Liza Balkan is an award winning Toronto and Stratford based artist who has spent over three decades working in the theatre. She is an accomplished creator, director, writer, librettist, teacher, coach, singer, former dancer and Dora Award–winning actor. Since 2001, her freelance directing credits have included opera, site specific theatre productions, the development of new work, musical theatre, plays involving classical, contemporary and verbatim text, and productions with young artists and students at the university level. She has also assistant directed productions at the Stratford Festival, National Arts Centre, Shaw Festival and Soulpepper Theatre Company. 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 her company, Window Collective, co-produced and directed her documentary project Out The Window, which played to sold out houses at the Theatre Centre in Toronto in March 2012.
Her most recent directing work in opera and musical 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, and Bicycle Opera Project’s hugely successful 2014 summer tour and recent performances at Roy Thomson Hall and the Koerner Hall/RCM 21C Festival. For Tapestry New Opera, Liza recently directed a workshop performance of composer Kevin Morse and writer Lisa Coddrington’s A Modest Proposal. She staged Bresnick’s My Twentieth Century at the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium with Brian Current and the students from the Glenn Gould School. 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.), the site–specific Toronto Fringe hit pub opera: Opera on the Rocks, and her own short work, Dustings (The Festival of Ideas and Creations/ Canadian Stage). An original member of Tapestry New 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 One Song Glory (Acting Upstage Co), Lake Nora Arms (Summerworks 9) Bunnicula, starring Bruce Dow and Trish Lindstrom (Theatre Athena) Little Shop of Horrors (CCPA, Victoria) and The Pajama Game (Randolph Academy)
Upcoming: directing Bicycle Opera Project’s summer tour 2015 in Cape Breton and Ontario and Montsalvage’s Puss in Boots/Berio’s Folk Songs for Glenn Gould/Royal Conservatory of Music.
Her work as a librettist includes the song cycle Opera Philadelphia commissioned her to write: Looking at Spring, composed by Lembit Beecher and produced by Scrag Mountain Music in Vermont in June 2014. A short work she created with composer Ivan Barbotin, (What Rhymes with) Azimuth, was included in Bicycle Opera’s recent tour. She also penned two songs on Barbotin’s new album: Atom. One of the songs, Ride the Fear, was recently listed as number 3 on Reverbnation.
Liza’s work as an actor 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, 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. Upcoming: Theatre Rusticle’s The Stronger Variations at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and Atom Egoyan’s feature film, Remember.
She has been a movement instructor for the Birmingham Conservatory at the Stratford Festival and has been a guest artist and director at the University of Windsor, 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.