Liza Balkan is an award – winning Toronto and Stratford based artist who has spent the past 35 years working in the theatre. She first trained as a dancer in Montreal and Toronto and then as an actor in New York City, where she spent the first 8 years of her professional career. She is an accomplished director, librettist, teacher, coach, singer, dancer, writer and Dora Award – winning actor. Since 2001, her freelance directing credits have included theatre and opera, site specific projects, musical theatre, plays involving classical, contemporary and verbatim text, and productions with young artists and students at the University level. The Shaw Festival invited Liza into their highly esteemed Directors’ Project in 2007. She was also welcomed as an artist into the 2011 BASH programme at Canadian Stage. Liza has been an Artist in Residence with Crows Theatre and The Theatre Centre, and with her company, Window Collective, she co-produced and directed her documentary project Out The Window, which starred actors RH Thomson, David Ferry and Julie Tepperman and played to sold out houses at the Theatre Centre in Toronto in March 2012.
Her most recent directing work in opera and music theatre includes the Canadian Premiere of composer Louis Andriessen’s Anais Nin, at Koerner Hall in Toronto, starring mezzo – soprano Wallis Guinta, Dean Burry’s The Brothers Grimm for the Canadian Opera Company, Xavier Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas and Lucio Berio’s Folk Songs for The Royal Conservatory of Music/ Glenn Gould School and Bicycle Opera Project’s 2014 and 2015 summer tours, performances at Roy Thomson Hall, Koerner Hall/RCM 21C Festival and the 2016 Curiosity Festival in Toronto. She staged Bresnick’s My Twentieth Century at the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium with Brian Current and the RCM. She also directed the Canadian premiere of composer Stephen Taylor and writer Marcia Johnson’s Paradises Lost (Summerworks’13) Le Nozze di Figaro and L’Elisir D’Amore in Sulmona Italy(C.O.S.I.), and the site – specific, Toronto Fringe hit pub opera: Opera on the Rocks. An original member of Tapestry Opera’s Studio Company, Liza has directed two seasons of their Opera Briefs and also participated as a librettist in Tapestry’s Lib Lab 2012. Her musical theatre work includes Lake Nora Arms (Summerworks 9), Little Shop of Horrors (CCPA, Victoria) and The Pajama Game (Randolph Academy) and Bunnicula, starring Bruce Dow and Trish Lindstrom (Theatre Athena).
Liza’s other directing credits include Mark Crawford’s hit Stag and Doe , starring Lisa Norton (Lighthouse Festival Theatre), Half an Hour, starring Jim Mezon, Kelli Fox, Ben Campbell, Patrick Galligan, and Catherine McGregor (Shaw Festival Directors’ Project), David Hare’s Skylight, Joanna Glass’s Trying (Persephone Theatre), Emil Sher’s Mourning Dove (Tarragon Theatre/Ark Collective), Izad Etemadi’s hit solo show Love with Leila. (Soulo Fest. NYC/ Cross Canada Fringe), The Good Woman of Setzuan and The world premiere of Jason Sherman’s adaptation of Gorky’s Enemies (Ryerson), and Crimes of the Heart, To Moscow, SMASH and An Experiment with an AirPump (UWindsor). Liza has also been an assistant director on productions at the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, The National Arts Centre and Soulpepper Theatre Company.
Liza’s work as an actor and/or dancer has included productions at the National Arts Centre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Theatre Rusticle, Belfry Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, PTE, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Persephone Theatre, Blyth Festival, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Elgin /Winter Garden, Thousand Islands Playhouse, The Kennedy Centre, Wash. DC and Theatre for the New City (NYC). She received a Dora Mavor Moore Award for her work in Theresa Tova’s Still The Night and was nominated for Calgary’s Betty Mitchell award during the show’s Cross Canada tour. Recent: Atom Egoyan’s feature film, Remember and US miniseries After Camelot. She is a company member of Toronto’s Actors Repertory Company.
Her work as a librettist includes the song cycle Looking at Spring, commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, composed by Lembit Beecher and produced by Scrag Mountain Music in Vermont in June 2014. With composer Glenn James she created Dustings for Canadian Stage’s Festival of Ideas and Creations. A short work she created with composer Ivan Barbotin, (What Rhymes with) Azimuth, was included in Bicycle Opera’s 2014 tour. She also penned two songs on Barbotin’s new album: Atom. One of them, Ride the Fear, was recently listed as number 3 on Reverbnation. She is presently developing a new work with Lembit Beecher.
She has been a movement instructor for the Birmingham Conservatory at the Stratford Festival and has been a guest artist/instructor and director at the University of Windsor, Royal Conservatory of Music, Wilfred Laurier University,Ryerson Theatre School, Canadian College of Performing Arts (CCPA), St. Clair College, Armstrong Acting Studios and Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts.
Liza was casting director on Laurie Lynd’s Feature film HOUSE and his Gemini award winning short film R.S.V.P. as well as Amnon Buchbinder’s The FISHING TRIP. She was also the voice of Sailor Mercury for the final season and a half of the animated series, Sailor Moon.
Selected Directing Credits
- The Brothers Grimm (Canadian Opera Company)
- Anais Nin (Koerner Hall 21C Festival)
- El Gato con Botas & Berio’s Folk Songs (Mazzoleni Hall/RCM)
- Out The Window (The Theatre Centre/Window Collective)
- Le Nozze di Figaro and L’Elisir d’Amore (C.O.S.I Sulmona, Italy)
- Opera on the Rocks (original pub opera – Ambient Opera/TO Fringe)
- Lake Nora Arms (Summerworks Festival)
(NOW Magazine’s “Best of Festival” List)
- Stag and Doe (Lighthouse Festival Theatre)
- Skylight and Trying (Persephone Theatre)
- The Good Woman of Setzuan and world premiere of Jason Sherman’s adaptation of Gorky’s Enemies (Ryerson Theatre School)
- Little Shop of Horrors (CCPA, Victoria BC)
Selected Acting Credits
- The Drowning Girls (1000 Islands Playhouse)
- The Winters Tale (National Arts Centre)
- The Stronger Variations: (Theatre Rusticle /Harbourfront)
- It’s All True (Great Canadian Theatre Company)
- Sylvia (Belfry Theatre)
- Still The Night (Theatre Passe Muraille, TapestryNewOpera/ Canadian National Tour)
(Dora Mavor Moore Award recipient for Best Actress and Betty Mitchell Award Nomination for Best Actress)
- Awake and Sing (People’s Light and Theatre Company, Malvern, Pennsylvania)
- West Side Story (The Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts , Washington DC)
- REMEMBER (Serendipity Point Films/Atom Egoyan)
- GOOD DOG – Saundra (Shaftesbury/Ken Finkleman)
- Voice: Sailor Mercury; Sailor Moon (Optimum Productions)
Selected Libretti/Lyrics and Writer Credits
- “Looking at Spring” with composer Lembit Beecher, Scrag Mountain Music, Vermont.
- Rider the Fear on composer Ivan Barbotin’s album Atom
- (What Rhymes with) Azimuth with composer Ivan Barbotin (TapestryNewOpera/Bicycle Opera)
- Dustings with Composer Glenn James (Canadian Stage Festival of Ideas and Creations)
- Out The Window (The Theatre Centre/Window Collective)
- Plenty Room and Wedding Number (Winnipeg Jewish Theatre)