Geordie Staff - Geordie Theatre

Meet Our Staff



Jenn Townsend headshot

Jennifer Townsend

Administrative Coordinator
Violette Kay headshot

Violette Kay

Administrative Assistant

Elsa Bolam headshot

Elsa Bolam – Founding Artistic Director

Elsa Bolam is the founding Artistic Director of Geordie Theatre. Elsa was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, where she began her career working in different capacities at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and London. After directing freelance with many English theatre companies, she became a television director at the BBC in London. She then came to Canada, where she taught at the National Theatre School, helped found the Centaur Theatre, and continued to direct at theatres such as Theatre Calgary, Theatre Plus in Toronto, Sudbury Theatre Centre, Magnus Theatre, the Globe Theatre in Regina, and others.

In 1980 Elsa founded Geordie Theatre and was artistic director of the company until 2006. In October 2002, Avon Canada recognized Elsa Bolam as a “Woman of Inspiration” in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 2003 she was also awarded a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. The Montreal English Critics’ Circle honoured Elsa in 2005 with a distinction award in ‘recognition of her work nurturing young stage talent and taking theatre to far-flung audiences’.

Elsa was named to the Order of Canada at the end of 2008.

Mike Payette - Artistic Director

The first time Mike stepped onto any kind of stage was in his elementary school gym auditorium playing Winnie the Pooh in a hodge-podge theatre presentation set in an enchanted forest (really it was an excuse for adorable 7 year olds to dress up as princesses and butterflies). He was terrified, but his mother convinced him he had stolen the show. It was the overalls that did it.

One of the first shows he had seen – in that same elementary school – was Geordie’s A Promise is a Promise and he realized that there was perhaps more to this performing thing then what he left with in playing the iconic chubby bear. Watching the show, he was transported; taken on a journey of mythical creatures and folklore where his only option was to soak in all the cool elements that were in front of him. The performers were dynamic, the set was simple but evocative, and the audience ooh’d and aah’d. He wanted to be a part of that.

Mike first worked with Geordie as Friday in Robinson Crusoe in 2004, and later as Bagheera in The Jungle Book – Western Canada tour in 2009. He has been a part of many workshops and development processes for new plays that Geordie has commissioned and presented along the way. He was on the Dean’s List at Dawson College in Cinema and Communication, followed by receiving a BFA in Specialization in Theatre and Development from Concordia University.

He has performed in some of Canada’s finest theatres including The Citadel, MTYP, The Grand, Factory Theatre, Neptune, and the National Arts Centre, as well as with great local companies Geordie Productions, Black Theatre Workshop, Imago, Repercussion Theatre, and Segal Centre among others. Favourite directing credits include the Montreal premieres of A Line in the Sand by Guillermo Verdecchia and Marcus Youssef, Elizabeth Rex by Timothy Findley, Harlem Duet by Djanet Sears, Another Home Invasion by Joan MacLeod, and the Montreal English-language premiere of Michel Tremblay’s Hosanna from which he won a META (Montreal English Theatre Award) for Outstanding Direction. He is also the co-founder and outgoing Artistic Director of Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, a founding member of Metachroma Theatre, has served as Artist-in-Residence for Neworld Theatre in Vancouver, and was Assistant Artistic Director for Black Theatre Workshop. He currently serves on the board of the MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) and the Quebec Drama Federation and has worked with Concordia University, McGill University and the National Theatre School as a guest artist and speaker.

Kathryn Westoll - Managing Director

Kathryn always thought she was destined to be an actor. From an early age she loved dancing (she famously played a male, blue toothbrush in a tap recital) and drama. In high school, Kathryn was cast in every musical theatre show that was produced and almost got the lead role in West Side Story in her final year. When Kathryn was at Queen’s University, she majored in Drama and did nothing of any significance until her third year, when she decided to audition for the school major. Needless to say, she was not cast but was kindly encouraged to seek work as an assistant stage manager. Kathryn quickly realized what others must have known all along – that her calling was not on the stage, but behind it. So she applied to the National Theatre School of Canada (NTS) and was granted an interview. And then was given the entrance project to complete – which she decided was not worth it because she would never get accepted. But her father told her she would regret not trying, so she completed it in a week, and in August of 1996, the rest of her life began.

Kathryn spent the next 17 years in Toronto working as a stage manager and was the Managing Director of the Toronto Fringe for 3 years. In May 2013, she was a proud recipient of a Harold award (the Harold’s represent the independent and hard-working spirit of Toronto’s vibrant theatre community). Kathryn moved to Montreal in August 2013 and became Geordie’s Managing Director in January 2014. Kathryn has an honours degree from Queen’s University and is a graduate of the NTS Production Program and now teaches stage management and Fringe to the Production Students of NTS. She was a member of the Montreal English Theatre Awards Committee (METAC) for three years, recently finished two mandates (6 years) on the Quebec Drama Federation’s is Board Treasurer of the International Association for Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY), is the Quebec Region rep for PACT (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres) and sits on PACT's Advocacy and Labour Relations Committees. She is also the proud mum of an eleven-year old daughter.

Jessica Abdallah - Artistic Associate

Jessica’s life in the spotlight began at birth – an inevitability being born an identical twin. Her life in the theatre, however, began at 10 years old when she saw Geordie Productions’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe presented at her elementary school. From then on, she was hooked theatre, dedicating her life to this incredible field which constantly inspires, moves, and challenges her. Now, years later, Jessica has spent 20 years in the theatre milieu as an actor, educator, director, producer, administrator, spectator, and, most of all, a believer in the power and importance of theatre.

Jessica is a graduate of John Abbott College’s Professional Acting program, Concordia University’s Theatre & Development program, and the MFA in Directing at the University of Alberta. Selected directing credits include Squawk (Geordie Productions), the French and English versions of TUMIT (Akpik Theatre), Sedna: Goddess of the Sea – which she also wrote (Tableau D’Hôte), Rump (Dancing Monkey Theatre), Dark Owl/Le Djibou (Tableau d’Hôte), Rapture! (Everything is OK Productions) and Annie Mae’s Movement (UofA). A strong believer in the importance of inspiring the next generation of theatre makers, Jessica has taught for the Geordie Theatre School, Concordia University and currently directs the annual high school play at St. George’s School of Montreal. She is happily part of the Geordie family where she coordinates international touring and runs the Geordie Theatre School – a theatre school for kids.

Farida Badrawy - Communications and Marketing Manager

Farida grew up in Egypt until she was 19 then moved to Germany to pursue an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics with a focus on collective behavior. She has been always curious about understanding how the human brain works, what drives people to behave in a certain way.

She moved to Montreal in 2016 to study Public Relations and Communications at McGill and pursue her passion of creating communications campaigns that foster social change. After finishing her studies, she joined the world of theatre by working for almost a year with Teesri Duniya Theatre as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator and working as the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator for the 2019 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. Needless to say, it wasn’t hard for her to fall in love with theatre. It is a different experience and can have an impact not just on a group of people, but could also affect each individual on a personal level, in a way that a communications campaign can’t do on its own.
She is thrilled to be joining the Geordie Family to be able to promote their work!
Apart from that Farida loves to dance, do kickboxing and has been writing poetry ever since she can remember.

Michael J. Zernitz - Audience and Development Manager

Michael has had a lifelong appreciation for theatre as a spectator. A lover of language(s), he has always admired the ability of theatre as an art form to lift characters off their pages and bring them to life. He had however never considered actually working in theatre until he moved to Montreal and discovered its vibrant English theatre scene.

Having spent his youth and academic career in Germany and Switzerland and after graduating from law school at the University of Konstanz / Germany (and promptly resolving to never work in law again), Michael moved to Montreal. He planned to briefly live in Canada to finish a certificate in International Development at the University of British Columbia before returning to his native South Africa to work in this field, specializing in youth education – but life had other plans and as for so many others in Montreal, months turned into years until he postponed the departure from his new home indefinitely.His contact with the Montreal English Theatre community began as a volunteer and later staff member for the Montreal FRINGE Festival and has also taken him to the Segal Centre where he worked as an accent coach for German on Indecent under director Lisa Rubin. Michael is excited to be part of a company which shares his values of empowering youths and promoting education, diversity and inclusivity.

Kieran Dunch - Schools Liaison

As a kid with too much energy and nowhere to put it, Kieran was never a fan of desk learning. His passion for theatre was ignited on the first day of junior high when he stepped into a drama class and discovered not a single desk in sight, and instead a room chock full of energy, potential, and creativity. Kieran works to bring that same brightness and excitement that he felt on his first discovery of theatre into every space he works in.

Growing up in Edmonton, AB (Treaty Six Territory), Kieran was fortunate to have opportunities to act and direct at Victoria School for the Arts and the Citadel Theatre’s Young Company program. He then moved to Victoria, BC (Lekwungen Territory), completing his BFA in Theatre at the University of Victoria in 2019. Kieran’s studies took him as far afield as Thailand and Prague, and across a range of theatre studies including technical theatre, front of house, acting, directing, and especially theatre-in-education. His favourite projects include adapting Woyzeck into an immersive movement piece, facilitating an immersive political theatre piece called Ghostlight with a group of Thai university students, and using agit-prop theatre techniques to address the climate crisis in Are We All Dead? (co-directing alongside Leah Anthony).

Having recently relocated to Montréal (Tiohtià:ke), Kieran looks forward to learning and growing with Geordie Theatre, helping them provide theatre for audiences all over North America and showing young people the power that live performance can have to change lives.

Jennifer Townsend - Administrative Coordinator

Jennifer comes from Fort McMurray, Alberta where a spark of magic leapt off the stage and into her heart after seeing a production of Beauty & the Beast at the age of 10.

With this new passion inside of her, Jennifer began to pursue a life filled with theatre and the arts. She graduated from her local college with a diploma in performance, played larger than life characters in local dinner theatres, and grounded herself in roles for main-stage productions (some favourites are I, Claudia, The Most Massive Woman Wins, Steel Magnolias, and Bedtime Stories). She also worked on numerous stage management teams, and got people laughing at stand-up comedy nights. Eventually, Jennifer was hired by a local theatre company Theatre; Just Because as their Program Coordinator, and worked as Assistant Director for their youth programming of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. All of this work led to her directorial debut in the ADFA Regional One Act Festival, where she landed an award for outstanding director for David Ives’ Sure Thing.

Hungry to explore more facets of theatre in a larger pond than her rural Alberta town could provide, she relocated to Montreal. With a BFA in Performance Creation from Concordia University, she continues to work on expanding her craft in this great city she is proud to now call home. She is beyond excited to work with Geordie Theatre and help other kids feel that same spark of magic in their hearts that she felt so long ago.

Violette Kay - Administrative Assistant

Violette stumbled into theatre as a direct result of failing to become a classical musician. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise; she even wrote a play all about it! A former violin teacher, she is very happy to continue to bring together children and art.

Since graduating from John Abbott College’s Professional Acting program, she has worn several hats as a part of the cast and creative team of various productions: actor, director, playwright, puppet designer, musician... One of her favorite theatrical experiences was playing the role of Tomatina, a tomato who has a star-crossed love affair with a red apple, in a fridge where racism is rampant and expiration dates all too near.

You might find Violette puppeteering various household objects, busking at your local metro station, or otherwise channeling her bitterness into art.