PlaySmelter Festival Artists-in-Residence

As we slowly make our way out of the pandemic we celebrate and make space for the creators that gave us comfort during the many days we were sequestered in our homes – the artists and storytellers. Artists are often the first to look outside the box, beyond what is expected, turning things inside-out and upside-down. This simple act of inspiration is the basis of all innovation.

In honour of these creative imaginations, PlaySmelter concentrates on artist creation, collaboration and things that spark delight. In honour of our 10th Anniversary we are pleased to feature 10 PlaySmelter Artists in Residence. All 10 will gift our Festival with an offering during this period of creation.

Sudbury, ON

Tessa Balaz is multi-disciplinary artist from Sudbury, ON. She has now spent almost a decade writing and producing original music for herself and on production teams for major artists including Daniel Caesar, Drake, the Weeknd, Migos, Mariah Carey and more. She has been nominated for 3 Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards and the Sudbury Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. She has had her original music licensed to film and television, most recently to “Kim’s Convenience” season 4. She is currently trying to close the gap and raise the percentage of female identifying producers on the billboard charts.

Closing the Gap: Women in Music Production

From Tessa: At present here are only 1.8% female/non-binary representing music producers on the Billboard charts. Research states that the top reasons for this are insecurity in the studio which is exacerbated by a lack of representation in the Industry which encourages female/non-binary person to feel these spaces are not for them.

I have been making it somewhat of a mission to change these statistics. When I developed the Equity-X Music Production program for the SOCAN Foundation, our first year saw about 40 applicants and our second year saw over 500. I believe this is because once women finally saw themselves in these spaces, they gained the confidence to take the initial step to learn the craft.


Temiskaming Shores, ON

Educated as a performer and creator, this graduate of University of Guelph (Theatre), and Queens (Artist in Community Education), and École internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq, has been delighted to work both nationally and internationally on various multidisciplinary theatre shows.

As an actor, she has particularly enjoyed performing in professional theatre productions, such as The Financier (Odyssey Theatre), Joseph and Amarise (Fresh Meat Festival), I’ll Be Back Before Midnight (Classic Theatre Festival), and 2015 Best Actress Prix Rideau Award nominated production Venus in Fur (Plosive Productions). Behind the scenes she has been involved in a number of unique projects and productions across Canada, including composer Murray Schaffer’s labyrinth Asterion (Patria Cycle), Bata Shoe Museum performance installation Divergent Dances for Windows and Walls (Anandam)new puppetry creation with Nova Scotia’s Maritime Marionettes and an HIV theatre education tour based on her research in Botswana, Africa. As a playwright, she continues to develop new multidisciplinary works about Northern experiences. Active as a northern arts leader and promoter as well, she has been delighted to supports arts initiatives through Living Temagami Arts & Culture (as Artistic Director), SPARC (as Northern Outreach Coordinator), Canadian Arts Presenting Association (as Programs Manager), and Pied Piper Kidshows (as Volunteer Programmer). Chandel is thrilled to join the Playsmelter Festival’s 2022 as an artist in residence!

That Kind of Girl

A new mask theatre, female empowerment play created specifically for Northern TYA audiences, That Kind of Girl will follow a northern teenager who’s given the chance to consider her life options from new perspectives. When cultural pressures and the influences of numerous imposing females battle to control the future, she must help navigate a path forward for herself, and for them all.


Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Annie King is a multimedia artist. She incorporates video, sounds, sculpture and installation, all of which have recently culminated in performance work based in material exploration.Her work has been included in notable exhibitions, such as the inaugural exhibition at the Vorres Museum as the Canada house, in Athens, Greece, and the inaugural exhibition of the Esker Foundation Gallery in Calgary Alberta. Annie has worked as an adjunct professor of Fine Arts at Algoma University since 2012. Annie is a  volunteer Curator and mentor, educating emerging artists on best practices with Rolling Pictures Art X exhibitions.  In the past year she started her own project, Art Current, geared to supporting rural, isolated or in solitude artists realising the need. She received the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce Strive Arts and Culture award in 2021.

Michael Burtch is a sculptor and multi-media artist, recently engaged in theatrical scenic design with “In Your Eyes Projects,” Sault Ste. Marie and artistic collaborations with artist Annie King. He is the retired Director-Curator of the art Gallery of Algoma and is a Research Associate with the NORDIK Institute at Algoma University. As an art historian Burtch has published numerous articles on Canadian artists and was the originator and a principle participant in a major research project which resulted in a documentary film, “Painted Land, In Search of the Group of Seven”. In 2017 the film won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Editorial Research. Burtch also received the 2003 Community Recognition Award from Sault Ste. Marie’s Cultural Advisory Board and in 2017 the city’s highest honour, the Medal of Merit.


“Traces” is based on a series of  performance vignettes enacted in real time that pit physical struggle against emotional determination and purpose as well as an installation of the objects that emerge from the performance. Annie’s compelling use of fire and her engagement with her panels over the flames, and Michael’s obsession with fragments and hollow shells of the human body have potent personal and universal symbolic and ritualistic overtones. The traces that we leave, the ashes, our footprints, melted ice and the echoes and stains of our process speak to broader concerns over the existential threat to the planet but also to the cathartic power of art.

Our video is a multi-screen projection of images drawn largely from the landscape of Algoma overlayed with our own voices describing the impact of the north on our lives. It is woven together by film and live performative acts of creation.


Sudbury, ON

I am a Northern Ontario visual artist primarily working in papier mâché sculpture, paint media and some poetry. My sculptures are life-like and life-size and the main focus of my work is animals, both domestic and wild and their relationship to humans. I am currently concentrating on the relationship between man and dog and have been doing it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poetry Puppy

From the artist: My PlaySmelter Artist Residency will be the creation of a papier mâché Basset Hound to represent the dog in my ongoing exploration of the human-dog relationship. The audience is the human element.  My images, words and poetry will be collaged to the sculpture and I will also make this into a collaborative project with the addition of audience-created poetry. The structure of the sculpture will be created virtually from my home studio early May and it will be on-site through the Festival May 11, 13-14. I will be collaging it at the Festival and providing an interactive audience moment by inviting the audience to create poetry with the Basset Hound sculpture to be used as a poetry writing prompt. Audience-created poetry will be glued to and become part of the sculpture.

POP-UP MAY 11, 13-14

Sudbury, ON

Emilio Portal was born in New Westminster in British Columbia in 1982, and eventually landed in Sudbury, Ontario where his mother was born. He started playing drums at the age of 13, and has been creating electronic music since 2000.

His father immigrated to Canada from Peru in 1969. Spanish wasn’t spoken at home, but many Peruvian records were played, and his father (an accomplished singer and wordsmith) sang along to every song played. These were formative years. The intoxicating and passionate rhythms played on the cajon, castanets and through clapping forged Emilio’s love for music rooted in Indigenous Andean and West African cultures. The foundations of a syncretic way of thinking
and of seeing the world was laid: his musical practice has always revolved around the merging of the analog and digital, the rhythmic and chaotic, the composed and improvised, which is all an expression of their mixed identity, and an embracing of vulnerability and precarity.

Portal is also a lifelong student of the history of colonization and philosophy, and both have deeply impacted their sense of self, his political & philosophical stance, and their experimental musical and visual expressions. His work is pensive, ambient and gritty. Portal loves beats, organic tempos, and field recordings. Often, Emilio creates custom musical instruments from everyday sounds (influenced by electroacoustic methods). Portal is also a practitioner of indeterminacy, chance operations and improvisation. The sounds of the 70s, specifically funk, jazz and fusion, and 90s hip hop always find a way in.

Along with being a musician and composer, Emilio also produces, mixes and masters soundtracks, albums, and singles for other artists, musicians, and film. The most recent co-production (2021) was with artist Jessica Karuhanga. The co-produced album will be featured as the soundtrack for Karuhanga’s contemporary interdisciplinary production entitled you feel me.

To date, Emilio has released 8 full length albums, 2 EPs, and 13 singles.

The Field

From the artist: Every rustling leaf, foot step or helicopter. Every laughing child, flowing creek or philosophical debate. Every news broadcast, frying eggs, or dog barking has a sonic signature that is ingrained in our memories and psyche. That is why we can recognize the various soundscapes that envelop us. Every sonic signature taps into our memory banks, and immediately creates a visual, material and emotional flashback.

My work delves into this entangled sonic mesh, and intentionally recontextualizes regular sounds into rhythmic, psychedelic and ethereal compositions. I am continuously surprised and inspired by the act of exploring sound, by deeply listening. It is my hope to share this excitement with anyone who listens to my work.

During the Play Smelter Festival, I will create multiple compositions based on field recordings of the festival itself – of conversations, noises, random soundscapes, and so forth. Collaboration is a major aspect of how I work, and I welcome working with other artists in any discipline throughout the Festival.

POP-UP MAY 11-14

Sudbury, ON

Elyse Portal is an ecoartist that works with botanical and mineral pigments as a pact with place-based care. In Sudbury, the radiating hues of Solidago attracted her to inkmaking, and in turn she happened upon the remedial capacities of goldenrod in removing heavy metals from heavily distrubed soils. Pigments deepen her awareness of the living urban world, and even communicate counterpoints to the ecological devastation found in and around the city. Elyse has a BFA (University of Victoria), MVS (University of Toronto) and is a professional member of the ECOART NETWORK. She teaches ecoart workshops at Camosun College.

Pigments Are Bodies

During the residency, Elyse will work on dye processes (with sumac and blueberry), inkmaking, pigment harvesting and processing, and painting. Some experiments will contribute to an installation dedicated to the Bennett Lake Watershed. She also plans to develop a new painting, which will have Solidago coming out of the hands of Sophia Mathur – a local/national youth activist in the climate crisis fight (part of the ecojustice court case taking the Ford government to trial for weakening Ontario’s 2030 climate target).

POP-UP MAY 11-14

North Bay, ON

Garrett M. Ryan is a Canadian playwright, director, actor, and researcher hailing from Northeastern Ontario. As a theatre maker, his works have been produced in Canada, the United States, and Singapore. His pieces There was a Great Big Moose and Pigeon! were both published in 2018 by Off The Wall Plays and Samuel French respectively. Through his company Bird On Stage Productions he has created several award winning productions featured in Northern Ontarian Fringe Festivals, such as Now You’re Acting!, winning the 2018 Audience Choice award at On The Edge Fringe Festival in North Bay, Pigeon!, winning the 2019 Audience Choice and Adjudicator’s Choice awards at On The Edge Fringe, and Old Man on Yonge, winning the 2021 Most Inspiring Award at Fringe North in Sault Ste. Marie. Additionally, in 2021, he worked as an assistant director on York University’s main stage production of Mortified, directed by Mandy Roveda. Currently, he is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Theatre & Performance Studies at York University in Toronto, where he is researching applied theatre practices for aiding the development of youth in rural Northern Ontarian communities.


This semi-autobiographical fiction entitled Fuil (The Irish Gaelic word for “Blood”) explores three stories of everyday Northern Ontarian men existing throughout different times and spaces, all stuck in various ways. Johnny is an alcoholic Irish-Canadian veteran of the second world war, cooped up in his Sudbury home. Yitzhak is a rabbi and Jewish refugee from Western Ukraine, resisting the sale of his Kirkland Lake property on which his historic synagogue sits. And Patrick is a young man and lost soul from North Bay, plagued by deep rooted problems, attempting to find his place in a changing Northern Ontario. As their stories connect and their lives become increasingly intertwined, the men will each embark on a journey of rebirth and cleansing, confronting head on their respective issues of violence, generational trauma, faith, and masculinity.


Sudbury, ON

Many Sudburians will easily recognize the strikingly unique style of Gillian Schultze’s work, as she incorporates textile and thread to bring her imagination to life in her art. Hers is an art that speaks to the beauty of the landscape around Greater Sudbury, often depicting the trees, rocks, birds, and waters of Northeastern Ontario. What is most unique in her work is that she advocates for the protection of our wilderness areas in the province simply by raising awareness of the sheer beauty of those spaces.

In her relatively short career as a practicing professional artist, Gillian has created over 200 pieces of art to date. Just since 2017 alone, she has had a number of solo exhibitions, and has taken part in juried art shows across the province. Most recently, she won the Emerging Artist of the Year in the 2020 Celebration of the Arts in Greater Sudbury. Art collectors and dealers who follow her art career say that Gillian’s body of work is always evolving. Her mixed media and textile works are a refection of her personal thoughts, emotions, struggles, and triumphs.

Fast Fashion in Rehab

From the artist: I will use recycled materials to explore textile sculpture in a new and (what I think will be) innovative way.   I will design freestanding sculptures by manipulating, sewing and using different finishes on used material. I will explore abstract art that references, in its form, the climate and the environment. I want my art to explore what we can actively do to stop the impacts of fast fashion, with a better understanding of how my choices will make a difference for the next generation. I want my work to dive deep into how I can change and influence through visual structures. Nearly 95% of textile waste in our dumps could have been recycled.   By changing our current textile recycling patterns, we could change the future for our children.


Sudbury, ON

photo by Bennett Malcomson

A graduate of Laurentian University’s late French Theatre and Political Science programs, Alex (he/him) is an artist, clown, freelancer, and community activist for queer and francophone issues born and raised in N’Swakamok (Sudbury).

Recipient of the Bourse Geneviève-Pineault (Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario) and of the Prix Paulette Gagnon (Fondation pour l’avancement du théâtre francophone au Canada) in 2019 and 2021 respectively, we can often read and hear Alex in local French-language media, particularly as a Poetic Columnist on Jonction 11-17 (Radio-Canada). Up until the Fall of 2021, he also served as Chairperson of Fierté Sudbury Pride.

Nickel City Fifs

Nickel City Fifs takes place in Zigs Bar, home of Sudbury’s small-but-mighty queer community. A young queer man, disillusioned with life in the crater, dreams of taking off for greener and gayer pastures. But during one fateful night, a trio of the bar’s denizens, under the auspices of Sudbury’s divine protector La Sainte-Poésie, take him under their wings and help him discover what’s been right under his nose.

This show blends cultural references from Patrice Desbiens to Melissa Ethridge to Stompin’ Tom Conners into a campy, wild, raunchy, crude, disconcerting, irreverent, and all-around fabulous love letter to Sudbury’s francophone and queer communities. Over the course of his Residency, Alex will be focusing on continuing to develop the script (which already received a public reading at the Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario in October 2020), on further “queerifying” its story and structure, and on testing the limits of what the project could one day look like on stage.


Sudbury, ON

Chloé Thériault is a Sudbury-based artist. She is a graduate from Laurentian’s francophone Théâtre program (magna cum laude, 2019). She has had the honor of creating and touring two of her one-woman shows province-wide. Bilingual, she has had the pleasure to work on stage and on camera in French and English. Credits include: JACK (Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario), Mamma Mia (YES Theatre), Letterkenny (Season 6), Ti-Jean de Partout (VOX Théâtre), Voix Ouverte (Radio-Canada).

Solo Cup

Solo Cup dives into the world of female empowerment and pleasure. This piece explores sexual fluidity, consent, the roles that religion often plays in women’s sexual lives, the male gaze, tips, tricks, all based on real (and sometimes stretched out) experiences.  Solo Cup is a francophone project with the purpose of offering an entertaining SexEd to folks.