Liza Balkan to direct Winter production

Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Photo of Liza Balkan, a white woman with reddish brown hair tied back, wearing a purple tank top.

The Theatre and Performance program is excited to announce that Ontario-based multi- disciplinary theatre artist, Liza Balkan, is the director of our winter production of Mustard by Kat Sandler. This is Liza’s first time working with the program. 

Mustard is a wild, adult bedtime story; a roller coaster of a fairy tale about grief, friendship, family, and presence.  Kat Sandler, in her introduction to her award-winning play, says it best:  It's a comic -tragic play, it can be silly at times but it is also about a lot of very serious and scary things, including divorce, alcoholism, suicide, mental health, teen pregnancy and growing up, which can be violent, tragic, funny and magical all at once... At its core is a play about love: we are watching real people deal with real problems with real stakes, trying to find ways to love and be loved, and some of those people just happen to be magical... 

Liza works as a director, librettist, writer, educator, and actor. In conjunction with her thirst for inquiry, her early years as a dancer and a singer inform her of her innate sense of physicality and musicality in her approach to all her practices and disciplines.  

Selected directing credits include: 

  • Much Ado about Nothing (Shakespeare in High Park/Canadian Stage),  
  • Every Brilliant Thing (Grand Theatre London)  
  • Llandovery Castle (Opera Laurier) 
  • Anais Nin (Koerner Hall /RCM) 
  • The Brothers Grimm (Canadian Opera Company Ensemble) 
  • Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas and Berio’s Folk Songs (GGS/RCM) 

As an actor, she has performed in multiple productions across Canada and in the US, receiving a Dora Award for her performance in Still the Night (Theatre Passe Muraille/Tapestry) and a nomination for Calgary’s Betty Mitchel Award during the show’s Cross–Canada tour. Liza continues her busy practice as an educator and mentor and has been an instructor at the Don Wright Faculty of Music/Western, Humber College, George Brown College, University of Windsor, RCM/Glenn Gould School, Laurier, Ryerson, Randolph Academy, CCPA (Victoria) and the Birmingham Conservatory at the Stratford Festival. 

Liza states her reasoning for choosing Mustard as a project for the program: 

I love this play. It is a deeply funny, moving, and fantastical work about what it means to "grow up" and "let go.” Here we meet a mother and daughter on the verge of total breakdown. The other member of the household is the daughter's imaginary friend she has had forever. We also meet a boyfriend, and a couple of other wildly extraordinary folk who arrive with a crucial job to do. It is an action - packed three days!

Mustard is filled with outrageous, gorgeous wonder - and this is a golden commodity that can take practice to hold onto as we get older. 

Liza is grateful to be joining this truly marvellous team of students, designers, and staff in sharing this story with you as we continue to navigate these challenging times in which we find ourselves. Mustard has offered a deep dive into surprise, myriad complexities and most importantly: joy: essential for all, no matter how old or young we are, as we continue to move forward, grow, let go, grapple, learn and reach for connection with each other.