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Digital programme: Mahabharata

A performer wearing a gold crown sings, while two other performers stand behind.

Find out more about the production and the creative team behind it in the digital programme.


Thank you for joining us for this groundbreaking new production, a visual feast of exhilarating stagecraft and mesmerising live music by Canada-based Why Not Theatre. With extraordinary tenacity and vision, for over eight years the South-Asian led company have been developing a contemporary retelling of these important and iconic stories.

Why Not Theatre caught our attention several years ago, with their collaborative and ambitious spirit. After a 2019 residency in our studio theatre, we kept working together to find a way to bring their larger-scale project, Mahabharata, to our main stage. We are honoured to welcome an even bigger team this autumn, including 20 outstanding performers, in association with the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake and generously supported here by the Bagri Foundation, with additional support from the High Commission of Canada in the UK.

We are delighted that we can now immerse ourselves in Mahabharata’s compelling storytelling and family sagas, connecting us with ancient traditions while reflecting on the world as we encounter it today and the choices we make that will impact generations to come.

Toni Racklin,
Barbican Head of Theatre & Dance


Welcome to the London premiere and international launch of Why Not Theatre's Mahabharata. Almost a decade in the making, Mahabharata has been a labour of love for our cast, crew and company and we are delighted you could join us to experience this modern retelling of an ancient epic. 

Why Not Theatre is a Toronto-based international touring company devoted to using art to change the story for good. We make plays that travel around the world, present international work in Toronto, train the next generation of artists and work to develop cutting-edge theatre at the intersection of equity and innovation. At the heart of everything we do is community – both local and international. Our Mahabharata brings together Canadian and international artists from across the South Asian diaspora, as well as team members with roots in North America, East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Europe, Australia, the Caribbean and the UK. As a company, we have performed our plays in over 80 cities and are thrilled to begin Mahabharata's international journey at the Barbican.  

Inspired by Carole Satyamurti's Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling and renowned mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik's Jaya, and drawing from multiple South Asian artistic and popular culture references, Why Not Theatre's Mahabharata takes audiences on a journey through the history of storytelling to explore this ancient text. The production incorporates elements of physical theatre, live music, classical Indian dance and martial arts, and immersive video and soundscapes to tell a classic story of human greed, conflict, ecocide and, ultimately, hope, which is remarkably resonant to our modern condition.

The journey of creating this Mahabharata has been a long one (developed over eight years, and nearly twenty weeks of workshops) and actually had its genesis in London. In 2017, we partnered with Complicité to begin the exploration of this epic text with South Asian theatre artists from across the UK. That development workshop was a formative moment for this production, and it feels like we’ve come full circle by having our international premiere back here in London. As a company dedicated to international collaboration, it is particularly special to be hosted by the team at the Barbican, a home for international contemporary art. It is in these spaces where cultures meet, ideas are exchanged and stories are shared, and we could not be happier to be here. 

This tour is part of a long relationship we’ve had with UK artists and companies. In the past, we have toured productions of Like Mother, Like Daughter (Why Not Theatre/Complicité) to the Battersea Arts Centre, Brimful of Asha to Bristol, Plymouth and the Tricycle Theatre (now the Kiln) in London, Spent and Mouthpiece to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and developed a new production called CODE in residency at the Barbican. We’ve also presented the work of UK artists such as Selina Thompson’s Salt, Akram Khan’s DESH, and Chisato Minamimura’s Scored in Silence, in Toronto. We are thrilled to be in the UK again, and look forward to continuing to deepen these artistic collaborations across the pond.

Thank you for having us. We are delighted to be guests here and hope to host you in Toronto one day soon. Enjoy the show.


Ravi, Karen, Miriam for Why Not Theatre

Ravi Jain, Founder and Co-Artistic Director,
Karen Tisch, Executive Director,
Miriam Fernandes, Co-Artistic Director


Why Not Theatre’s Mahabharata (Shaw Festival, 2023). Directed by Ravi Jain with Associate Director Miriam Fernandes, set designed by Lorenzo Savoini, costumes designed by Gillian Gallow, lighting designed by Kevin Lamotte, projections designed by Hana S. Kim, with associate projections designer Ann Slote, original music and sound designed by John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran, traditional music consultant Hasheel Lodhia, choreographed by Brandy Leary, Mahabharata Production Manager Crystal Lee, Mahabharata Barbican Co-Lead Producers Michelle Yagi and Kevin Matthew Wong.

Photos by David Cooper.
Image 1: Meher Pavri with Neil D'Souza and Anaka Majaraj-Sandu
Image 2: Neil D'Souza and Anaka Majaraj-Sandu
Image 3: Miriam Fernandes
Image 4: Cast of Mahabharata
Image 5: Ellora Patnaik with Jay Emmanuel and Sukania Venugopal

Key information

Running times
Mahabharata: Karma (Part 1): 2 hours and 40 minutes, including a 20-minute interval
Khana and Kahani (community meal and storytelling session): 75 minutes, no interval

Mahabharata: Dharma (Part 2): 2 hours and 15 minutes, including a 20-minute interval

Age guidance: 12+
Contains discussions and non-graphic depictions of violence, war and sexual activity

Multi-Faith and contemplation room
9.30am–11pm, Level 2 (near Library)

You are welcome to use this room as a space for worship and prayer, as well as peace, quiet and reflection. Do make yourself comfortable in the space and stay as long as you’d like.

Community meal dietary information
The Khana menu is vegan and nut-free. Gluten is in some menu items. Regrettably, we are unable to provide accommodation for specific dietary restrictions.

Cast and creative team

Written and adapted by Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes
Using poetry from Carole Satyamurti’s Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling
Original concept developed with Jenny Koons

Originally commissioned and presented by the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada.
Co-commissioned by the Barbican, London


Creative team
Director Ravi Jain 
Associate Director Miriam Fernandes 
Set Designer Lorenzo Savoini
Costume Designer Gillian Gallow 
Lighting Designer Kevin Lamotte 
Associate Lighting Designer Mikael Kangas 
Projections Designer Hana S. Kim, with Associate Projections Designer Ann Slote
Sound Designers John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran 
Original Music John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran (with contributions from Dylan Bell, Gurtej Singh Hunjan, Zaheer-Abbas Janmohamed and Hasheel Lodhia
Traditional Music Consultant Hasheel Lodhia 
Choreographer Brandy Leary
Dance Captain Suma Nair
Fight Director John Stead
Storyteller (Khana and Kahani) and Creative Associate Sharada K Eswar
Co-Lead Producers, Mahabharata Tour Michelle Yagi and Kevin Matthew Wong
Assistant Producer and Khana and Kahani Production Manager/Stage Manager Maya Royer 
Stage Manager Neha Ross 
Assistant Stage Manager Jenny Kim and Victoria Wang
Production Manager Crystal Lee 
Technical Director Daniel Bennett
Assistant Technical Director Anthony Allan
Head of Video and Video Operator Danny Carr 
Video Engineer Matthew Mellinger 
Head of Sound Brandon Wells
Assistant Sound Designer and Playback Operator Olivia Wheeler 
Lighting Associate Cover Jeff Pybus
Head of Wardrobe Rachel Forbes
Kathakali Choreography for Jay Emmanuel - Kerala Kalamandalam, Kalamandalam ThulasiKumar (choreography), Kalamandalm Adhityan (Chenda), Kalamandalam Roopesh (Maddalam), Kalamandalam Abhijit Pillai (Thalam).

Yudhishthira / Shantanu Shawn Ahmed
Dhritarashtra Ajay Chhabra
Krishna Neil D'Souza
Shiva / Amba / Drupada / Pandu Jay Emmanuel
Storyteller Miriam Fernandes
Understudy Varun Guru
Understudy Karthik Kadam
Duryodhana Darren Kuppan
Arjuna Anaka Maharaj-Sandhu
Understudy Suma Nair
Gandhari / Draupadi Goldy Notay
Kunti / Drona Ellora Patnaik
Voice of Krishna Meher Pavri
Shakuni / Sanjaya Sakuntala Ramanee
Understudy Ronica Sajnani
Understudy Ishan Sandhu
Karna / Satyavati Navtej Sandhu
Bhima Munish Sharma
Bhishma Sukania Venugopal
Conductor, Co-Composer, Co-Sound Designer and Guitar John Gzowski 
Band Leader, Co-Composer, Co-Sound Designer and Voice Suba Sankaran 
Bass, Keyboard and Music Contributions Dylan Bell
Percussion and Music Contributions Gurtej Singh Hunjan  
Tabla and Music Contributions Zaheer-Abbas Janmohamed
Traditional Music Consultant, Bansuri, Voice and Music Contributions Hasheel Lodhia

For Why Not Theatre 
Executive Director Karen Tisch  
Communications and Outreach Mary Anderson 
Digital Marketing Yve Lu Trinh 
Finance Sarah Newkirk
Development Jessica Kamphorst, Erin Brandenburg, Karishma Bristy
Toronto Company Manager Michelle Mohammed
UK General Management Wise Children 
UK PR and Marketing Perspective Marketing 

Why Not Theatre's Mahabharata includes text from Devdutt Pattanaik’s retelling, Jaya. Jaya, An Illustrated Retelling Of The Mahabharata, is published by Penguin Random House India.

Mahabharata also includes quotations from Rabindrath Tagore in the public domain.

A note from the director

Mahabharata was a story that played in the background of my childhood. I caught glimpses of it through a popular television series, a set of comic books, and in the paintings and sculptures of ancient temples I’d visited in India. The characters infiltrated my imagination, but I never really knew the story – only pieces, episodes, the television theme song.

I also knew Mahabharata through different styles of traditional dance. I watched numerous friends’ “dance graduations” where nine of ten dances would inevitably be stories from Mahabharata. For thousands of years, it has been told over and over, in many different ways. How could we tell Mahabharata today and have its messages resonate with modern audiences?

Our team felt that exploring how this story has been told over the centuries was just as important as the story’s plot. Our telling blends traditional and modern, east and west, and includes various forms of Indian dance, storytelling, live music and even a Sanskrit opera!

We’ve also tried to mimic many people’s real-life experience – receiving these stories through an interpretation and lesson, over a meal. Each of these forms of storytelling help to unlock Mahabharata’s meanings: they help us reach beyond words and narrative to access its spiritual and philosophical underpinnings.

It’s rare to experience Mahabharata from beginning to end in one day. It needs time. It requires perspective. Its stories stay with you – their contradictions become the subject of conversations and debates, and as we age those meanings change.

Miriam (Fernandes) and I have sat with this story for eight years. A lot has happened since we began. The best advice I can give to you is a line from our play’s Storyteller: ‘Don’t be confused by plots. Within the river of stories flows infinite wisdom. That is your true inheritance.’

Ravi Jain, Director of Mahabharata 
and Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre

Two performers on stage, one kneels before the other. Behind them, an eclipse is projected,

The Story

Karma (Part 1): 
King Janamejaya is holding a ritual sacrifice in which he will kill all the snakes in the world to avenge his father’s death. In hopes of ending this cycle of revenge, a storyteller is summoned to tell King Janamejaya the tale of The Mahabharata. The storyteller tells of the rival Pandava and Kaurava clans, and the choices that lead to their infamous Game of Dice. Through playful narration, shadow play, classical Indian dance, and a live band, the ensemble tells the stories of humans struggling to build a just world in the face of competition, jealousy, and rage. 

Exploring the themes of storytelling, ecocide, and dharma (empathy), Part 1 begins Mahabharata’s epic journey that asks, “When everyone believes they are right and their opponents wrong, how can one end a spiral of revenge?” 

Khana & Kahani (Community Meal and Storytelling Session):
Mahabharata is a story that one learns over a lifetime; it needs to be absorbed and digested. To delve deeper into the philosophical riddles of the Pandava family’s thirteen years of exile, the audience gathers to share a traditional Indian meal. Hosted by a charming storyteller, the audience experiences a tale from the Mahabharata as many people have, around the dinner table.

Dharma (Part 2):
King Janamejaya is told of the war fought by his ancestors — its devastating destruction of the planet, the mass extinction that followed, and of the survivors left behind to rebuild. Using captivating projections, dynamic soundscapes, and poetic stage design, Part 2: Dharma includes a 15-minute Sanskrit opera adaptation of the Bhagavad Gita. King Janamejaya is confronted with the battle of Kurukshetra, and the battle inside his own heart. Are we destined to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors?

Jaya to Mahabarata: a journey of stories

Most Indians believe that one should not read the Mahabharata inside one’s house, for reading it invites strife. This belief is a kind of ‘imitative magic’: the ability of stories, symbols and rituals to influence the surroundings.

Mahabharata is the story of a family feud that ultimately leads to division of property and a terrible war, whereas the other great epic, the Ramayana, narrates the tale of a family that struggles, and triumphs, over forces that seek to divide it. Naturally, a traditional Indian family terrified of any disruption of the family fabric prefers Ramayana over the Mahabharata.

Any study of the Mahabharata necessitates a reading of the Ramayana. The epics are two sides of the same coin. In one, the Ramayana, God is the rule-keeper. In the other, the Mahabharata, he is the rule-maker. In the one, he is king. In the other, he is kingmaker. In one, he is predictable and dependable. In the other, he is manipulative and mercurial. Yet both are concerned about Dharma. What is Dharma? 

In the Mahabharata Bhisma tells a story to the Pandavas about King Nriga, who was cursed to be a lizard. Nriga was known for donating cows to the sages of his kingdom. One of the donated cows slipped out of her master’s cowshed and returned to the royal cowshed. Since the royal cowshed had thousands of cows, none of the royal servants noticed her return. Nriga then gave the same cow to another sage. When this sage was returning to his hermitage with Nriga’s gift, the first sage recognised his cow, claimed ownership over her, and accused the second sage of theft. When the second sage clarified that he had received it from Nriga himself, the first sage accused the king of theft.

‘That cow was given to me. She is mine. Not the king’s. How then can the king gift her to another? This means the king stole my cow.’ 

Nriga apologised to the first sage and offered to compensate him with a hundred cows. The sage refused. He wanted his cow back. Nriga then went to the second sage who refused to return his gift. For this act of hurting his subjects, albeit unintentionally, Nriga was cursed to turn into a lizard, a punishment he accepted with grace.

A king is responsible for the happiness of his subjects. He is responsible for all the hurt he causes them, even without meaning to. We live in times where politicians talk of Dharma but refuse to take responsibility for failures of their own governance.

So what is Dharma? It is often translated to mean duty or righteous conduct. But at a fundamental level, Dharma is what distinguishes man from animals; it is what makes man human. All other living creatures subscribe to matysa nyaya, or law of the fishes: might is right. But man is capable of reversing the law. In human society, might need not be right. The weak can have rights too. Even the feeble can thrive. An ideal human society is one based not on power and domination as in nature, but on the very opposite – love and generosity.

They say children inherit the sins of the father. The Mahabharata refers to this concept again and again – how crimes committed in an earlier generation end up affecting a later generation. The epic begins with the story of Janamejaya, angry that his father has been killed by a snake, until he is told that his great-grandparents destroyed an entire forest that was home to thousands of snakes. Even the horrific war at Kurukshetra, like the World Wars, is not merely the fight of cousins, but the outburst of several generations of rage, denial, frustration and envy.

That is why these stories look not at one generation but at several. So long is the history and so deep is the wound that everyone assumes they are the victims and no one is prepared to accept the role of the villain. Such is life. There are no heroes or villains, just people who choose to exploit, people who seek retribution, people who cannot forgive and people who shy away from responsibility but yearn for nobility.

The original epic was called Jaya, then it was called Vijaya, then Bharata and finally Mahabharata. Jaya was about spiritual victory, Vijaya was about material victory, Bharata was the story of a clan and Mahabharata included also the wisdom of the land called Bharat-varsha.

Many modern scholars, writers and playwrights, exhausted and overwhelmed by the maze of stories of the final version of the epic, are convinced that the Mahabharata is only about the futility of war. Jai means victory. Vijay also means victory. But there is a difference. Jai is used almost as a greeting in many parts of India, or as an exclamation. But Vijay is used very specifically when one is setting out for a conflict, confrontation, duel or competition. What exactly is the difference? 

The clue lies in the final chapter of Mahabharata, when Yudhishtira steps into heaven and is horrified to find before him the Kauravas looking radiant and blissful. ‘How did these war-mongers reach the abode of the gods?’, Yudhishtira asks angrily. The gods reply, ‘They were killed on the holy land of Kurukshetra. That has purified them of all misdeeds and earned the right to enter heaven.’ The explanation did not satisfy Yudhishtira. ‘What about my brothers and my wife? Where are they?’ In response, the gods lead Yudhishtira deep under the earth, to a realm that was dark and gloomy and miserable. There, Yudhishtira heard cries of pain and suffering. Tears welled up in his eyes. How could he return to heaven and leave his family here? He made a decision. ‘I will stay here and suffer with them. I refuse to enter heaven without them.’ Looking into Yudhishtira’s eyes, the gods asked, ‘Oh! But we thought you had renounced everything?’ ’What do you mean?’, asked Yudhishtira, suddenly uncomfortable. ‘Well, you certainly have given up your kingdom and your worldly wealth. But you have not given up your anger. Your anger for the Kauravas, despite killing them in battle and ruling the earth for thirty-six years. You cling to your hatred, Yudhishtira. You still begrudge the Kauravas. You have not forgiven them. You refuse to let go and move on.’ At that moment, Yudhishtira realised he was not the great man he thought he was. Only when there is undiluted compassion for everyone, even our worst enemies, will ego be truly conquered.

The epic thus ends not with the victory of the Pandavas over the Kauravas, but with Yudhishtira’s triumph over himself. In Vijay, there are winners and losers. In Jai, there are no losers, no one is defeated, for one triumphs over oneself. If one strips out the excess fat, one realises that the Mahabharata is not a preachy tale appealing for peace. It is a determined exploration of the root of conflict. It is a book yearning for peace, not war. True peace happens when no one is defeated. True peace happens when one conquers oneself.

Sharada K Eswar
Sharada K Eswar is the Storyteller for Khana and Kahani, and Creative Associate to this production.

A performer wearing a grey dress looks out at the audience, while the image of a setting sun is projected behind them.

Bhagavad Gita Opera

Bhagavad Gita appears in Part 2: Dharma
Libretto translation and text adaptation by Sharada K Eswar



yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata

abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ


paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ vināśhāya cha duṣhkṛitām

dharma-sansthāpanārthāya sambhavāmi yuge yuge

I am the changeless and eternal Self, never born never dying.

I take on material form when humanity is in need;

To protect the good, to destroy the evil.

I shine a light to open your eyes.



mayyāsakta-manāḥ pārtha yogaṁ yuñjan mad- āśhrayaḥ

asanśhayaṁ samagraṁ māṁ yathā jñāsyasi tach chhṛiṇu

ye chaiva sāttvikā bhāvā rājasās tāmasāśh cha ye

matta eveti tān viddhi na tvahaṁ teṣhu te mayi

The world is caught up by appearances.

Ego endlessly distracts from seeing the eternal


that the humblest flower

Is connected to the grandeur of the constellations.



śhubhāśhubha-phalair evaṁ mokṣhyase karma-


sannyāsa-yoga-yuktātmā vimukto mām upaiṣhyasi

man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ


mām evaiṣhyasi yuktvaivam ātmānaṁ mat-


Desire and anger cast a screen of smoke over the


Make yourself alike in pain and pleasure,

profit and loss, victory and defeat,

and follow your dharma.



evaṁ jñātvā kṛitaṁ karma pūrvair api


kuru karmaiva tasmāttvaṁ pūrvaiḥ pūrvataraṁ


Action is the cosmic energy that brings every

creature into existence.

Action is inescapable, we always act, even when

doing nothing. The question is, how to act rightly?



karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana

mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo


Act selflessly without any thought of personal


Through selfless service, you will always be fruitful.


tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśhnena sevayā

upadekṣhyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśhinaḥ

yaj jñātvā na punar moham evaṁ yāsyasi pāṇḍava

yena bhūtānyaśheṣheṇa drakṣhyasyātmanyatho


Act without straining after the reward.

Reward is an illusion.

Detach action from result,

be my instrument in the battle.



jātasya hi dhruvo mṛityur dhruvaṁ janma mṛitasya


tasmād aparihārye ’rthe na tvaṁ śhochitum arhasi

dehī nityam avadhyo ’yaṁ dehe sarvasya bhārata

tasmāt sarvāṇi bhūtāni na tvaṁ śhochitum arhasi

Arjuna, that which is born will die

and that which will die will be re-born. It is

pointless to cling and mourn.

The soul that dwells within is immortal, O Arjuna,

and therefore you should not mourn for anyone.




pṛichchhāmi tvāṁ dharma-sammūḍha-chetāḥ

yach-chhreyaḥ syānniśhchitaṁ brūhi tanme

śhiṣhyaste ’haṁ śhādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam

Your mind is creating a veil between you and your


The fight is not out there Arjuna, it is inside you

Fight the emotions inside you, fight the attachment,

inside you.

Control the mind so you can see.


kālo ’smi loka-kṣhaya-kṛit pravṛiddho

lokān samāhartum iha pravṛittaḥ

ṛite ’pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣhyanti sarve

ye ’vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣhu yodhāḥ

I am time, destroyer of worlds.

I have come to consume the world.

Dharma will prevail.

Rise up, hero. Be my instrument!

The Mahabharata Family Tree


A performer dances on stage while others watch.

Watch: movement and dance

'It's a language to communicate the story'. 

Discover more about the astonishing movement and dance in this epic show with members of the creative team, including choreographer Brandy Leary.

A young person holds the arm of an older person, they look concerned.

A Conversation on the Bhagavad Gita

Find out more about the operatic aria sung during Dharma in this interview with Sharada K Eswar, a playwright, storyteller and educator who adapted the Bhagavad Gita text for this production. 

Mahabharata (Playtext), Coach House Books

The Mahabharata playtext is available to purchase in The Foyer at the Barbican and online here.

Why Not Theatre

A Why Not Theatre Production. Originally commissioned and presented by the Shaw Festival in association with the Barbican.

The Barbican presentation is generously supported by the Bagri Foundation.

Why Not Theatre thanks the following individuals and institutions for their generous support:

Major Partners
Canada Council for the Arts 
National Arts Centre 
Shaw Festival 
Slaight Family Foundation 

The Kingfisher Foundation 
Deb Barrett & Jim Leech 
Lindy Green Family Foundation 
Wuchien Michael Than Foundation 
Ontario Arts Council 
Toronto Arts Council 
TO Live 
The High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom

Mahabharata Circle
Bhalla Family Foundation
Richard & Nancy Hamm
Ravi Jain & Sarena Parmar
Kate Love & Nigel Lawson

Upkar & Nita Arora
Surjit Babra
Marilyn & Charles Baillie
Chanchlani Foundation
Miriam Fernandes & Sturla Alvsvaag
Robert & Julia Foster
Blake & Susan Hutcheson
Richard Rooney & Laura Dinner
Daniel Tisch & Kerri Sakamoto
Karen Tisch & Mark Slone
Tamara Zielony

Donna Armstrong
Virginia Dixon
Ernest & Maria Fernandes
Sach Jain
Shailendra Jain
Jessica Kamphorst & Alex Whitehead
Bahi & Abby Kandavel
Raj & Shaila Kothari
Dana Lafarga
Deepa Mehta
Nekison Engineering and Contractors
Thomas Savundra
Nagpal Vir Family Foundation


Bhagavad Gita Donors

Canadian Opera Company
Agrawal Family
Bhalla Family Foundation
Neil & Amisha Jain
Ramesh & Asha Jain
Ravi & Deepa Jeswani
Vahe Koraian
Amit & Swati Singhal

AcknowledgementsWhy Not Theatre would like to warmly thank Fatima Adam, Kira Allen, Intisar Awisse, Simon Baker, Monica Bakir, Armand Baksh-Zarate, Kendra Bator, Tom Baranski, Kyle Bradshaw, Simon Brault, James Breedon, Simon Bourne, Rhys Bugler, Martha Burns, Heather Campbell, Zoë Carpenter, Tim Carroll, Sam Chaiton, Michelle Chawla, Gurpreet Channa, Vito Cerone, Coach House Books, David Cohen, Samuel Coombes, Sarah Conn, Steph Curtis, Complicité, Tom Arthur Davis, Roland Danner, Chris Dearlove, Jane Dickerson, Matt Eger, Kendall Foster, Robert Foster, Karen Fricker, Brendan Gilhuly, Lindy Green, Ralph Goodale, Caroline Hall, Lucinda Hamlin, Greg Hefford, Jeff Hucaluk, Asha Jain, Tim Jennings, Lesley Jones, Natasha Kathi-Chandra, Poppy Keeling, Nik Kennedy, Camellia Koo, Kelly Langgard, David Lieberman, Owais Lightwala, Roopa Lodhia, Vinodh Loganadhan, Darwin Lyons, Michel Lestrehan, HBL, Jamie Massey, Stuart McDougall, Aaloka Mehndiratta, Allen Moon, Heather Moore, Rebecca Moore, Katie Mountain, Michael Murray, Olivia Negrean, Matt Nelson, Najla Nubyanluv, Charlotte Oliver, Hari Panday, Devdutt Pattanaik, Stevie Porter, Ash Prakash, Frances Price, Tim Price, Andy Pringle, Val Pringle, Toni Racklin, Anjna Raheja, Kelly Read, Corinne Rice, Emma Rice, Fred Riding, Emma Satyamurti, Carole Satyamurti, Sam Semczyszyn, Mali Siloko, Gary Slaight, Sumayyah Sheikh, Jill Shelley, Terry Smith, Claire Spencer, Sarah Garton Stanley, Larry Switzky, Sasha Tate-Howarth, Alina Tiits, Becks Turner, Josephine Ridge, Ajay Virmani, Clyde Wagner, Martin Wilkinson, Prem Watsa, Jayne Watson, and all the generous staff and crew at the Barbican.

A Message from Canada's National Arts Centre

Canada’s National Arts Centre is proud to support Why Not Theatre’s Mahabharata through an investment by its National Creation Fund.  Fuelled entirely by generous donors, the Fund helps Canadian artists realize their creative dreams by providing the additional time, space and resources that bold, ambitious projects require.

An ensemble of performers gather on stage in a decadent room, a large circle light hangs above them.

Performer Biographies

Yudhishthira / Shantanu
Shawn Ahmed is an award-winning actor, writer and producer based in Toronto. Work in theatre includes: The Orchard (After Chekhov) and Of Marriage and Men for the Shaw Festival; The Comedy of Errors, Revolutionary Moments and More Words! More Play! for Shakespeare & Company; and Twelfth Night for Shakespeare BASH’D. Films include: Fallen Angels Murder Club (Vol 1 & 2), Under the Christmas Tree, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Love on Harbour Island and Flight 93. TV includes: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, So Help Me Todd, Twilight Zone, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Expanse, Coroner, Slasher and Orphan Black.

Work in theatre includes: Kafka's Dick at Derby Playhouse; The Trouble with Asian Men for Tamasha; Mahabharata for the Year of Opera; and Indian Ink for Michael Codron and the Yvonne Arnaud. Film and TV include: Tom & Jerry, The Bull, Bell Bottom, ‘83, Anita & Me, Rough Diamonds, The Gold, Phoenix Rise, The Duchess, This England, Marcella, Vera, Hetty Feather, The Basil Brush Show and Days that Shook the World.

Neil D’Souza is a British actor, writer and teacher of South Asian heritage. He studied theatre at the University of Ulster and trained at RADA. Work in theatre includes: How to Hold Your Breath and Khandan at the Royal Court; Drawing the Line at Hampstead; Much Ado About Nothing and Midnight’s Children for the RSC; and Tintin in the West End. Film and TV include: Filth, Still Life, Closed Circuit, Wild Target, Another Me, My Sweet Home, Gate to Heaven, Italian Movies, Diamonds, The Ballad of Renegade Nell, In the Long Run and Alma’s Not Normal. His upcoming play, Out of Season, will be produced by Hampstead Theatre in 2024.

Shiva / Amba / Drupada / Pandu and Choreography Contributions
Born in India and based in Australia since 2009, Jay Emmanuel is a performer, writer and director, and currently Artistic Director of Encounter. He is a graduate of the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris. His recent works include Counting and Cracking for Belvoir St Theatre and Co-Curious; Beneath the Music for Encounter and Performing Lines; The Tides of Longing for Western Australian Symphony Orchestra; and Children of the Sea for Perth Festival. In 2019, he was selected for the Australia Council for the Arts Future Leader Program, and in 2020 was awarded an Australia Council Career Development Grant.

Storyteller and Associate Director
Miriam Fernandes is the Co-Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre. Creation credits include: Mahabharata and What You Won’t Do for Love for Why Not Theatre; and Nesen and The First Time I Saw the Sea for Yva Theatre, Norway. Work as director includes: Metamorphoses for CDTPS and Hayavadana for Soulpepper. She is currently developing a new adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People. Her work as a playwright (Mahabharata and What You Won't Do for Love) has been published by Coach House Books, and What You Won't Do for Love was also adapted into a film. Miriam Fernandes attended École Jacques Lecoq in Paris.

Varun Guru is an actor, composer, voice actor and writer born and raised in India and based in Toronto, who trained at the Soulpepper Theatre Academy Toronto, Neptune Theatre Halifax (in improvisation), Trinity College London and in New Delhi (guitar). Work in theatre includes: Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God, Axe AKA Akshay and King Lear for Soulpepper Theatre. Films include: Keeper of the Cup, Look at Me, There’s Nothing Else, Oh Deer and Family Values. TV includes: King and Pawn. Voice-over work includes: Hyper Scape (Ubisoft), Hyundai, Woodland and Adidas, among others.

Karthik Kadam was born in Bangalore, India, attended the Acting Conservatory at the University of British Columbia, and has had the honour of creating with some of the most inspiring people in Canada. Theatre includes: Henry V and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Bard on the Beach; The Legend of Georgia McBride for The Arts Club; Juggle Me Not for Axis Theatre Company; Silent Sky for the United Players of Vancouver; and Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again, Timothy Findley’s The Wars, and Goldrausch for the University of British Columbia.

Darren Kuppan is from the UK, and lives near Manchester. He got involved in the arts at an early age, starting with Ballroom/Latin American dancing, in which he eventually became a British champion. He enjoys playing the guitar and writing songs in his spare time, and is a keen martial artist and has trained in many different styles. Mahabharata marks Darren Kuppan’s debut at the Barbican.

Anaka Sandhu is a South Asian and gender non-conforming artist born and raised on Treaty One Territory (also known as Winnipeg, Manitoba). A recent graduate from the acting programme at the National Theatre School of Canada, they previously studied political science and film at the University of Manitoba. As a genderfluid artist and part of the Indigenous, Black and People of Colour community, Anaka Sandhu seeks to create space for stories that have historically been erased. They’re especially interested in challenging the notion of Western ‘classics’; examining stories that were not written with people like them in mind.

Understudy and Dance Captain
Suma Nair is the Artistic Director of Sampradaya Dance Creations in Mississauga, Canada. She is also a choreographer trained in the Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam, a producer, voice artist and theatre actor. Suma Nair is the co-founder of ĀṬAM Arts Collective, a Malayalam theatre group based in Toronto. Winner of the MARTY award for Dance by the Mississauga Arts Council in 2018, she holds an MFA in Dance from York University, where she was awarded the Susan Crocker and John Hunkin Scholarship in Fine Arts in 2014-2015.

Gandhari / Draupadi
Goldy Notay is of British-Canadian heritage. Work in theatre includes: All of Us at the National Theatre; Abigail’s Party at Watford Palace Theatre; Pink Sari Revolution for Curve and ETT; Speed and My Daughter’s Trial for Kali Theatre; Zameen for the Arts Theatre; The Dishonoured at the Arcola; and Happy Birthday Sunita for Rifco and Experimental Theatre, India. Film/TV includes: Little English, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife (directed by Gurinder Chadha), Sex and the City 2, Ackley Bridge and Beecham House. Goldy Notay is currently in the Olivier award-winning production Life of Pi, directed by Max Webster. Awards include: Best Actress Nomination at the ACTA Awards for The Dishonoured, and Best Actress at the London Movie Awards for Chapter Two.

Kunti / Drona and Choreography Contributions
Training: Graduate/company member at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, NYC. Theatre includes: A Christmas Carol and Sisters for Soulpepper; Romeo and Juliet for Shakespeare in the Ruff; Much Ado About Nothing for Tarragon Theatre; Free Outgoing and Her2 for Nightwood Theatre and Acha Bacha at Theatre Passe Muraille. Film/TV include: Sort Of, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Ginny & Georgia, One Small Visit, Holly Hobby, Kitty Mamas, The Wedding Planners, Nurses, Kim’s Convenience, Schitt’s Creek, Spinning Out, Hudson & Rex, Talent Drivers, Titans, Too Close For Christmas, Coroner and Pride Prejudice and Mistletoe. Upcoming: Calorie.

Voice of Krishna 
Parsi-Canadian soprano Meher Pavri hails from London, Ontario. Her career highlights include: Maria in West Side Story for LOT, Windsor Symphony Orchestra and Niagara Symphony Orchestra; 88 Keys for Soulpepper; The Overcoat and A Musical Tailoring for Canadian Stage, Tapestry Opera and Vancouver Opera; and Mozart’s Idomeneo for Opera Atelier. She has sung the national anthem at NBA Raptors’ games, and was featured in the Canadian premiere of Bend It Like Beckham. Meher Pavri was also a part of the ensemble in Handel’s Messiah with Against the Grain Theatre, which won a Dora Award.

Shakuni / Sanjaya  
Sakuntala Ramanee studied Drama at Kent University. Theatre includes: Life of Pi in the West End; Romeo and Juliet for the RSC in Stratford, at the Barbican and on UK tour; The Forest at Hampstead; The Father and the Assassin at the National Theatre; East is East for Jamie Lloyd Company on UK tour; Meat Pie Sausage Roll at Oldham Coliseum; Bring on the Bollywood for Phizzical; Coventry Mystery Plays at the Belgrade, Coventry; and India Song at Theatre Clwyd. TV includes: DI Ray, The Bay, Line of Duty, Coronation Street, EastEnders, Whitechapel and Emmerdale. Films include: Second Spring and The Boat Woman. Radio includes: Memories and Midnight’s Children.

Theatre includes: A Brimful of Asha for Theatre Antigonish; My Granny the Goldfish at Factory Theatre; The Washing Machine for Next Stage Festival and Factory Theatre; Unburdened for Modest Productions, and Rice Boy for Canadian Stage. Film and TV include: Water (directed by Deepa Mehta), Run the Burbs, Sort Of, TallBoyz, Good Sam, Sneakerella, Wedding Season, Black Mirror, Kids in the Hall (2022) and Workin’ Moms. Awards: Theatre Nova Scotia Robert Merritt Award nominee for Best Lead and Production for A Brimful of Asha; Academy Award nomination for best foreign film of the year for Water; and nine Genie Award nominations.

Chandigarh, a small town designed by a French architect in the north of India, is where Ishan Sandhu calls home and where he dreamt of a life in the performing arts. He pursued a BFA in Theatre at the University of British Columbia. Work in theatre includes: Romeo and Juliet for Bard on the Beach; The Triumph of Love for Western Gold Theatre; Men Express Their Feelings for Zee Zee Theater; The Here and This and Now at Jericho Arts Centre; Gramophone at The Cultch; and The Changeling, Timothy Findley’s The War, Commedia dell’Arte and Book of Days at Frederic Wood Theatre.

Karna / Satyavati
Navtej Sandhu is a Toronto-based actor, born in the United States; she is also an emerging screenwriter and singer. Work in theatre includes: The Green Line at Edmonton Fringe Festival; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Canadian Stage). She was introduced to fight training at York University’s acting conservatory where she graduated with a BFA, and is now working towards her advanced actor combatant at Rapier Wit.

Munish Sharma is originally from Regina, Saskatchewan, but now lives in Vancouver. He was inspired to become an actor by the Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachchan, but it was his breakout role as Captain Hook in grade three that really solidified his desire to act. Work in theatre includes: #34 at the Globe Theatre; A Midsummer Night’s Dream and All’s Well That Ends Well for Bard on the Beach; Himmat for Theatre Conspiracy; Men Express Their Feelings for Zee Zee Theatre; A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Cherry Orchard: After Chekhov at the Arts Club; and The Invisible Hand for Pi Theatre.

Sukania Venugopal is a performer, actor, singer and dancer. Her inspiration to enter acting stemmed from the late Bosco D’Cruz; in 1976, she became an undergraduate student at the University of Malaysia and her first production was The Insect Play, a satire on human society via insects. As well as D’Cruz, another major influence in her training was the late Mustafa Noor, a Malaysian actor who directed her in The Misunderstanding by Albert Camus. Most recently, Sukania Venugopal appeared in Marsha Mason’s Night, Mother and Counting and Cracking, produced by Belvoir St Theatre in Australia.

Conductor, Co-Composer, Co-Sound Designer and Guitar
Composer, sound designer, musician and instrument maker, John Gzowski has worked on over 250 theatre, dance and film productions. His theatre contributions have won 6 Dora Awards, with 18 nominations from companies such as Ex Machina, Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, Luminato Festival, National Arts Centre, the Mirvishes, MTC, The Arts Club, Canadian Stage, Soulpepper, Dancemakers, Red Sky, Tarragon Theatre, Factory Theatre, and YPT. He has played on compilations alongside Patricia O'Callghan, Tasa, Autorickshaw, and Maza Meze. He ran Canada’s first microtonal group, playing the works of Harry Partch, and has also worked as Co-Artistic Director of the Music Gallery.

Band Leader, Co-Composer, Co-Sound Designer and Voice
Dora award-winning, three-times Juno-nominated world/fusion vocalist Suba Sankaran has effortlessly combined musical worlds. She has performed with Autorickshaw, master drummer Trichy Sankaran, a cappella live-looping duo FreePlay and Retrocity. Performance highlights include performing for Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and performing with Jane Siberry, Lorraine Segato, Bobby McFerrin and the Swingles. Other highlights include collaborations with Deepa Mehta, the CBC, and Stratford and Shaw Festivals. Work for theatre includes: Jungle Book for Kidoons; For Coloured Girls for the Tiger Bamboo Festival and Soulpepper; The Enchanted Loom for Cahoots Theatre; Much Ado About Nothing for Tarragon Theatre; and Same Same, But Different for Nightswimming.

Bass, Keyboard and Music Contributions
Dylan Bell is a Juno-nominated vocalist, instrumentalist (piano, bass, Stick, guitar, percussion), composer/arranger, music director and producer/engineer, and has worked with groups ranging from vocal jazz, vocal pop, eclectic jazz and world music, to classical and flat-out rock ‘n’ roll, playing stages in over 25 countries. When it comes to a cappella vocal arranging, Dylan Bell literally wrote the book: A Cappella Arranging, co-written with Deke Sharon, and published by Hal Leonard. Work in theatre includes: Parliament of Birds for Soulpepper; Same Same, But Different for Nightswimming; Arrabal for Mirvish; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Driftwood.

Percussion and Music Contributions
Gurtej Singh Hunjan is a Juno-award nominated percussionist, composer and DJ based in Toronto. His classical training in North Indian rhythm informs his eclectic, rhythmic-driven sound. He has recorded and performed internationally with headlining artists and composes music for film, television, digital media and theatre.

Tabla and Music Contributions
Zaheer-Abbas Janmohamed is a Canadian tabla player and a student of Ustad Allarakha’s senior disciple, Shri Prafulla Athalye. Aiming to preserve the integrity of the repertoire he studies, Zaheer-Abbas Janmohamed brings the tradition of tabla to new contexts and audiences through his musical collaborations. He uses the instrument’s sound and theory to explore forms of electronic music production, and he plays in Toronto band, Running Rivers. He has performed across Canada in a variety of classical, semi-classical and contemporary musical settings. Selected appearances include Sonic Landscapes with Surbahar, Sufi Folk Music of Mukhtiyar Ali, and Concerts Café Classico Series.

Traditional Music Consultant
Hasheel Lodhia began training in North Indian classical music at three years old, under his father. Later he studied vocals under Shri Narendra Datar and bansuri under Shri Jeetu Sharma. He is currently a senior disciple of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and vocal student of Pandit Ajay Pohankar. He has performed with Kailash Kher, Hariharan, Karthik, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, Karsh Kale, Javed Ali and A.R. Rahman. Festivals include: Iceland Airwaves and Pride Toronto. Discography includes: Circle with Alysha Brilla and The India Beat Tape with Yanchan. Music direction includes: In Multiplicity for Nuit Blanche; and The Tagore Project for Tanveer Alam and Atri Nundy.

A performer dances on stage while others watch.

Creative team biographies

Ravi Jain is a multi-award-winning artist known for making politically bold and accessible theatrical experiences in both small indie productions and large theatres. As the founding Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre, he has established himself as an artistic leader for his inventive productions, international producing/collaborations and innovative producing models, which are aimed to better support emerging artists to make money from their art. Ravi Jain was awarded the Pauline McGibbon Award and the 2016 Canada Council John Hirsch Prize for Direction. In 2022, he was awarded the Johanna Metcalf Foundations Performing Arts Prize. He is a graduate of the two-year programme at École Jacques Lecoq.

Associate Director and Storyteller
Please find Miriam's biography in the Performer Biographies listed above. 

Set Designer
Lorenzo Savoini is an award-winning set, costume and lighting designer. Work as set designer include: Pomegranate for the Canadian Opera Company; New for RMTC, Necessary Angel and Canadian Stage; Prince Hamlet for Why Not Theatre; and Pipeline for Soulpepper. As set and lighting designer: Grand Magic at Stratford Festival; Kelly V. Kelly for Musical Stage Co. and Canadian Stage; Network for Citadel and RMTC; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo for Crow’s Theatre; Of Mice and Men for Joffrey Ballet; and Lady Chatterley’s Lover for Les Grand Ballet Canadiens. As Lighting Designer: Prospera for Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Lorenzo Savoini is a member of the Associated Designers of Canada.

Costume Designer
Gillian is a costume and set designer based in Toronto. She has collaborated with theatre companies across Canada, designing costumes for the world premieres of Hadrian and Louis Riel. Other collaborations include the Shaw Festival, Stratford Festival, Soulpepper, Canadian Stage, The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and the National Arts Centre. Gillian Gallow has received the Virginia and Myrtle Cooper Award, four Toronto Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and the Siminovitch Prize. Her work has been nominated for Calgary’s Betty Awards, Edmonton’s Sterling Awards, Winnipeg’s Evie Awards and Ottawa’s Capital Critics’ Circle.

Lighting Designer
Kevin Lamotte is the Director of Lighting Design at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and a member of the Associated Designers of Canada. Theatre includes: Blithe Spirit, Playboy of the Western World, The Clearing, The Importance of Being Earnest, Gem of the Ocean, Everybody, Desire Under the Elms, and White Christmas for the Shaw Festival; Jesus Hopped the A Train for Soulpepper; Middletown for Crow’s Theatre; La Traviata for Opéra de Montréal; and Fidelio for Pacific Opera. Awards include: The Pauline McGibbon Award (Province of Ontario), Dora Mavor Moore Award (Toronto), and Jesse Richardson Award (Vancouver).

Associate Lighting Designer
Mikael Kangas designs lights for theatre, opera, dance, events and film. Recent work includes: The Amen Corner, Damn Yankees, Trouble in the Mind, The Glass Menagerie and O'Flaherty VC for the Shaw Festival; Fantasma for the Canadian Opera Company; Newsies and Crazy for You at the Sheridan Theatre; & Juliet at the Mirvish, as assistant designer; Macbeth, The Marriage of Figaro, Hansel and Gretel, Rusalka, Onegin, Cosi Fan Tutti, Elixir of Love and Abduction from the Seraglio for the Canadian Opera Company, as assistant designer; and White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Brigadoon, Grand Hotel, Me and My Girl, Saint Joan and Sweeney Todd at the Shaw Festival, as associate designer. Mikael Kangas is the Lighting and Projection Design Coordinator at the Canadian Opera Company, and is a member of the Associated Designers of Canada.

Projection Designer
Selected work in theatre includes, on Broadway: The Old Man and the Pool at Lincoln Center Theater and Summer, 1976 at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Off-Broadway/New York: The Harder They Come, The Visitor (Lucille Lortel nomination) and Eve's Song at The Public Theater; Everything Rises at BAM; and Magdalene at Prototype Festival. New music/opera includes: Sweet Land for The Industry and The Anonymous Lover for LA Opera. Regional: work with Geffen Playhouse, OSF, South Coast Rep, Magic Theatre and A.C.T, among others. Awards include: Princess Grace Award, Sherwood Award from CTG, Helen Hayes Award, LA Drama Critics Circle Distinguished Achievement Award, among others.

Associate Projections Designer
Ann Slote attended the University of California Los Angeles and is a video and lighting designer based in Berlin and San Francisco. Video Design work includes: Joywave’s Hellvetica and Cleanse tours; Quinn XCII’s festival tour; MisterWives’ Resilient Little Tour on US tour. As Video Assistant/Animator: Stranger Love at LA Philharmonic; Goddess at Berkeley Rep; Dancin’ at The Old Globe and The Sound Inside on Broadway. Lighting Design: Best Funeral Ever (my russian funeral) for Ballhaus Ost; and What You Will for Project Nongenue.

See Performers Biographies for:
Sound Designers John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran 
Original Music John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran (with contributions from Dylan Bell, Gurtej Singh Hunjan, Zaheer-Abbas Janmohamed and Hasheel Lodhia
Traditional Music Consultant Hasheel Lodhia

Brandy Leary is a choreographer, dancer, curator and Artistic Director of ĀNANDAṀ. She is based in Toronto and works regularly between Canada, Europe and India. Her dance training crosses two decades of practice in the South Indian martial art of kalarippayattu, chhau (Seraikella and Mayurbhanj styles) and contemporary approaches to dance and choreography. Her works have been described as ‘phenomenological interventions’ (Canadian Theatre), ‘soulful and sensuous’ (NYTimes), and ‘embodying a hallucinatory, dreamlike state’ (NOW Magazine). Her choreography has been produced and performed internationally in theatres, urban environments, festivals, museums, art galleries and isolated landscapes.

Storyteller (Khana and Kahani) and Creative Associate
Creative credits include: Chitra as Assistant Director at the Shaw Festival; Walk with Amal – Brampton as writer and director; Hayavadana, as singer/Artistic Associate, for Why Not Theatre and Soulpepper; The Two Gentlemen of Verona, as directorial dramaturg and assistant director, for Birmingham Conservatory and Stratford Festival; Rice Boy, as cultural dramaturg, at Stratford Festival; The Draupadi Project, as writer and performer, for Why Not Theatre; Abhimanyu, as writer and singer, for Theatre Direct/National Arts Centre; The Blue God and the Serpents, as writer, producer and performer, for Tamasha Arts; Like An Old Tale, as singer, for Jumblies Theatre; Much Ado About Nothing, as cultural dramaturg, for Tarragon Theatre; and Free Outgoing for Nightwood Theatre. Upcoming: The Butcher’s Song and blue skies, red earth & tall pines for Jumblies Theatre.

Assistant Technical Director
Anthony (he/him) is eager to collaborate and advocate for himself and other artists looking to create. As a technical director and designer, he looks to promote an enriching environment for others. He is a recent graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada's Production Design and Technical Arts program. Selected credits include: Technical Director: MASHUP pon di road (Why Not Theatre), Lay Hold to the Softest Throat (FTA), Middletown (NTS), Assistant Sound Designer: Little Shop of Horrors (Capitol Theatre), Sound Designer: Metamorphoses (NTS), Lighting Designer: New Words Festival (NTS), and Production Manager: Maybe Not Tomorrow (NTS).

Head of Sound
Brandon Wells has spent a decade working with a multitude of artists and organizations in Toronto and beyond, including Live from Koerner Hall, Soundstreams, Esprit Orchestra, Against the Grain Theatre, Pocket Concerts, Tapestry Opera, Canadian Stage Company, amongst others. Brandon is a staff recording engineer at Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music, and formerly for Humber College’s Bachelor of Music program. Brandon holds a Master of Music degree in Sound Recording from McGill University, and a Bachelor of Music degree from Humber College. He has also served as a Senior Audio Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Centre.

Production Manager
Crystal is originally from a small east coast Canadian community in the Chaleur Region. Her first exposure to theatre was in a local high school auditorium – a touring production of The Velveteen Rabbit. It was after that experience where she became so enthralled in how theatre was able to capture effective magic with simple sequences. She felt most comfortable helping to facilitate that creation of magic as a production manager. Crystal’s formal training was at the National Theatre School of Canada. Best advice that has guided her practice? Don’t prep for perfection, but instead for spontaneity!

Technical Director
Daniel Bennett is a theatre practitioner and has worked with SummerWorks, Eclipse Theatre Company, Festival Transamériques, Paprika Festival and Toronto’s Luminato Festival. Lighting design credits include: Cabaret, Seeds of Self, Juno's Reward, and Beethoven Lives Upstairs (Grand Theatre). Sound design credits include: Juno’s Reward and Beethoven Lives Upstairs (Grand Theatre) and Griffin McInnes’ Specimen. Daniel is a graduate and Associate Artist at the National Theatre School, the Technical Director for Canadian Stage, and was previously the Technical Director at the Grand Theatre. He runs Curveball Creative and holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto.

Grantwriter, Why Not Theatre
Erin Brandenburg is a director and writer for film and theatre originally from Essex County, Ontario. Based in Tkaronto, her work engages with social questions and creates space for conversation. She recently directed the short film Retreat, filmed on location on Pelee Island, was an artist in residence with Toronto Public Library through Artists in the Library, creating the Albion VR Project (Toasterlab). Select writing/directing credits include the upcoming musical about disability and consent, The Flin Flon Cowboy (The Flin Flon Collective), Detroit-Music of the Motor City (Soulpepper), Selah’s Song (TOTB - US/Canadian Tour), HOME DAY (Necessary Angel/Resilience Project).

Lighting Technician
Jeff (he/him) is a lighting & video designer and technical director for live performance across Ontario. He is also a hobbyist astrophotographer and cat Dad. Select credits include: The Judas Kiss, Herringbone, The Yalta Game, Hedwig & The Angry Inch, La Bete (Talk is Free Theatre), Beautiful Renegades (Peggy Baker Dance Projects), Seagulls, The Killing, The Madness of Lady Bright (Shaw Festival Director’s Projects), Tales of an Urban Indian (Buenos Aires Tour, Production Manager), Prince Caspian, The Shadow of a Doubt, Gaslight, Chitra, Desire Under the Elms, Victory, (Shaw Festival; Assistant Lighting Design), The Runner (Human Cargo; Assoc. Lighting Design), and Musik für das Ende (Soundstreams, Touring Lighting Director).

Assistant Stage Manager
Stage management credits include: Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, Coriolanus (Bard On The Beach), Teenage Dick, No Child, Sweat, Cipher (Arts Club Theatre), The Mountaintop (Pacific Theatre), The Café (Aphotic Theatre/Itsazoo Production), Bad Parent (vAct/PTE/Soulpepper), China Doll (Gateway Theatre), Sang Ja (Pangaea Arts), Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook (Snapshots Collective), Circle Game: Reimagining the music of Joni Mitchell (Firehall Arts Centre/Arts Club Theatre), and Legally Blonde: The Musical (TUTS). Other credits include: Pachinko (Apple TV). Jenny is based in Vancouver.

Senior Development Advisor, Why Not Theatre
Jessica Kamphorst has been a creative and strategic campaign lead and major gift fundraiser for mission-driven organizations for over 25 years. Through leadership positions in arts and culture, higher education, and research organizations, Jessica has contributed to the organizations she serves through analysis and strategy, systems and program design, team leadership and coaching, and championing the donor experience. Jessica holds an MBA with a specialty in Arts & Media Administration from Schulich School of Business, and a BA from McGill University. Jessica sits on the Board of Directors of DesignTO, Canada’s leading and largest annual design festival.

Executive Director, Why Not Theatre
Karen Tisch is the Executive Director of Why Not Theatre. Her past positions include: Managing Director of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Programming Director of the Images Festival, Executive Director of the Ashkenaz Foundation, and Executive Director of the Koffler Centre of the Arts. She has served in grants management roles at the Toronto Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, is a Board member of Red Sky Performance, and a past president/chair of the Toronto Arts Council, A Space Gallery, and the Toronto Book Awards. Karen attended Canada’s National Ballet School and OCAD University.

Administrative and Development Coordinator, Why Not Theatre
Karishma Bristy has an academic background in Studio Art (BA) and Philosophy (BA, MA), a research background in applied ethics, and a professional background in arts education and community engagement. As a conceptual artist, her work is frequently generated by her interests in feminist philosophy, language, and hermeneutics.

Co-Lead Producer, Mahabharata Tour
Kevin Matthew Wong (he/him) is a Hakka Chinese-Canadian theatre creator, performer, video designer and producer. Kevin is currently Senior Producer and Artistic Associate at Why Not Theatre. As a producer Kevin has led projects at some of Canada’s largest theatres including the Shaw Festival, Stratford Festival, National Arts Centre, Canadian Stage, and the Luminato Festival. Kevin’s solo performance The Chemical Valley Project has toured widely across Canada and to Germany. He is currently creating a new solo show entitled Benevolence that explores Hakka-Chinese history and this fall he will debut a short documentary at the Reel Asian International Film Festival.

Special Projects Manager, Why Not Theatre
Mary Anderson (she/her) has an academic background in Women’s and Gender Studies (BA, MA) and Photography (BFA). She has led and produced a variety of creative programming within Toronto’s arts and culture sector, and has exhibited her work in The Image Centre, The Orillia Museum of Art & History, The City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Star, and Demeter Press. Most recently, she completed a Certificate in Urban Agriculture at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Assistant Producer and Khana and Kahani Production Manager/Stage Manager 
​​Born and raised in Toronto, Maya has always been passionate about her city and its culture. Maya holds a BFA from Toronto Metropolitan University, in Performance Production and Design. Theatre credits include: Associate Production Manager/Technical Director, Loss (The Theatre Centre), Production Manager, Our Place, Three Ordinary Men (Cahoots Theatre Company), Production Manager, Beautiful Renegades (Peggy Baker Dance Projects), Associate Production Manager, Mahabharata, Mashup Pon Di Road (Why Not Theatre), Conservatory Coordinator, Conservatory - Digital Skills Edition (Volcano), Assistant Production Manager, The Events (Necessary Angel), and Assistant Production Manager, Pygmalion (Guild Festival Theatre).

Toronto Company Manager
Michelle is an artist, actor, and director. Theatre credits include: Des in Yerma (Coal Mine Theatre), Olga in Orphan’s for the Czar (Crow’s Theatre), Villager in Chitra (Shaw Festival and Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare BASH’d). Film/Television credits include: Drive (Live Portrait), Ruby and the Well (Shaftesbury), and The Handmaid’s Tale (Gilead 3 Prod). Directing credits include: The Hooves Belonged to the Deer (Tarragon Theatre), Dramaturg/Performer in The Trick to Walking Backwards by Aria Sharma (STRATFEST@Home), and Director of Twice Blessed (Workshop) by Marissa Orjalo. Upcoming: A Poem for Rabia by Nikki Shaffeeullah (Tarragon Theatre).

Co-Lead Producer, Mahabharata Tour
Michelle (she/her) is a Senior Producer at Why Not Theatre. She was born and raised in Treaty 13 Territory (Toronto), and trained as an arts producer in the schools, theatres and meeting places across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. She has worked with companies including Shakespeare’s Globe, Peut-Être Theatre, the National Arts Centre, Soulpepper Theatre, Steppenwolf, Jörgen Dance, Luminato, Outside the March and the Paprika Festival. Michelle holds a Masters in Arts Administration from Indiana University, a postgrad in digital marketing from University of the Arts London, and a B.A. in theatre from Queen’s University.

Stage Manager
Neha Ross is a Stage Manager currently working and residing in Tkaronto. Stage Manager credits include: Perceptual Archaeology (The Fire and Rescue Team with Crows Theatre), Mahabharata, Prince Hamlet, ICELAND (Why Not Theatre), Kamloopa, Bad Parent, Animal Farm, 27 Club, A Movable Feast: Paris in the 20s, A Very Soulpepper Christmas (Soulpepper), and Mixtape (Crow’s Theatre). Assistant Stage Manager credits include: Romeo and Juliet (Stratford Festival), Kim’s Convenience, Cowboy Versus Samurai (Soulpepper), Hallaj (Modern Times Stage), The Taste of Empire, The Madness of the Square (Cahoots Theatre), Lady in the Red Dress (fuGEN).

Assistant Sound Designer & Playback Operator
Olivia Wheeler is a mixed-race, Chinese Canadian sound designer and composer. Theatre credits include: Sound Designer for Armadillos (Factory Theatre), Between a Wok and a Hot Pot (Cahoots), It’ll Come to Me (Theatre SKAM), Associate Sound Designer/Composer for A Wrinkle in Time (Stratford Festival), Associate Sound Designer for Three Women of Swatow (Tarragon Theatre), Bad Parent (Soulpepper/vACT/PTE), Mahabharata (Why Not Theatre), Every Little Nookie, Hamlet-911, and 1939 (Stratford Festival), and Music Director and Composer for Julius Caesar and Two Gentlemen of Verona (Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival).

Head of Wardrobe
Rachel is an award-winning Canadian set and costume designer creating for theatre, dance, opera and film. Her designs have been seen on stages, sites and screens all across Canada. Rachel is particularly interested in the development of new works, interdisciplinary explorations, experimental creation methods and designer-led theatre projects. Her design work has primarily focused on the experiences of the African diaspora in North America and the Caribbean. Rachel serves on the board of directors for the Associated Designers of Canada’s national arts service organization as well as teaching and mentoring young in craft designers and students.

Finance Director, Why Not Theatre
Sarah Newkirk is the Finance Director at Why Not Theatre. Sarah completed her Master of Business Administration in Arts and Media at the Schulich School of Business in 1998, and has been bringing her financial skills to arts organisations for over 20 years. She thrives in creative environments and loves to be immersed in the cultural activities her work supports.

Assistant Stage Manager
Victoria Wang is a Toronto based stage manager, producer, arts manager and yoga instructor. She has worked with companies across Canada, including Native Earth, Soulpepper Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Aluna Theatre, Canadian Stage, Tarragon Theatre, the National Arts Centre, Segal Centre, SummerWorks, Buddies in Bad Times, Nuit Blanche and the Toronto International Film Festival. Victoria is also the founder of Memory Palace Project, a public art project that has appeared at the Toronto Fringe, Assembly Theatre, Long Winter, and the Art Apart Festival. Victoria is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the National Theatre School of Canada.

Marketing & Communications Manager, Why Not Theatre
Yvonne is a creative and strategic marketer and communicator who works in the nonprofit arts and wellness sectors. They have a passion for digital marketing and UX design, and they use their skills to craft engaging and impactful stories for their audiences. Besides their professional work, they are also an active and versatile artist and organizer who explores various forms of expression, such as DJing and sound healing. Their artistic vision is to create immersive and transformative experiences that connect community, multimedia, sound, and movement. Yvonne holds a combined honours B.A. in Multimedia and Theatre & Film from McMaster University.

Award-winning dance with a classical score

Spiritual, playful and mystical dance-theatre from choreographer Pam Tanowitz and Pulitzer prize-winning composer David Lang.

About Why Not Theatre

Why Not Theatre is an international theatre company based in Toronto, Canada, operating at the intersection of art, innovation and social change. Rooted in values of community and collaboration, Why Not challenges the status quo, rethinking how stories are told and who gets to tell them. Since its inception, the company has developed and produced 50+ new plays to critical and public acclaim. These works have toured to over 80 cities and garnered over 40 awards and nominations. Why Not is led by Founder and Co-Artistic Director, Ravi Jain, Executive Director, Karen Tisch, and Co-Artistic Director, Miriam Fernandes.

For Why Not Theatre

Co-Artistic Director/Founder Ravi Jain
Co-Artistic Director Miriam Fernandes
Executive Director Karen Tisch
Production and Technical Manager Crystal Lee
Senior Producer and Artistic Associate Kevin Matthew Wong
Senior Producer Michelle Yagi
Finance Director Sarah Newkirk
Senior Development Advisor Jessica Kamphorst 
Administrative and Development Coordinator Karishma Bristy 
Grantwriter Erin Brandenburg 
Marketing & Communications Manager Yvonne Lu-Trinh
Special Projects Manager Mary Anderson

Why Not Theatre Board of Directors
Upkar Arora, Co-Chair
Paul Nagpal, Co-Chair
Christine Achampong
Tamara Balan
Parmod Jain
Nan Oldroyd
Max Rosenfeld

A performer holds out their hands in front of them. The room is dark.

For the Barbican

Barbican Centre Board
Tom Sleigh
Deputy Chair
Sir William Russell
Deputy Chair
Tobi Ruth Adebekun

Board Members
Randall Anderson, Munsur Ali, Stephen Bediako OBE, Farmida Bi CBE, Tijs Broeke, Zulum Elumogo, Wendy Mead OBE, Mark Page, Alpa Raja, Jens Riegelsberger, Jane Roscoe, Irem Yerdelen, Despina Tsatsas, Michael Asante MBE

Clerk to the Board
Kate Doidge and Ben Dunleavy

Barbican Centre Trust
Farmida Bi CBE
Vice Chair
Robert Glick OBE

Farmida Bi CBE, Tom Bloxham MBE, Stephanie Camu, Tony Chambers, Cas Donald, Robert Glick OBE, David Kapur, Ann Kenrick, Kendall Langford, Sir William Russell, Tom Sleigh, Claire Spencer AM, Sian Westerman

Chief Executive Officer
Claire Spencer
Artistic Director
Will Gompertz
Director of Development
Natasha Harris
Director of People, Inclusion and Culture
Ali Mirza
Head of Finance & Business Administration
Sarah Wall
Senior Executive Assistant to Claire Spencer and Will Gompertz
Jo Daly

Theatre Department
Head of Theatre and Dance
Toni Racklin
Senior Production Manager
Simon Bourne
Liz Eddy, Jill Shelley, Fiona Stewart
Assistant Producers
Saxon Mudge, Mali Siloko, Bridget Thornborrow
Production Managers
Jamie Maisey, Lee Tasker
Technical Managers
Steve Daly, Jane Dickerson, Nik Kennedy, Martin Morgan, Stevie Porter
Stage Managers
Lucinda Hamlin, Charlotte Oliver
Technical Supervisors
James Breedon, John Gilroy, Jamie Massey, Matt Nelson, Adam Parrott, Lawrence Sills, Chris Wilby
PA to Head of Theatre
David Green

Production Administrator
Caroline Hall
Production Assistant
Michaela Harcegová
Kendell Foster, Burcham Johnson, David Kennard, Bartek Kuta, Christian Lyons, Josh Massey, Fred Riding
Stage Door
Julian Fox, aLbi Gravener

Creative Collaboration and Learning
Head of Creative Collaboration
Karena Johnson
Lauren Brown
Assistant Producer
Rikky Onefeli

Marketing Department
Head of Marketing
Jackie Ellis
Deputy Head of Marketing
Ben Jefferies
Marketing Manager
Kyle Bradshaw
Marketing Assistant
Rebecca Moore

Communications Department
Head of Communications
James Tringham
Senior Communications Manager
Ariane Oiticica
Communications Manager
Communications Assistant
Sumayyah Sheikh

Audience Experience
Deputy Head of Audience Experience & Operations
Sheree Miller
Ticket Sales Managers
Lucy Allen, Oliver Robinson, Ben Skinner, Jane Thomas
Operations Managers
Seán Carter,  Rob Norris, Elizabeth Davies-Sadd, Samantha Teatheredge, Hayley Zwolinska
Operations Manager (Health & Safety)
Mo Reideman
Audience Event & Planning Manager
Freda Pouflis
Venue Managers
Scott Davies, Tilly Devine, Tabitha Goble, Nicola Lake, Maria Pateli

Assistant Venue Managers
Rhiannon Brennan, Melissa Olcese, Daniel Young
Crew Management
Dave Magwood, Rob Magwood, James Towell
Access and Licensing Manager
Rebecca Oliver
Security Operations Manager
Naqash Sheikh

Theatre & Dance Autumn 2023

Discover the captivating theatre and dance events taking place at the Barbican this autumn.

Barbican: with thanks

The Barbican is London's creative catalyst for arts, curiosity and enterprise. We spark creative possibilities and transformation for artists, audiences and communities – to inspire, connect, and provoke debate. 

We're committed to making a difference locally, nationally and internationally by showcasing some of the most inspiring and visionary work by artists and communities. We're not-for-profit. Each year we need to raise 65% of our income through fundraising, ticket sales, and commercial activities. Our supporters play a vital role in keeping our programme accessible to everyone, which includes our work with local schools; development opportunities for emerging creatives; and access to discounted and subsided tickets. 

Barbican supporters enjoy behind the scenes access across the centre and see first-hand what their gift enables through enhanced priority booking, as well as access to tickets for sold-out performances and exclusive events. For more information please visit or contact [email protected].


With thanks...

Founder and principal funder
The City of London Corporation

Major Supporters
Arts Council England
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch)
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
SHM Foundation
Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement
The Terra Foundation for American Art

Leading Supporters
Trevor Fenwick and Jane Hindley
Marcus Margulies

Programme Supporters
Marie-Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (Spirit Now London)
Sayeh Ghanbari
Goodman Gallery
Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery
Elizabeth and J Jeffry Louis
Pat and Pierre Maugüé 
Hugh Monk
Romilly Walton Masters Award
Jack Shainman Gallery
The Rudge Shipley Charitable Trust

Director’s Circle
Anonymous (1)
James and Louise Arnell
Farmida Bi CBE
Jo and Tom Bloxham MBE
Philippe and Stephanie Camu
Cas Donald
Alex and Elena Gerko
Trevor Fenwick and Jane Hindley
Sian and Matthew Westerman

Corporate Supporters
Bank of America
Bolt Burdon Kemp
Google Arts & Culture
Linklaters LLP
Norton Rose Fulbright
Osborne Clarke
Pinsent Masons
Standard Chartered
Slaughter and May
Vestiaire Collective

Trusts & Grantmakers
The Austin and Hope Pilkington Charitable Trust
Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne
Art Fund
Bagri Foundation
CHK Foundation
Cockayne – Grants for the Arts
Fluxus Art Projects
John S Cohen Foundation
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Goethe-Institut London
Helen Frankenthaler Foundation
High Commission of Canada in The United Kingdom
Italian Cultural Institute in London
Korean Cultural Centre UK
Kusuma Trust UK
London Community Foundation
Mactaggart Third Fund
Maria Björnson Memorial Fund
Peter Sowerby Foundation
The Polonsky Foundation
Rix-Thompson-Rothenberg Foundation
SAHA Association
Swiss Cultural Fund
U.S. Embassy London

We also want to thank the Barbican Patrons, members, and the many thousands who made a donation when purchasing tickets. 

The Barbican Centre Trust Ltd, registered charity no. 294282