myers is a queer, trans, crip, mad, South Asian-Italian poet, performer, educator, and social worker from Toronto, Ontario. A Masters of Social Work Candidate at York University, Cassandra is also a crisis intervention counsellor and youth worker, specializing in care for sexual violence survivors and the BIPOC LGBTQ2SIA+ community. Cassandra has performed poetry across the United States and Canada. A Pink Door Fellow, her work can be found in ARC Poetry Magazine (Poem of the Year Award), shortlisted for the RBC Penn Award and long listed for the CBC Poetry Prize 2021.
photo by Em Dial
The Noise Witch
The Noise Witch is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary artist and performer based in Tkaronto, Canada. They draw inspiration from Filipino culture, precolonial history, spirituality, sexuality, and their experiences as a racialized gender-fluid and intersex person to create immersive and surreal works of art. Their mediums range from the seen (art direction, collaging, illustration, and videography) to the unseen (audio production, coding, music). Their self-produced visual EP will be released early 2022 and features local queer artists from the GTA.
theatre and pole dance
Julie Phan 潘家雯
Julie Phan 潘家雯 feels empty inside. If this McGill dropout was a piece of art, she would be the 2004 Quiznos Sponmonkey Campaign. She is a Hoklo-Vietnamese writer, actor, and pole artist based in Toronto and Montreal completing her final year as a playwriting student at the National Theatre School of Canada and developing a solo show under Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s Seeding Work initiative. She is best known for disappointing her father, and her work with fu-GEN asian theatre company (double bill, fearless).
photo by Tien Chang
pothound is a queer, trans fem, Scarborough born, Trinidadian raised Space Maker, Producer, Skater, and DJ living in Toronto. An organizer in the DIY community, they co-founded Cooler Fete (@cooler.fete.family on instagram), a queer Caribbean diaspora party and is also one of the resident DJs. Additionally, they are an organizer in the skate community and founded DIY SKATE TO (@diyskatetoronto on instagram). pothound emcee’s Queer Skate Toronto, a monthly event that takes over skateparks in the city.
photo by Devenae Bryce
Rye is a cereal grass that is cultivated for use in baking, beer making, and other culinary activities. It is well-suited to establish roots in cosmopolitan environments and is a disease-resistant crop. When in human form, Rye is a chronically ill, intersex, genderqueer entertainer who uses acrobatic contemporary moves to tell sentimental stories. They are Toronto’s best figure skating drag performer, and have performed on this city’s queerest stages, bartops and park benches. They co-produce SPOC, the only all-POC variety show in the Church-Wellesley Village, and are a resident artist at Pride Toronto.
photo by FCT Photography
As a young, Black Biracial, Bisexual Woman with Type II Bipolar Disorder from Toronto, I have coined myself as the “Bi-fecta”. I am a multidisciplinary artist who creates within the realms of visual art, literary art, and performance art. I use art to ground myself and remind myself of the power I possess to be a positive change in this world. Each piece I create is a small chapter of my visual memoire.
The Buddies Queer Emerging Artist Award recognizes and encourages the achievements of queer artists who are founding careers in the theatre while engaging with the community. The Queer Emerging Artist Award has been distributed since 2014, and was originally made possible by a gift from the estate of John Alan Lee. This year’s selection committee was made up of Daniel Carter, Anna Malla, and Jord Campbell.
Ajahnis Charley is a Toronto-based writer and performer delivering comedy with the exuberance only a young debt-ridden gay could have. He wrote and directed the short doc I AM GAY, produced by the National Film Board of Canada. He has written for The Beaverton and the CBC Comedy Podcast Tony Ho and is an alum of Canadian Comedy Award-winning sketch troupe The Sketchersons. He has written and performed his own solo sketch show THOTS & PRAYERS and won the Producer’s Pick award at the 2020 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.
Alexi Pedneault is a queer second generation Filipino-Canadian Multi-disciplinary artist that specializes in shrinkfilm sculptures and performs Burlesque as Kuya Atay (he/him/they/them). Originally grew up in central alberta, he has been living in toronto since 2012. Much of his work uses nostalgia, queer communities, and being mixed race. As one of the newest members of BoylesqueTO, he has recently been performing in livestream quarantine shows such as STAY HOMO and NAKED BOYS EATING. Upcoming projects will explore more of filipino culture in queerlesque, and combining the visual arts with the burly performative tease.
Alten is a multidisciplinary artist and apostle of Call Me By Your Name. He is the founder of Unwrap Theatre, where he continues to learn, create, and share with his communities. In his teenage years, he founded Voices Over Time – a troupe that provided free concerts for long-term care facilities. He has worked with companies from coast to coast, performing in two Dora Award winning productions and receiving a Denny Award from the KW Arts Awards. He is a recent graduate of Sheridan College, where he remains an active leader in anti-racism research and thought leadership. Looking forward, Alten continues to explore how contemporary dance can be more deeply utilized as a narrative device, and remains curious about the biracial experience, intimate love in friendships, and his fear of parenting…
Aria Evans (POLITICAL MOVEMENT)
Aria Evans is a queer, Toronto-based, award winning interdisciplinary artist whose practice spans dance; creation, performance and film. Aria draws on their experiences with Afro-Indigenous + settler heritage to capture meaningful social and cultural themes through their interactive art. With a large-scale vision, collaboration is the departure point to the work that Aria creates under their company POLITICAL MOVEMENT. Advocating for inclusion and the representation of diversity, Aria use their artistic practice to question the ways we can coexist together.
photo by Eirene Cloma
dance, burlesque, screenwriting
Beeta Senedjani is an artist based in Toronto where she lovingly tends to her houseplants. She has made two short experimental films on themes of human connection, othering and sexuality, and received an award at Scarborough Arts’ annual juried exhibition in 2019. Beeta occasionally writes for Kajal magazine. She has a secret life where she performs burlesque as her alter ego Kareena Pussy Couture, co-founding Silk Burlesque with Ola Minou to produce queer and Middle Eastern-centered burlesque shows. Beeta is currently working on a comedic screenplay about being brown in the wellness industry. She frequently fantasizes about a better world.
Brock Hessel sometimes goes by broke hassle, brawk ward, howhen, hamlet (not that one), amy winerack, Max Q. Lynne (very feminine), @fartfegg and broccoli (only if you think it is necessary). Brock is a white settler and a genderqueer fag that uses they/them pronouns. Brock is also a recovering addict, proudly mad, and a careworker. Their work has been featured frequently at Video Fag, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Glad Day Bookshop. They are also a collective member of the community arts space, Unit 2, as well as the Bricks and Glitter Festival. While Brock is very grateful for this award and these last 5 years of work and artistic nourishment from Buddies, they know that Buddies has a history of harm and has left a number of BIPOC and other marginalized artists behind—a recently formed collective of 21 to be exact. Brock is looking forward to Buddies beginning a transformational justice process with these artists and this process’s potential to help Buddies form an ethics of care and a truly collective and radical governance model for its future. Brock is also grateful to our queer, trans and 2S ancestors and to the traditional First Nations stewards of this land on which they can babble and dabble in acting, awkwardness, critical theory, drag, lewks, and poetry.
Ganesh is a Tamil-Canadian actor, writer and producer. With a degree in marketing, he leverages his business acumen to support his artistic career. He takes mundane everyday stories like family feuds or love affairs and shows them from underrepresented perspectives. As the first-generation son of immigrants, he has always been fascinated with how humanity copes with change and adversity. He especially enjoys exploring these experiences at the intersection of various identities, such as race, socio-economic status and sexuality. He hopes to use his lens as a South Asian creative to create more space for other diverse voices to be heard.
Kamika Peters is a multi-disciplinary artist born in the Algonquin Territories to guardians from the Caribbean. While working as a community artist, some sites of their exploration have been Project Creative Users, Sketch Working Arts, d’bi young anitafrika’s Watah Theatre, ILL NANA DIVERSECITY DANCE COMPANY, and The Drag Musical. As an emerging culture maker, they feel esteemed by this award to continue working at opening up in the art disciplines. Kamika sends many gratitudes to all involved and looks forward to the future and the genius of collective.
Kwaku Okyere is a Ghanaian-Canadian multidisciplinary theatre artist. He was named an Artist to Watch in NOW Magazine, and received the MyTheatre Critics’ Pick Award for Outstanding Actor in a Small Production for originating the role of Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin in Steven Elliot Jackson’s award-winning play, The Seat Next to the King. Most recently, Kwaku played Oberon in the Dora-nominated ensemble of Theatre Rusticle’s acclaimed swan song production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Kwaku is also an emerging director, most notably having assisted acclaimed director and now Obsidian’s Artistic Director Mumbi Tindyebwa-Otu on her multiple award-winning production of The Brothers Size for Soulpepper Theatre Company. Kwaku looks forward to continuing his journey as a director.
lwrds is a cosmic force
black and brown afroindigenous blood
artist, shapeshifter, and keeper of a slutty heart
they’re a nonbinary genderhealing dream
mixed with ancestral wrath
ماهر سنّو Maher Sinno
Maher | ماهر (They/He) is a performer, filmmaker, and drag artist based in Tkaronto and has worked with organizations like Buddies, Theatre Passe Muraille, & Cahoots Theatre. Maher has also performed with companies across Canada; namely, Fifi/Zidan in The Green Line (Edmonton Fringe Festival), Ali in Tales of a City By The Sea (Theatre Passe Muraille/Tkaronto), & Abe in 76 Centimeters (St John’s Short Plays Festival). Currently, Maher is writing a play titled Mhajjir/مهاجر, while volunteering for Pride TO & ACT. Maher’s work centers anti-oppression and decolonization with a focus on sustainable equity practices in Theatre.
Merlin Simard (iel/elle/they/she) is a disabled, Franco-Ontarian, queer, trans-feminine performer, playwright, dramaturge, and filmmaker originally from Tiohtiá:ke (Montréal) now based in Tkarón:to (Toronto). Select theatre performance credits: E-TRANSFERS (Buddies In Bad Times/BCurrent/NTS), Curious Voyage (Talk Is Free Theatre/DLT), The Flick (Crow’s Theatre/Outside The March), Tape Escape (Outside The March), FEAR OF MEN ((Staged Reading) Assembly Theatre) and Gruesome Playground Injuries (Playground Productions) TV/Film: Grand Army (Netflix), This Life (CBC) Playwriting: FEAR OF MEN (in development at Theatre Passe Muraille), ZADDY ISSUES (In development at Ergo Arts Theatre) and E-TRANSFERS (Buddies In Bad Times/BCurrent/NTS (co-written with Gabe Maharjan)). Merlin currently holds the position of Dramturgy Intern at Theatre Passe Muraille.
photo by Mark Binks
Anishinaabe, Nipissing First Nation
Olivia Shortt is a Tkarón:to-based trans-disciplinary performing artist. They are a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, noisemaker, improviser, composer, sound designer, curator, administrator, artist manager, and producer.
Highlights include their Lincoln Center (NYC) debut performing with the International Contemporary, their Australian debut in 2017, their film debut performing in Atom Egoyan’s 2019 film Guest of Honour, as well as recording an album two kilometres underground in the SnoLAB (Neutrino Lab in Sudbury, Canada).
They are a 2020 cohort member of the Musical Stage Co.’s RBC Apprentice Program and were part of Why Not Theatre’s ThisGEN Fellowship, and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s Emerging Creators Unit.
photo by Alejandro Santiago
Pree aka Sticky Mangos
Pree is an artist educator currently based in Tkaronto, originally from Tiohtià:ke. They’re a child of immigrant settlers from Punjab. They have an interdisciplinary arts practice under the name: Sticky Mangos, with visual arts pieces inspired by nature, selfhood and community care. Pree also facilitates arts-based workshops, makes short films, performs drag (as @GayramMasala) and engages in community organizing. They cofounded the Non-Binary Colour Collective, and currently organize with WAYF (Where Are You From collective).
Robbie Ahmed is a writer, musician, creator and workshop facilitator. He writes and sings on the intersections of self-love, family, trans rights, migration, and healing. His work was featured in Nuance, Pills Don’t Come in My Skin Tone, Rest4Resistance, Kros magazine, the Living Hyphen and Naked Heart Festival. He has also played at Toronto’s Storyteller’s Festival, Pride Toronto, Gladstone hotel, and has co-written with a few Canadian artists. Outside of the art world, his advocacy work involved sitting on the board of directors for a ethno-racial mental agency advocating for QTBIPOC mental health services & working on action-research project for trans inclusion in the HIV sector in Ontario. Today, he works as an artist educator to uplift immigrant & trans voices, and is one of the organizers with WAYF (Where are you From) collective an arts activism program for pan-Asian youth running the “Decolonizing Gender” project.
Shohana Sharmin is a Bangladeshi-Canadian artist, and a proud Muslim queer woman of colour. She is a creator and cast member of the critically acclaimed award-winning dark sketch comedy revue, Dead Parents Society. A member of Buddies in Bad Times theatre’s 2019 Emerging Creators Unit, Nightwood Theatre’s 2019 Young Innovators program, and b current Theatre’s 2019 bcHUB Emerging Artists cohort, Shohana presented her first solo show Come Here Often? as part of 2019 Queer Pride at Buddies. She has performed in comedy and theatre festivals across North America with her award-winning troupe Not Oasis (2017 The Toronto Fringe Patrons Pick, NOW Critics’ Pick). She wishes she could be more like her mother.
Sofia Fly is a DJ/Producer/Vocalist from Toronto. Named one of NOW Magazine’s “artists to watch in 2020” her music features poetic party-girl lyrics set to a Latin inspired fusion of trap and house music. A Trans woman and Queer nightlife Queen, she frequently DJs across the city playing sets built around her own signature remixes and beats. Her debut EP “Rosé” released in 2019 and her latest single “Put In That Werk” are available on all music streaming platforms.
theatre and live creation performance
Stella Kulagowski is an actor, producer, creator and dancer. She has produced 3 years of sold-out Toronto Fringe productions: Lysistrata (2017), Carmilla (2018) and Mayhem at Miskatonic (2019). Stella also produced, choreographed, and performed in the ‘Shakesqueer’ adaptation, Ill Met by Moonlight.
Stella moonlights as award-winning burlesque performer ‘St. Stella’, twice performing at the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Currently, Stella is producing and performing in a digital cabaret and ‘web-crawl’ funded by the Canada Council for the Arts; Pointed Cap Cabaret premieres in early December. Stella also Game-Masters live-play Dungeons and Dragons stream Charisma Mod, produced by Comic Sans (comicsansproductions.ca).
photo by Sly Pereira
musical theatre performance
Tan Vu is a musical theatre performer. Originally from Vietnam, Tan had performed in musical, opera, and theatre projects before moving to New York to train at American Musical & Dramatic Academy under a scholarship. Since relocating to Toronto in November 2019 as Canadian permanent resident, Tan has performed as tenor lead in choirs and participated in projects with Toronto Operetta Theatre and Summer Opera Lyric Theatre.
During COVID shutdown, Tan has been training under the tutelage of DORA award-winning director/choreographer Stephanie Graham (thanks to Toronto Arts Council’s Strategic Funding), director David Connolly, actor David Leyshon, and soprano Hellen Cho.