2021/2022 Season Announcements

Welcome Joelle Peters and Himanshu Sitlani as Native Earth’s New Leadership

Photo of leadership

Announcing our new Interim Artistic Director Joelle Peters and Managing Director Himanshu Sitlani.

As Native Earth Performing Arts begins its 40th year, the Board of Directors announces the appointments of Joelle Peters as Interim Artistic Director and Himanshu Sitlani as Managing Director. We are delighted to welcome them to Native Earth and believe that they will bring vision, leadership, and energy to carry the company forward.

Joelle Peters is an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and Miami performer and playwright from Walpole Island First Nation, Bkejwanong Territory in southwestern Ontario. She studied Acting for Camera and Voice at Seneca College in Toronto and has performed across Canada at festivals and theatres. Joelle received the 2020 Siminovitch Protégé Playwright prize, and her new play Niizh had already been scheduled for Native Earth’s 2022-23 season. The play was written during her time with Native Earth’s Animikiig Creator’s Unit. She also co-wrote the award-winning play, Frozen River with Michaela Washburn and Carrie Costello, which premiered at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People in February 2022.  Most recently, her work has expanded to include dramaturgy and directing. Joelle is committed to building on the company’s vision, values, and history, honouring the past while bringing new energy and innovation as the company moves into its next decade.

Himanshu Sitlani has been Patron Services Manager at Toronto’s Factory Theatre since 2018. He developed innovative processes for sustaining patron engagement during the pandemic. Prior to moving to Canada, he had extensive experience in multiple administrative and creative roles in theatre in Mumbai, India. In 2019, he co-founded Nautanki Bazaar Productions, which focuses on arts and artists from the South Asian diaspora and has had two successful productions that used active outreach to draw audiences who do not typically attend theatre in Toronto. Himanshu is committed to advancing IBPOC representation in theatre and to deepening engagement with Indigenous communities. Throughout his career, Himanshu has combined the skills gained through his degree in commerce and accounting with his passion for all aspects of theatre. 

Both directors will be supported by a circle of Indigenous and theatre artists and mentors as they take on these new roles. The Board of Directors looks forward to supporting these two talented young professionals.

This is a time of exciting opportunities for Indigenous art and artists. Through these appointments and a celebratory season ahead of us, Native Earth looks forward to sustaining and expanding our relationships with the Indigenous and theatre communities across Canada and beyond as we move into our fifth decade honouring our Indigenous heritage, sharing our stories, and shaping the future.

“Kwey Kwey all, as the Medicine Wheel teaches us that human beings are continuously growing and evolving along our spiritual path, Native Earth Performing Arts is also growing and evolving. I am extremely excited to welcome Joelle Peters and Himanshu Sitlani as they join Native Earth on our path forward.

I also would like to say chi miigwetch to Isaac and Keith for all of their talents and leadership they shared with Native Earth. It was an honour to walk with you.

Chi miigwetch/Thank you.”
– Bob Whiteduck Crawford, President of the Board

“Native Earth has always been a home for developing new artistic leaders. Many talented people have contributed to our story. The company’s history of supporting developing artists and administrators remains a testament to its values. It is time again to add new voices and a fresh perspective. 

There are many components to being a successful Managing or Artistic Director. However strong the preparation, a lot of learning happens on the job. It can be relentless, ever-changing, and at times heartbreaking, but it is always an honour, a privilege and certainly rewarding.

We step away from our roles with the knowledge that the future is brighter than it has ever been for the company in the hands of our new leadership team. We will continue to be invested in the success of the company by supporting them wholeheartedly. It is with overwhelming joy that we pass on the bundle to the incoming Interim Artistic Director, Joelle Peters, and Managing Director, Himanshu Sitlani. 

May the path be easy, and the laughter in abundance. 

All our relations.”
– Keith Barker & Isaac Thomas
  Outgoing Artistic & Managing Director

“I am so thrilled and honoured to be named Native Earth’s interim artistic director. 

It has been such a gift to witness Keith and Isaac’s leadership, and I am grateful for the teachings they have given me over the past few years. 

Native Earth has been instrumental to the growth of my career as an Indigenous artist. 

From play workshops to apprentice director opportunities, the connections and relationships I have made at Native Earth have opened many doors for me. I am excited to give back by creating opportunities and support for others.

It blows my mind to think about all the incredible artists that have worked with us over the years; to think about the plays that had their first audiences or workshops in Aki Studio. 

I am eager to support and see what is still to come.

I look forward to working alongside our new Managing Director, Himanshu Sitlani, as well as the staff, the Board of Directors, and the community towards our 40th season and the next decade.

– Joelle Peters, Incoming Interim Artistic Director

“It is truly a privilege to be appointed the Managing Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. I am extremely humbled and also excited for the challenge ahead!

After I immigrated to Canada, I witnessed groundbreaking work by artists such as Jani Lauzon and Yolanda Bonnell that gave me a better understanding of Indigenous voices and the spaces culturally specific art can create. These experiences encouraged me to continue supporting and advocating for different voices on stage.

I hope to continue the work done by Keith, Isaac, and many others, past and present, at Native Earth.

I would like to thank the Board for choosing me to be a part of their vision of the future. I am elated to be working alongside them, the staff and particularly  Joelle Peters, our new Interim Artistic Director.”
– Himanshu Sitlani, Incoming Managing Director

2021/2022 Season Announcements

Isaac Thomas Departs as Managing Director

After almost a decade, the Board of Directors announces today that our outstanding Managing Director, Isaac Thomas, will be leaving Native Earth (and Toronto) for a new challenge.

“It is with sadness and gratitude that the Board of Directors announces the departure of Isaac Thomas, who has served as the Managing Director of Native Earth Performing Arts since 2012. Isaac will be leaving the company to pursue a new endeavour, and we thank him for his leadership and commitment to supporting Indigenous theatre.
Isaac held this role during a period of growth and stability for Native Earth, which has included landmark productions, new theatrical collaborations and the establishment of Aki Studio, which has evolved into a community space for IBPOC artists and organizations. Isaac has brought steady and focused leadership to Native Earth, allowing our company to support more Indigenous artists and productions than ever before in our history. During the pandemic, Isaac co-led (with Artistic Director Keith Barker) a transition focused on developing new work and ensuring the well-being of the Indigenous theatre community.

We will miss Isaac at Native Earth, and we thank him for creating solid footing for the next leader who will guide our company into a new decade of growth and artistic exploration.”

– Native Earth’s Board of Directors

“Native Earth is at an exciting moment of transition. We are uniquely poised for a well-deserved period of expansion and growth. Native Earth remains a critical voice in the country telling and developing Indigenous stories. Aki Studio is much in demand by IBPOC, indie, and youth-led organizations and collectives. And we are financially very stable. It is a time for new leadership to build on these strengths and carve the next chapter of this organization.

My time at Native Earth has been pivotal in shaping me and I remain committed to the ongoing welfare of this company. I will be available to staff and leadership through the first few months of the transition. I am deeply grateful to the board, staff, and artistic community who have guided my journey along the way.

My new appointment will be announced shortly, and I look forward to working with another great team and board.”

Isaac Thomas, Outgoing Managing Director

2021/2022 Season

Where the Blood Mixes

2021/2022 Season


2021/2022 Season Announcements

Keith Barker Departs as Artistic Director

After five years, Keith Barker departs from Native Earth Performing Arts for his next adventure in his artistic journey.

“It is with bittersweet feelings that the Board of Directors of Native Earth Performing Arts announces that Keith Barker, who has been our Artistic Director since 2017, will be leaving the company and moving on to another exciting opportunity in Canadian theatre. We are delighted for Keith and wish him well in the endeavours that lie ahead.

We are grateful to Keith for his many contributions to Native Earth during his time as our Artistic Director. The company has grown, expanding the range of our offerings and becoming even more deeply connected with other theatre companies in Toronto, across the country, and internationally.  We especially want to acknowledge Keith’s leadership through the pandemic, as we continue to support Indigenous artists in the development of new work and emerge from this time in a sound position artistically and organizationally.

We will miss Keith at Native Earth but we look forward to applauding his achievements in his new roles. We will all be continuing to work together to advance Indigenous arts and artists in Canadian theatre and internationally.” – Native Earth’s Board of Directors

“It is with sadness that we say Majasin/we will see you to Keith as he leaves Native Earth’s path to continue forward on his. It has been a gift to have had Keith as our Artistic Director. Since 2017, his clear artistic vision, passion/compassion for the art and artists has certainly had a wonderful impact on Native Earth.

We will miss you, my Algonquin Nephew! Manàdjìyàn/with respect.”
Bob Whiteduck Crawford, President of the Board

“Native Earth has never been about one person’s vision. The impressive list of former artistic leaders has created an eclectic body of work that cannot be defined by a singular artistic vision. So it is, and so it should remain. It is time for a new voice.

With heartfelt gratitude to the staff, the board, the artists, our allies, and our communities, it is my time to step down in my role as Artistic Director at Native Earth.

Native Earth is fortunate to find itself in a positive position, both financially and artistically, despite the struggles of the pandemic. With exciting projects and artists on the horizon, Native Earth continues to be the premiere Indigenous Theatre company in the Country. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to serve Indigenous artists and their work in my role as Artistic Director. I look forward to supporting this next chapter of the Company.

All My Relations.”
Keith Barker, Outgoing Artistic Director