Liza Balkan is an Ontario based, multi- disciplinary theatre artist who works as an opera and theatre director, librettist, writer, educator, dramaturg and actor – one discipline informing the other. In conjunction with her thirst for inquiry, her early years as a dancer and a singer guide her innate sense of physicality and musicality in her approach to all her practices and disciplines. Liza is committed to inclusionary practices, process, communal dialogue, and building confident, joyful, respectful and inspiring spaces in which to create with others.
Liza’s collaborations as a librettist have been produced by Tapestry Opera, 5 Boroughs Song Book (NYC), Brooklyn Art Song Society (NYC), Scrag Mountain Music (Vermont), Opera McGill and Bicycle Opera Project. Most recently, she wrote the libretto for Gould’s Wall, her multi- Dora nominated opera work in collaboration with composer Brian Current. It had its world premiere on and around the historic wall at Koerner Hall/RCM in August 2022. In 2021 she created, directed and wrote the lyrics for the song cycle, So,how’s it been?, inspired by experiences of many residents of a small city through the first year of the pandemic. It was performed outdoors at Here for Now Theatre in Stratford, Ontario. Liza collaborated with composer Lembit Beecher on the opera work After the Fires, about the CZU Complex Fires in California in 2020. It had its world premiere in Brooklyn in May 2022 and is being produced, with a Canadian cast, by RCM/Koerner Hall in January 2023 as part of the 21C Festival.
Liza’s more recent directing credits include Much Ado about Nothing (Shakespeare in High Park/Canadian Stage), Every Brilliant Thing starring Rebecca Northan ( Grand Theatre London), Mustard (University of Waterloo), Meet My Sister (Lighthouse Festival Theatre), the premiere staged production of Stephanie Martin’s opera Llandovery Castle (Opera Laurier), the Canadian Premiere of Louis Andriessen’s chamber opera Anais Nin, starring Wallis Giunta, (Koerner Hall /RCM), _The Brothers Grimm_ (COC Ensemble), Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas and Berio’s _Folk Songs_ (GGS/RCM), and Bicycle Opera Project’s 2 summer seasons as well as their performance at 21C Festival (Koerner Hall). Through a multi – year Residency at the Theatre Centre, she developed her documentary/verbatim project about policing, mental health, racism, and the law entitled Out the Window. The show was first produced at TTC in 2012. It received a production at Toronto’s International Luminato Festival in 2018, directed by Sarah Garton Stanley. Out the Window was recently published by Scirocco Drama – J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing.
Projects for which she has collaborated as dramaturg include Izad Etemadi’s solo show, Love with Leila, Blue Ceiling’s multi – disciplinary work, Mirrors, Jeff Nisker’s Calcedonies and his musical ORCHIDS. She is presently dramaturg on two works in development: Jennifer Wise and Afarin Mansouri’s opera, The Refugees and Batte Cuore, a solo work created and performed by violinist/singer Paulina Derbez. Liza is also the librettist and director for a new opera in development for young people, with Composer Njo Kong Kie.
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, University of Waterloo, 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 is committed to the personal, professional, and political actioning of Equity Diversity and Inclusion in all aspects of her life and work. She received her MFA through the Canadian Stage/York University Graduate Studies in Directing and is a member of the association for Acting Coaches and Educators (AACE).