Toronto performing arts centre appoints five York alumni

Five alumni of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts are among 12 multi-talented, multicultural local artists chosen to launch the new resident artist program at Toronto’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

Music grads Andrew Craig (BFA Spec. Hons. ’93) and Suba Sankaran (BFA Spec. Hons. ’97, MA ’02), theatre grads Weyni Mengesha (BFA Spec. Hons. ’05) and Soheil Parsa (BA Spec. Hons. ’89) and dance grad Andrea Nann (BFA Spec. Hons. ’88) are among the dynamic dozen who will help develop the Young Centre into a full-fledged multi-disciplinary arts organization. The centre is currently known for its theatre programming, and the resident artist team adds music, dance and spoken word to the mix.

Hailed by General Director Albert Schultz as “the visionaries behind the creation of new programs,” these artists will be artistic producers responsible for incubating new work, mentoring emerging artists and programming a variety of new festivals being initiated by the Young Centre.

Their mandate includes such festivals as the Canwest Cabaret Festival, showcasing over 100 Canadian artists across all performance disciplines; the New Waves Festival, where the resident artists will collaborate with Toronto’s emerging and youth creators on original work; and Summer at the Young featuring a thematic mix of concerts, symposia, readings, multidisciplinary performances and open studios.

Andrew Craig (left) is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer, director, broadcaster and impresario. He has music-directed high-profile tributes to jazz greats Quincy Jones and Oscar Peterson, and arranged music for 50,000 children singing for Nelson Mandela. He’s shared the stage with such leading lights of the music scene as Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Ashley MacIsaac, Measha Brueggergosman and Molly Johnson, to name just a few. As a television and radio host and producer, currently with CBC’s “Canada Live”, Craig continues to help showcase the remarkable breadth and depth of Canadian musical talent. In 2006, York University Alumni Association honoured him with a Bryden Alumni Award (see YFile, Nov. 9, 2006). Craig also serves on the Faculty of Fine Arts Advisory Council. 

Weyni Mengesha (right) is an award-winning director and composer. Her stage credits include directing and composing for trey anthony’s play ‘Da Kink in my Hair which grew from a Toronto and New York Fringe show to a hit Mirvish Production in the Princess of Wales Theatre. Mengesha is the director/dramaturge for d’bi.young’s blood.claat, which won the 2006 Dora Award for best new play; and director for the critically acclaimed Soulpepper/Theatre Calgary production of A Raisin in the Sun. Her achievements won her the 2008 Toronto Arts Council Foundation’s RBC Emerging Artist Award (see YFile, Oct. 30). 

Andrea Nann (left) is a Toronto-based choreographer, performer and teacher, and the artistic director of Andrea Nann Dreamwalker Dance Company. As a choreographer, director and producer, she brings together artists from many different disciplines. Her commissions include works for the York Dance Ensemble. Prior to founding her own company, Nann was for 15 years a full-time member of the Danny Grossman Dance Company, where she created, performed and taught major roles from the works of Grossman and guest choreographers.

Soheil Parsa (right) is an award-winning director, actor, writer, dramaturge, choreographer and teacher whose professional career in theatre spans 30 years and two continents. He left a promising career as an actor and director in his native Iran in 1979 and after graduating from York, established Modern Times Stage Company. Now recognized as one of the most culturally diverse theatre companies in Canada, Modern Times has received 10 Dora Awards and 40 nominations under his leadership. Parsa has personally won three Dora Awards for outstanding direction and two for outstanding new play, translation/adaptation. In 2007, he was short listed for the prestigious Siminovitch Prize in Theatre.

Dora Award-winning and Juno-nominated Suba Sankaran (left)  is a vocalist, pianist, percussionist and composer who regularly performs across North America, Europe and Asia with her indo-jazz band autorickshaw and  the world music ensemble Trichy’s Trio. An adventurous and versatile musician, she has collaborated with leading artists in a wide range of genres, from Jane Bunnett (jazz) and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale (classical) to York music Professor David Mott (new music) and Retrocity (contemporary a cappella). She appeared in the gala concert inaugurating York’s Accolade Project in 2006, and graced the Tribute Communities Recital Hall again earlier this semester performing with her father, York music Professor and master drummer Trichy Sankaran (see YFile, Oct. 24). Suba Sankaran has also composed, recorded and produced music for theatre, film, radio and dance, including collaborations with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta.