Introducing the 2023-2024 Young Creators Unit


From October 2023 to June 2024, these emerging theatre artists will receive dramaturgical guidance, one-on-one mentorships, group workshops and intensives,  grant writing support, and much more!

Keep on reading to learn more about each artist and their practice, as well as YCU’s Lead Dramaturg, Leila Ghaemi. Stay tuned for more information on the YCU and the end-of-season Showcase.

Meet the Cohort

Gabrielle Banville 

Gabrielle is a bilingual performer and collaborator who investigates duality in all of her work. After graduating from Concordia’s Acting for the Theatre program in 2020, she created her company Half Twin Theatre to tell the stories of forgotten people through breaks in timelines, overlapping memories, movement and song. She is also focusing on expanding her skills in voicework, film performance and motion capture. She wants to professionally stage one of her works within the next year, and create theatre with more Montreal artists.

Joshua Bilbao

Joshua Bilbao is a multidisciplinary Mexican/Canadian artist born in Taiwan and raised all throughout North America. Jumping into the world of show business in his early twenties has led him to train under the direction of acting coaches such as Bernard Hiller, Tom Todoroff, Austin Pendleton and Mary Lou Rosato. Bilbao also completed a 2-year acting program at the Tom Todoroff Conservatory with extensive work on voice, speech, movement & Shakespeare in New York City. 

In addition to his training, Bilbao has always taken pride in being a creator. He produced and starred in his first theater production ( “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train”) that won “best direction” at the Broadway World awards.  He has also produced, directed, written, and starred in a number of short films and music videos. One of his most recent projects was “The Wild World Itself,” a short film on which he served as both an actor and producer which had its world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival. With multiple projects on the horizon, Bilbao is excited to continue exploring the world of arts and culture through his curiosity.

Tiernan Cornford

Realizing her passion at an early age, Tiernan has been intuitively moulding as an artist for nearly a decade. Born and based in Tiohtià:ke (Montréal), Tiernan has worked and trained as an actor, playwright and overall creator in the city. She is thrilled to be joining this year’s YCU ensemble to continue creating theatre she aspires for future stages.

Chloe Giddings

Chloe is a bilingual theatre creator in Montreal. She began as an actor, most recently appearing in La Campagne, a french translation of Martin Crimp’s The Country, directed by Jérémie Niel at the NAC. In spring, she finished an internship in cultural mediation and theatre education for young audiences with the Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke. That’s where she was inspired to begin writing for young audiences, which is what has brought her to YCU.

Hwaan Han

Hwaan Han is an emerging theatre-maker based in Tiohtià:ke/ Montreal. She holds a B.A. in drama and theatre from McGill University (2023) and is a graduate of Imago Theatre’s ARTISTA program (2022). In the summer of 2023, she took part in the Calgary Fringe Festival, contributing to the creation of They Must Have Smoked, a Chinese play about navigating regret in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hwaan is ever exploring the wonderfully multidisciplinary world of theatre through acting, directing, costume design, research, and playwriting. If Hwaan disappears suddenly, look for her in Montreal’s many grassy parks—if she isn’t there, leave her be—she might have yet again run off into deeper nature to recharge her soul.

Banafsheh Hassani

Banafsheh Hassani (any/all pronouns) بنفشه حسنی is an Iranian, Montreal-based theatre creator. They’re currently in their final year of studies in Performance Creation at Concordia University. Banafsheh’s joys in life are her cats, her rats, literature about difficult feelings and writing plays that help them understand the world around them. Most recent credits as a creator include GRIEF directed by Jessica Carmichael, Blood Family (Sometimes Not) and À Confirmer / T.B.C. (Montreal fringe festival 2023) by The Sky is the Limit Theatre. Her work mostly centers home, memory, loss, blood and illness.

Sam Lemieux 

Sam Lemieux is a bilingual actor, writer and creator from Coaticook, Qc, currently living in Montreal. Some of his credits include Saltzman’s Antiques (One-act play for the Montreal Fringe 2022) and The Mother Is Dead (Short film currently in post-production), both of which he’s written, acted in, and produced. Other credits include Suzy Stork (Dawson College Professional Theatre), One Way Ticket (Montréal Fringe 2023), and Island Life (Short Film, Upcoming).

Rana Liu

Rana Liu (she/her) is an Asian Canadian multidisciplinary arts creator, and lover of bagels & dumplings. Her principle goal is to (re)vitalize diversity and cultural understanding through shared perspectives. To not just tell these stories, but to celebrate them. 

Rana earned her BA at McGill University, in Political Science and English: Drama & Theatre, and completed her MA at Columbia College Chicago in Arts Management. She’s had the chance to work & perform in Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and Shanghai.

Anton May

Anton May (he/him) is a British born, now Montreal based Creator/Performer, an honours graduate from Dawson College’s Professional Theatre Program and alumni of Black Theatre Workshop’s Artist Mentorship Program in the acting discipline (2016-17). He has had the privilege to perform across eastern Canada as well as in New York as a singer and actor. In 2018, he was the recipient of the META for Outstanding Emerging Artist (performance). The pandemic allowed him to focus on his writing. Something he’s always been passionate about, but never had the time to pursue. In his writing, he focuses on QPOC (queer people of color) struggles. He tackles these themes through poetry/spoken word. He continues to seek out opportunities to tell stories through the black queer gaze through song, dance, and poetry. His latest digital work An Account Of Many was showcased in BTW’s Belonging Project (2021) alongside many powerful queer black stories. He is also a proud member of the Montreal Kiki Ballroom scene (as Godfather Broadway Mulan) where he frequently competes and emcees for the dwolls at Balls in both Toronto and Montreal. When he’s not acting, he’s voguing or performing in concerts and Cabarets singing or moving audiences with his poetry. He is thrilled to be a part of this year’s cohort. 

Anna Morreale

Anna Morreale is a multidisciplinary actor and artist, based in Montreal and southern Ontario. Since graduating from the National Theatre School of Canada in 2021, they have been working professionally in the theatre, film and voice acting industries. Anna is also an artistic producer for Scaredy Cat Company and co-founder of SEANCE: a queer cabaret for emerging artists.

Toby Walma

Toby Walma is studying at Concordia University in the Honours English & Creative Writing program. He writes in a variety of genres, from spec fic to literary realism, with a particular eye towards subjects such as gender identity and neurodiversity. He’s excited to get to work on his modern take on a Shakespearean classic in the YCU program.

The Young Creators Unit is facilitated by dramaturg Leila Ghaemi

Thrilled to be back leading the YCU for her second year, Leila Ghaemi (she/elle) is a first generation Iranian-Canadian theatre maker. She returned to her hometown of Montreal, Quebec during the COVID-19 pandemic after a decade of working for theater companies in the United States, including American Conservatory Theater, New Repertory Theatre, and Boston Playwright’s Theatre; where she grew her love for and skills in new play development. 

Leila received her BFA in Theatre Arts and MFA in Theatre Education & Direction from Boston University’s School of Theatre and currently serves as co-artistic director of Persephone Productions Montreal and Artistic Producer & Dramaturg at PWM.  Leila’s artistic pillars include responsible MENASA representation, radical theatre empowerment, and arts advocacy. Recent projects include: dramaturg for The Flick at Centaur Theatre, cultural consultant for English at The Segal Centre for Performing Arts, teaching-artist at The Study School, and director for Pool No Water at The Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

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