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, writer, 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 The Theatre Centre. Through this residency, she developed her documentary project Out The Window. In 2012, her Window Collective and TTC co – produced the show. Liza directed the production which starred actors RH Thomson, David Ferry and Julie Tepperman. It played to sold out houses at The Theatre Centre in Toronto in March 2012. An entirely new production of Out The Window was produced at Toronto’s International Luminato Festival in June 2018, directed by Sarah Garton Stanley.
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 Ensemble of 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 Much Ado About Nothing for CanadianStage’s Shakespeare in High Park,.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.
Upcoming productions in 2020 include: Every Brilliant Thing (Grand Theatre, London), The new Canadian Opera Llandovery Castle ( Laurier), and Susanna Fournier’s All the Ways You Scare Me ( CanadianStage).
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 Theatre Centre, 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 Film and TV: Atom Egoyan’s feature film, Remember , US miniseries After Camelot and the upcoming Rising Suns She is a company member of Toronto’s Actors Repertory Company
Her work as a librettist includes the song cycle Looking at Spring, created through a commision 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 Canadianstage’s Festival of Ideas and Creations. A short work she wrote 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. One of its pieces,“I missed the beginning” was recently performed in NYC as part of the Five Boroughs Songbook Festival. Liza is also collaborating with composer Brian Current on a new opera to be produced at Koerner Hall/Royal Conservatory of Music in 2021.
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/Glenn Gould School, 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 has her M.F.A in Directing Studies from York University.