We are excited to announce that playwright Zahida Rahemtulla will join PTC for the inaugural New Play in Development Prize.

Zahida’s play, The Frontliners, will receive dramaturgy and production mentorship from Davey Calderon (Dramaturg, Public Engagement), and support towards the production of her play in 2022. More immediately, she has received a spot in this year’s rEvolver Festival for a reading of The Frontliners in partnership with PTC and Silk Road Institute. We believe the extended timeline will allow for a more sustainable development model for both the play and Zahida as we transition out of the pandemic.

Here are some words from Zahida:

“I’m so excited to be working with Davey and the team at PTC. Like so many playwrights, PTC has been a meaningful place for my work and I can’t wait to see this play grow with Davey and the amazing team here leading up to 2022.

The Frontliners synopsis:
It is late January 2016 and Canada is in the throes of resettling the first wave of 25,000 Syrian refugees. As three frontline workers battle Vancouver’s housing crisis to move families out of an East Van hotel, their lives are brought together in ways that irreversibly shape them.

Workshop Production Artistic and Production Team: 

Playwright: Zahida Rahemtulla

Director: Tanya Mathivanan

Dramaturg: Davey Samuel Calderon

Producers: Alexander Zonjic, Zahida Rahemtulla & Maria Zarrillo

Cast: Mehr Chahine,  Francis Dowlatabadi, Adrian Neblett

Understudies: Amir Zeino, Nikki Chohan

Original Oud Composition and Music: Farouk Alsajee and Ruby Singh

Sound Design: Ruby Singh

Props and Set Design: Megan Lane

Lighting and Technical Direction: Jamie Sweeney

Stage Manager: Olivia Etey

Assistant Stage Manager: Emily Willcox

PR Coordinator: Maraya Franca

Cultural Consultants: Oussayma Canbarieh, Akberet Seyoum Beyene, Mohamed Hatem Alsedawe, Majd Agha, Farouk Alsajee

Presented by Vancouver Fringe Festival. In association with PTC.

Special Thanks:

The Frontliners team owe a special thanks to Bonnnie Mah and our matching campaign donors for making this project possible!

This play is supported by Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council.

The first draft of this play was written at the inaugural Arts Club Emerging Playwrights’ Unit in 2019.

The Silk Road Institute (Montreal) has been a key collaborative partner and support for The Frontliners.

In addition, The Frontliners team gratefully acknowledges the following people and institutions in the development of this play:

Heidi Taylor, Carmen Aguirre, Stephen Drover, Ashlie Corcoran, Mohamed Shaheen, Company Theatre, Mercedeh Baroq, Joanna Garfinkel, Kit McKeown, Melanie Yeats, Xin Xuan Song, Wet Ink Collective, Liesl Lafferty, Bronwyn Carradine, Mily Mumford, Scott Button, Wuchien Michael Than Foundation, Olivia Etey, Catherine Coray, Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity, rEvolver Theatre Festival and Presentation House Theatre.


Zahida Rahemtulla (Playwright / Producer) is a playwright and short story writer. She studied Literature and Arab Crossroads Studies at NYU Abu Dhabi and currently lives in Toronto. Her debut plays, The Wrong Bashir, and The Frontliners, will premiere on stage next year. Her plays have received the 2021 Playwrights Guild of Canada RBC Emerging Playwright Award, Theatre BC’s Play of Special Merit Award, and runner-up for the 2021 national Voaden Literary Prize. Her first play, The Wrong Bashir will premiere on stage in March 2023 with Touchstone Theatre at Vancouver’s Firehall theatre. Her stories have been shortlisted for the Alice Munro award and long-listed for the CBC short story prize. She is grateful to audiences for coming to see this workshop production of The Frontliners and for supporting the play’s development. 

Tanya Mathivanan (Director) is a Singapore-born Director, Producer, Stage Manager, and Founder/Artistic Director of Aenigma Theatre. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Double Honours BA in Theatre and English Literature in 2013, and is due to graduate with an MFA in Directing in 2022 (UBC). Selected Directing credits include The Turn of The Screw, The How and the Why, VIVA, COPENHAGEN, Dying City, RED, Blackbird, The Zoo Story, No Exit (Aenigma Theatre), Coriolanus (UBC Theatre), Cost of Living (Assistant Director- Arts Club), We Will Rock You (Assistant Director- TUTS).

Davey Samuel Calderon (Dramaturg / Production Mentor, He/They) is a dramaturg, director, curator, playwright, producer, drag artist and settler on the unceded territories of  hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. He is the Co-Founder of New(to)Town Collective, an emerging theatre collective and Dramaturg, Public Engagement at Playwrights Theatre Centre. Currently dramaturg for It Lives in My Bedroom by Mily Mumford, Before They Cut Down Our Tree by Jenna Masuhara, The Parallel Project by 180 Momentum Collective and of course, The Frontliners by Zahida Rahemutlla (PTC New Play Prize in Development winner). Known for creator of Big Queer Filipino Karaoke Night! and Deep Fried: A Pinoy Musical!

Francis Dowlatabadi (Omar) is a Persian-Canadian artist dedicated to work that gives voice to unheard stories and attempts to uplift humanity. Francis’ previous credits as a playwright include An Empty Home (rEvolver Festival), The Parallels Project (Momentum 180), and My Roommate Ahriman (Rumble Theatre). Selected credits as an actor include The Biliomancer/Alex in The Bibliomancer (Ruby Slippers Theatre), Omar in The Frontliners (rEvolver Festival), and Capitano in Love, Lust, and Lace (Gas Pedal Productions) He holds a BFA in Acting from UBC where he was awarded the John Emerson Memorial Scholarship for promise in musical theatre.

Adrian Neblett (Yusuf ) was born in Montreal, Québec, and studied Computer Engineering at the University of Manitoba, where a sign on a telephone pole seeking “African American” background performers reignited his passion for make believe. A local casting director, at a subsequent audition complimented his instincts, triggering a decades long pursuit for the truth of each moment. TV: Wendy Williams: The Movie, Snowpiercer, The Flash, Supernatural, and others. Stage: Of Mice and Men (Hardline), Ruined, Deep into Darkness (Third Wheel), The Shipment (Speakeasy) Reframed (Electric Company Theatre) and more. IG/Twitter:@ebonyskygod 

Mehr Chahine (Nadia) is an actor. She has studied in Vancouver and New York City and has been part of some films and some plays. Her favourite project is whatever she’s working on at the moment! She’s friends with a mostly kind natured cat who gives her good ideas and helps her research roles. mehransari.com is her website.

Alexander Steele Zonjic (Producer) Born and proudly raised in the Rose City of Windsor, Ontario, Alexander Steele Zonjic is an emerging artist and graduate of the Ryerson Theatre School. The recipient of the 12th ever Louis Taube Memorial Award, Alexander has studied and performed abroad in London, England with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Grozjnan, Croatia with Michael Chekhov Europe and at the Gaulier School in France. As a playwright, Alexander is the recipient of the Robert Beardsley Award for Young Emerging Playwrights from Playwright’s Guild of Canada and the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto for his debut play ENOLA_GAY. Recently relocated to Vancouver, Alexander continues to act for stage and screen and also works as a freelance producer, hoping to bring new works and even newer audiences to the theatre.

Maria Zarrillo (Producer, they/them) is a queer, non-binary, Vancouver-based arts manager with a background in producing, stage management, mentorship, event organizing, advocacy, marketing, publicity, and audience services. They have worked with a variety of companies and communities in these capacities both locally and nationally. In addition to their freelance career, Maria was Urban Ink’s Producer, Playwright Theatre Centre’s Digital Producer, and is currently the Interim Producer with the frank theatre company and Associate Producer with Zee Zee Theatre. Maria is a graduate of Studio 58’s production program, the University of Winnipeg with a major in Theatre & Film and a minor in Human Rights, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Justice Studies at Royal Roads University.

Olivia Etey (Stage Manager) is a playwright, stage manager and the creator of the Or Festival (www.orfestival.com). She graduated from UBC with a double major in Creative Writing and English Honours. Her most recent stage-managing credits include: The Or Festival 3 (2022) and Spinning You Home (2021). Her produced plays include: Foreplay (2015), her musical: The Midnight Serenade (2015), The Hoarder (2016) and Living on The Grid (2017). Olivia’s play Woman Against Gravity (2021) was showcased in the Stage One Festival of New Canadian Work at the Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary. This fall, you may catch Olivia’s Jukebox Opera, Forever Hold Your Peace (Opera Unbound) at The Moberly Arts Centre on Nov 25th and 26th.  Olivia is grateful beyond comprehension to be working on The Frontliners  – under Tanya’s masterful direction – as Olivia is an outrageous advocate of everything and anything Zahida Rahemtulla creates. Olivia hopes you can attend this powerful show! Thank you.

Emily Wilcox (Assistant Stage Manager) is excited to be working as an Assistant Stage Manager for The Frontliners. Past stage management credits include: Polar Opposites (Burnaby Arts Council, 2022), The Next Colour Blue (Phoenix Theatre, 2020), Two Gentlemen of Verona and Julius Caesar (Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival, 2019), and she is currently working on Courage Now (Firehall Arts Centre, 2022). Emily is a graduate of the University of Victoria with a BFA majoring in Theatre. 

Jamie Sweeney (Technical Director / Lighting Designer) is a lighting designer, technical director, production manager and theatre maker working on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. She received her BFA in Theatre Production and Design as well as Performance from SFU’s School of Contemporary Arts. 

Selected Credits include: Peace Country (rice & beans), Selfie (FOLDA / rice & beans), Migration (Fight with a Stick), Palimpsest (Pacific Theatre).

Christian Ching (Assistant Technical Director) is an emerging producer, lighting designer, and scenographer with an interest in design and biological systems. He is a graduate of Simon Fraser University (2021) with a double degree in Theatre Production and Design and in the Biological Sciences. Originally from the Philippines, he is currently based in the unceded Coast Salish territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations (also known as Vancouver) and works in theatre, dance, and interdisciplinary work. His practice aims to revolve around collaboration and the consideration of ecological aspects of design. In his free time, he likes to run RPGs, draw, and make music.

Megan Lane (Set and Prop Designer) is an interdisciplinary artist based in the Vancouver area with experience in theatre as a technician, a designer, a performer, and as a puppet maker and puppeteer.  Megan graduated from the Stagecraft and Event Technology program at Douglas College in 2019, and is now at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts in pursuit of her degree in Theatre Production and Design.  Currently, she is exploring subjects such as design led creation in performance, devised theatre, tactility within contemporary performance, the intersection between design and performance, interdisciplinarity, and non hierarchical collaboration.  As she moves forward in her artistic journey, Megan is excited to explore all that is to be learned and discovered within the lifelong practice of creativity.

Megan is grateful to be living, learning, working, and creating on unceded sc̓əwaθenaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsawwassen), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), Kwantlen, Stz’uminus, šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmaɁɬ təməxʷ (Musqueam), səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ  (Tsleil-Waututh), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) territory

Ruby Singh (Sound Designer / Co-Composer) is a multi award winning composer and producer residing on the unceded territories of  the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh Nations (Vancouver BC.). His creativity crosses the boundaries of music, poetry, photography and film engaging with mythos, memory, justice and fantasy. Singh is an artist whose work is informed by sound found all around us, from the whirling planets and stars of distant galaxies to percussion of an umbrella under coastal rains, to the perpetual moving birdsong of the dawn chorus, constantly circling the globe. The richly imaginative visual textures to his sound design have found kinship in the theatre, film and dance worlds, where he has been celebrated by multiple Jessie and Leo award nominations. His distinct approach uses traditional and emergent sonic practices to create compositions that express the vast spectrum of the human experience. Singh’s artistic impulses gravitate in many directions, in 2022 he received the Lieutenant Governor’s Jubilee Award for excellence in art and music. His previous works range from ambient audio-visual worlds of the Polyphonic Garden to Jhalaak, a Sufi hip hop album made alongside Manganiyar musicians recorded in the clay huts of the Thar desert in Rajasthan India, reinterpreting 13th century Sufi poetry. His most recent offerings include: Vox.infold, an a cappella project bringing together the sounds of Inuit, Indigenous, Black and South Asian voices, has been met with critical acclaim and The Future Ancestors a blues and soul infused live hip hop project. Singh believes in art’s ability to reimagine futures, to repurpose aesthetic freedoms toward civil and environmental justice. Instagram: @rubysingh_

Farouk Al-Sajee (Co-Composer) is a Canadian of Iraqi descent singer, composer and software engineer whose songs and compositions have gained over 2 million listens and he entertains an eager and big social media fanbase. He is also the founder and director of MaysoonMusic, a full-scale music production and record label that has over 200k subscribers on youtube and over 46 million listens. The channel relicences popular music as well as features emerging artists. He takes pride in showcasing many new talents through MaysoonMusic’s production, composition and distribution specializing in non-mainstream and non-western music.

Farouk has composed for film, theater, artists, as well as worked with many top-tier musicians both in Canada and internationally. His latest album was partially produced by the international Emerati singer Fayez El-Sayeed’s  studios in Dubai. Two of the album’s latest singles have gained over 50k listens in just one week. His upcoming album is going to be showcased alongside Wasakakas latin band at the Cultch theater on Oct 1st.

Akberet Beyene (Cultural Consultant) grew up in Eritrea during the 30-year Eritrean- Ethiopian war. She achieved a Diploma in Mass Communication from the University of Asmara and worked for almost 20 years for the national TV station, becoming well-known for her writing and production of documentaries about social, political and health issues of women and youth. When the dictatorship relentlessly persecuted journalists, threatening her life, she fled to Canada in 2011. In 2019, after years of adjustment and suffering from PTSD, Akberet became a proud Canadian, deeply grateful for life and the support and opportunities in Canada.

Majd Agha (Cultural Consultant) is a Syrian Immigrant who landed in Vancouver in 2014 under the conservative government. He is a Business Graduate. Majd worked with ISSofBC for 3 years as a RAP worker and later changed his position to Case Worker. He is currently a Sales Manager in Vancouver.

Gulalai Habib (Community Consultant) has worked with displaced populations in Canada and abroad for over 25 years,  Gulalai Habib was a former Program Officer with United Nations Development Program (UNDP); experienced in community centered engagement in Central/South Asian regions; and involved with grassroots women’s mobilization and community organizing among displaced populations. Since coming to Canada as an Afghan refugee, she worked for over fourteen years with the Resettlement Assistance Program of ISSofBC, with direct oversight of the Syrian operation, and intimate involvement in the broader restructuring of Settlement sector spaces to include the lived expertise of refugee/migrant professionals. She went on in this capacity to cultivate a community-centred settlement vision, and currently serves as the Director of Settlement and Integration Programs at Burnaby Neighbourhood House; and sit on the Board of Directors of the national Women’s Economic Council.

Oussayma Canbarieh (Cultural Consultant) is an award-winning Canadian journalist based in Montreal.  She has produced hundreds of pieces for radio, TV, and the web. Oussayma worked on a wide range of subjects from Canada, the US, the Middle East, North Africa, East Asia and South East Asia. Oussayma has also produced several TV series and Web documentaries. Her work has been featured on national and international media outlets, including CBC/Radio-Canada, Radio Canada International, CBC.CA, Al Jazeera, AP, Deutsche Welle Radio, Huffington Post, AJ+, Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development, SNTV, Bell Local, Châtelaine, Les Affaires, the Montreal Gazette and CUTV.  She also trained and mentored journalism students and aspiring media makers. Oussayma has been awarded the Lys de la Diversité Prize for web-journalism in 2013. She’s also the recipient of LOJIQ journalism bursary.  Oussayma has also been nominated for one of CBC/Radio-Canada President’s award in 2012 for her web-documentary. Oussayma studied Business and Journalism at Concordia University, she’s travelled to more than 40 countries and also works as an interpreter in English, French, Arabic and Spanish.