Meet Our Staff
The first time Mike stepped on to 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 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 most recently finished three years as the Managing Director of the Toronto Fringe. 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 General Manager 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 has spent the last four years on the board of the Quebec Drama Federation Board (QDF), 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 a nine-year old daughter.
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.
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.
Willow Cioppa has been enamored by theatre since the first grade, when her elementary school English teacher would produce elaborate Christmas pageants, quasi-Nutcracker, quasi-excuse to have kids dance around to Little Drummer Boy. Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Cioppa acted all through grade school, until moving to Montreal and discovering playwriting as the medium for her bursting love of theatre. Cioppa’s work focuses on the nuances of trauma, self-reflection, femininity, Blackness, and their undying love for rap music. Her work has taken on many faces since childhood; from diaries, to painting, to illustration, to moody poetry written in dark spaces, and now, to play-writing where her aim is to create decadent visual, auditory, and written landscapes.
Willow Cioppa is an alum of Playwrights Workshop Montreal’s Young Creator’s Unit, as well as a recent participant of Black Theatre Workshop’s Artist Mentorship Program. She feels blessed everyday to be able to work in theatre, the discipline which has helped her grow and has shaped her as a person.
In addition to being Geordie’s Schools Liaison, she is completing her BFA at Concordia University in Art History & Film Studies, with a minor in sexuality.
Sarah G. Laforce
Box Office Manager
Sarah is an Art History student turned theatre behind-the-scenes worker. She has spent the past six springs evolving in the Communications department of the Montreal FRINGE Festival, finally as the Communications and Public Relations Director. Outside of Geordie, she is currently working on her directorial debut for the sequel of Is That How Clowns Have Sex? (Maximaliste Productions), following the successful Canadian tour of the original play. She remembers vividly the first theatre show her mother brought her to (there was a giant pink elephant hidden in the back wall!) so she is thrilled to join the Geordie family, bringing similar memories to kids in Montreal. Her favourite things are reading, making the occasional joke, and wearing all black.
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.
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