Shannon Blake, Artistic Director

Shannon Blake is a playwright, director and community arts practitioner with a Master of Arts in English from the University of Toronto.  She has extensive experience with theatre creation and facilitation in a variety of community and professional settings.  She is the author of Wonderful (Buzz Festival, Theatre Passe Muraille, 2010), Factory (Rhubarb Festival, Buddies in Bad Times, 2010), and The Passages of Everett Manning (Screaming Monkeys, 2008), the director of The Elephant Man (The Bench, 2012), Vaudeville (Voice of the City): Unrelated Acts on a Common Bill (Screaming Monkeys, 2010) and The Drawer Boy (Screaming Monkeys, 2009), and the writer/director of Transient Voices (The Bench, 2011), Wonderful (The Bench/Sanctuary, 2011), and Of Boots and Birds (Screaming Monkeys, 2010).  She has also been published in Geez, Geist and The Hart House Review.  Shannon is the founder and artistic director of The Bench Theatre Initiative.

Associated Artists

Richard Bechard, Actor

Richard E. Bechard was first introduced to acting in December, 1983 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  In March, 2005, he started acting again at Sanctuary through the help of Lyf Stolte.  He has done many comedy skits at Sanctuary, as well as five major productions: The Passages of Everett Manning, The Drawer Boy, Of Boots and BirdsWonderfulTransient Voices and most recently, The Elephant Man.  He also co-wrote a play called Knights Around The Campfire with Melodie Ng.

Luke LaRocque, Actor & Producer

Luke LaRocque is a Toronto-based actor and producer who also has studied community and international development. He has worked for the past few years as a theatre creator in academic, semi-professional and international settings. In his practice, his focus is in physical theatre and newly created work. Recent credits include The Elephant Man (The Bench/Sanctuary), Far from the Tree (Glasswater Theatre), Wonderful (The Bench/Sanctuary), I <3 Future (UCDP/Picolo Teatro, Milan), The Last Lighthouse (Theatre Recap) and The Robbers (UCDP). Luke is a graduate of the UC Drama program at the University of Toronto. Upcoming, he will be performing The Omega Project (Glasswater Theatre) at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival.

Traci Noble, Actor

Traci played Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” in high school.  She is an animal photographer.  She has been coming to Sanctuary for about four years and became involved with The Bench during the production of Wonderful. She is also a performer in Transient Voices, and participated in The Elephant Man during the spring of 2012.

Meg Reid, Actor

Meg Reid is a bit of a happy wanderer, but for a few years now has been proud to call Toronto home. She is a recent graduate of The Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. She first came to work with The Bench during their production of Wonderful and has been in love with the company ever since. This past summer, Meg hosted the YTV W.O.W. Patrol West Coast tour. Having recently studied with The Second City Toronto, she is a sketch comedy enthusiast and strives to bring laughter to all things she does. In 2010 she founded Manor Productions, a company with the sole mandate of producing comedic shorts so funny you’ll wet yours watching them. Favourite credits include…all of them!

Lyf Stolte, Actor-In-Residence at Sanctuary

Lyf Stolte is a graduate of Rosebud School of the Arts in Rosebud, Alberta.  He is from all over the place, but has decided to make Toronto home at this time.  Lyf moved to Toronto from Saskatoon in 2003 and is working as Actor-in-Residence at Sanctuary, a drop-in, outreach church community that particularly values the poor and excluded.  Since 2003, Lyf has expanded his artistic repertoire with  directing, along with producing, set design, props and costumes, promotions and some graphic design.  Acting is Lyf’s first passion, though, and he is excited to be an associated artist with The Bench!  Selected acting credits include Everett Manning in The Passages of Everett Manning by Shannon Blake (Screaming Monkeys, 2008), Miles in The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey (Screaming Monkeys, 2009), Paul in 2nd Timothy (a one-man dramatization of the 2nd epistle from Paul to Timothy in the New Testament, 2007), Jerry in The Zoo Story by Edward Albee (Leviathan Productions, 2001), Rev John Hale in The Crucible by Arthur Miller (2000).  Selected directing credits include Wonderful by Shannon Blake (The Bench/Sanctuary, 2011), The Passages of Everett Manning by Shannon Blake (Screaming Monkeys, 2008), Words, Words, Words, Captive Audience, Arabian Nights and Babel’s in Arms by David Ives (Screaming Monkeys, 2004-2007), Entertaining Mr. Helms and An Altar Boy Talks To God by Christopher Durang (Screaming Monkeys, 2006).

Manda Whitney, Actor

Manda Whitney is a graduate of the University of Guelph’s theatre program and has since made the big move to Toronto to pursue all things acting.  Her first big project was playing the role of Lucy in the Sanctuary production of The Passages of Everett Manning and she has loved getting to know the Sanctuary community and all it has to offer.  She has relished the journey so far and can’t wait for the next step.  Noted theatre credits include Little Sally in Urinetown (UC Follies), Flower Pot in Of Boots and Birds (Screaming Monkeys), Em in Ever (Emotive Emu Productions), Mona in Boy Meets Girl (Fly by Night Productions), Marianne in Tartuffe (Eastside Players) and New Moon in Wonderful (The Bench/Sanctuary).

Erin Lindan, Musician

Erin Lindan is an Accredited Music Therapist and singer-songwriter with a passion for social justice and community, particularly among those who are street-involved. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from U of T, as well as a Bachelor of Music Therapy from Capilano University, and is a member in good standing of the Canadian Association for Music Therapy. Erin began her career in Vancouver, where she pioneered music therapy programs at The Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre, as well as at the Provincial Assessment Centre, working in residential settings with youth with severe mental illness and behavioural issues. She currently provides music therapy at numerous locations, including for Children’s Bereavement Program at Hospice King-Aurora, for youth at Central Toronto Youth Services, and also in long-term care. Erin also belongs to Sanctuary, a community agency supportive to the street population, where she is both cared for and cares for others in various ways, including through music therapy, music, sharing meals, and overseeing the children’s program.

Barbara-Audrey Bergeron, Actor

Barbara-Audrey Bergeron is, in her spare time, a theatre performer, producer, director and author. In April 2009, along with friends, she created the non-for profit community theatre group Les Indisciplinés de Toronto and was the former artistic director there as well. She recently coauthored and directed Communicata 2010 performed at l’Alliance française de Toronto by Les Indisciplinés de Toronto. For the same theatre group, she also produced and participated in Si c’est pas toi, c’est moi! (2010) and Le Spectacle-Lancement (2009). With the Screaming Monkeys at Sanctuary, she performed in Wonderful (2011), Vaudeville (Voice of the City): Unrelated Acts on a Common Bill (2010) and in Captive Audience (2005). Selected acting credits include Wonderful (Buzz Festival, Theatre Passe Muraille, 2010), Les fourberies de Molière ou le Molière imaginaire (Les Fous de T.O., Glendon Theatre 2008), Poor Little Rich Girl (Fringe Festival, Factory Theatre 2005) and Les combines de Colombine (Versus, Théâtre du Grand-Sault 2004).