Meet the Playwrights of the Cross Cultural Adaptation Lab

PWM’s newest program, led by PWM dramaturg Aki Matsushita, began July 2023.

Through the Lab, four playwrights will create adaptations of texts from the public domain into their own specific cultural context. Exploring different approaches to adapting cross-culturally, the group will develop their plays through regular discussions, where work and feedback will be shared. 

Read on for the details about each playwright and the projects they’re bringing to the Lab.

nick carpenter

Nick’s plays, radio plays (CBC), short stories and librettos have been presented across Canada, the US and Germany. Most recently, his play Arco took 2nd place in Infinitheatre’s 2021 Write-on-Q Competition. Nick wrote the screenplay to the film Maz (Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma, 2018). His play Stained Glass won the Canadian Peace Play Competition in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Prism International Residency Award (2003). He is an alumnus of Tapestry Opera’s Lib Lab, the Banff Playwrights Colony, Theatre Centre Residency and the NAC/GCTC Writers’ Unit. 

Nick teaches and coaches at the National Theatre School of Canada. He has worked as a dramaturg for PWM (Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal); NACO (National Arts Centre Orchestra) and JMC (Jeunesses Musicales Canada) where he also creates mise-en-scène for touring concerts. 

In 2020, Nick was nominated for two METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards) for his work as a Musician and Supporting Actor.

As a composer and musician for the stage, Nick has worked and collaborated with the National Arts Centre; National Theatre School of Canada; Great Canadian Theatre Company; Centaur Theatre; Lucion Media; Repercussion Theatre; Geordie Theatre; CAM en tournée, The Theatre Centre; Imago Theatre; Infinitheatre; Concordia University; National Circus School; McGill and Ottawa Universities; the METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards); Hudson Village Theatre, Theatre Lac Brome; Third Wall; Théâtre Urbi et Orbi (Urban Tales); TF1 Rock’n’Roll Circus; Monastère Cabaret de Cirque; and on Festival productions or concerts for Magnetic North, SummerWorks, Undercurrents, WildSide, Tendance Clown (Marseille) and Festival de Clowns de Montréal.

Nick is co-founder of Summersett (

Photo credit:  Trine Mikkelsen

Adapting El Misteri d’Elx

Several rivers of curiosity — musical, emotional, dramaturgical and historical — have led me to El Misteri d’Elx. This giant pageant, performed every year since the 13th century in the Spanish town of Elche, reenacts the story of the Assumption of Mary. Parts of it dazzle me, parts of it bore me, parts of it baffle me, parts of it offend me. But its climax, supported by some theatrical machinery (as extraordinary as it is ancient) hits me in the heart and reduces me — rather lifts me — to tears.  Somewhere along this delta of inspiration, lies my adaptation. 

Peng Hsu

Peng Hsu is a Taiwan and Montreal-based theater director, playwright, actor, beginner-level animator, and researcher. Her works explore excess, bad taste, and Taiwanese perspective on lesbian/queer camp humor. Since 2020, Peng has been developing a dramaturgy for the body to move with and to act out Broke Broke Recitation, or BBR, which is her translation of a phrase used in Taiwan to describe how women ALWAYS talk NONSTOP about daily trivialities. Peng came to Montreal in January 2023 to start her Ph.D. in the Humanities Program (Research- Creation track ) at Concordia University.

King Vanya in Parenthesis (adapting from Oedipus the King et Uncle Vanya)

I propose to create a cross-cultural adaptation of two plays together, one is Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, hence the temporary title (but you can get the sense of it) King Vanya in Parenthesis. King in the title is obvious, and so is Vanya, but why parenthesis? The idea that I work with here is that in Taiwan, China, and Japan, many people use parenthesis to add on unimportant information, unrelated thoughts, and dramatic reactions (too dramatic it seems out of context, or, it’s so dramatic that it breaks away from the context of the conversation) in texting and messaging. Creating a cross-cultural adaptation of the two classics, I think, gives minoritized beings a chance to have an “old drama” that is about them, that thinks with them. I know linear genealogy is boring and not queer, but we cannot deny that sometimes it feels good to have some old stuff passed on to us. And I mean to have King Vanya in Parenthesis as that small something that travels through time and goes to a minoritarian: it feels new and it also feels old and it feels enough to be queer’s business.    

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Jamila “JAI” Joseph

Jamila “Jai” Joseph is a dance performer/choreographer, singer/lyricist, actor & storyteller from Montreal/Tiohtiá:ke. Trained in Classical Ballet for over 15 years and Afro-Caribbean dance/Folk technique which she inherited and trains under her father, renowned Dance performer/Instructor Selwyn Joseph (Trinidad & Tobago) while her love for music, performance & writing comes from her mother, a former Black Theatre Workshop and La Belle Carib Montreal member Paulette Armony (St. Kitts & Nevis).

Past recipient of Black Theatre Workshops Victor Phillips award in 2003, it was a synchronic moment to be able to come back 16 years later playing the role of “Chloe”, in BTW’S mainstage production of ‘How Black Mothers’ Say I Love You’ written by Tre Anthony. Her ambition and talents also lead her to Toronto where she performed in Nicole Brooke’s Obeah Opera for both Fall for Dance North and again as part of Luminato’s Summer Festival.

The last few years has brought exciting new experiences, participating in Dancemakers 2019-2020 Peer Learning Network program in Toronto, Playwright Workshop Montreal’s Dramaturgical Digital Residency, choreographed for The National Theatre Schools 2022 production of “Venus” by Suzan-Lori Parks and was a recipient of Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal and MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) 2022 Joint Support for Artists with her work in progress play, “Wild Roots”, a story of self-discovery and healing. This Fall Jamila steps into a new role as Movement Teacher for the Acting program at The National Theatre School of Canada, will be finishing her specialized training in Lester Horton dance technique, supported through Canada Council’s Professional Development for Artists grant, will join Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal’s newly launched Cross Cultural Adaption Lab where Jamila will bring a neo-Caribbean twist to “Alice in Wonderland”, as well as rejoining cohorts for the Arrivals Legacy Seed Pool project lead by Diane Roberts.

Adapting Alice in Wonderland

It’s March 29th, 2024, Aliyah, a young woman, visits her paternal family in Trinidad for the first time. She spends the day taking in the culture and relatives as they show her about and prepare for a special holiday, Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day. Aliyah learns of the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance of 1917 and the family ties to the political religious movement. At her aunts’ house in Carenage after a night of limin’ with her siblings and cousins, Aliyah falls asleep and dreams of a time before hers when politics ruled heavy over all forms of celebrations and a great trial takes place.


Mel Pickering is an emerging actor, and playwright based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, Canada. Her acting career debuted in 2017 as a messenger and a chorus member in  the play Camilien Houde – le p’tit gars de Sainte-Marie, written by Alexis Martin and  produced by Nouveau Théâtre Expérimental. The short yet life-changing experience  influenced her decision to recently complete a BFA in Acting at Concordia University.  During her studies, she began working on original pieces and discovered her voice as a  playwright.  

As a creator, she is inspired by complex relationship dynamics and human behavior, infused with her Haitian heritage. Her approach to characters and stories explores what often remains unsaid for the sake of appearances, shining a light over the impact of  such actions. Ultimately, her intention is to spark conversations people tend to avoid  and she is committed to uplifting Black voices, regardless of the medium she plays with.  

While at university, Mel teamed up with fellow classmates to put on a staged reading of  original play excerpts titled Blood Family…Sometimes Not (under The Sky Is The Limit  Collective). She has also participated in three Montreal Fringe festivals: she played  Robyn in No Justice No Peace, by Blxck Cxsper from Transtrenderz Productions, in both 2021-2022 runs, and played Honeysuckle in Vers de Terre et Dents-De-Lion: A  Guide To Plants, by HeadEmpty Productions. Aside from stage work, she pursues  projects on screen, and voiceover work. She played Juliette in an indie thriller titled Les  Nettoyeurs, produced by Pink Walls Production (unreleased). 

Photo credit: NOC Photograhy

Pyramidal Love Scheme (adapting from House of Desires)

The piece that I’m working on is titled Pyramidal Love Scheme and is based on House of Desires by Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz. It’s about seven people stuck in a house during a power outage who attempt to unstitch three love triangles woven through a series of outrageous tricks. It deals with love, acceptance, and the impact of stubbornly holding on to appearances for the sake of looking good. Throw in mistaken identities and a desire of figuring out romantic relationships in the mix. The adaptation is moving away from the heteronormative context it was created in, shifting to a queer lens. Also, the characters’ background is changed from Latin-American to Afro-Caribbean, in order to live closer to my identity as a person of color.

The Cross-Cultural Adaptation Lab is led by dramaturg Aki Matsushita

Image of Aki Matsushita

Aki is a biracial, Japanese-Canadian (nisei, second generation) dramaturg and arts educator.

She  is fascinated by intercultural performance, as it fosters an exchange and seeks out connection between seemingly disparate entities, looking at the world through the lens of wanting to understand each other’s humanity across geographic, cultural, linguistic, temporal and cultural boundaries.

Find out more about Aki here.

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