2021/2022 Confluence Fellow

Berend McKenzie

What is Confluence?

Our 2022/23 Fellow Will be Announced Soon! 

Confluence is a season-long creative fellowship for Edmonton-based, IBPOC artists. This creative fellowship will be offered by Catalyst for the forseeable future, with a new artist/artistic team selected each season.

Confluence offers a fee of $20,000, rehearsal space, mentorship and various other in-kind components aimed to support the specific artist and their process. It is designed for IBPOC artists interested in developing new work and/or working outside of traditional theatre models. Catalyst hopes to support, inspire and elevate the work of an IBPOC artist/artistic team while creating an opportunity to evolve their practice, hone their work, augment their creative and administrative skills and expand their professional networks.

Catalyst Theatre is mandated to create original Canadian work that explores new possibilities for the theatrical art form and the process through which it is created. In the spring of 2019, with this mandate in mind, Catalyst began examining all aspects of our organization with a focus on what we could do to ensure that our company was a safe and inclusive place, and what actions we could take to meaningfully support and elevate the work of under-represented artists. As part of this process we identified a shared desire to make space for IBPOC artists who have similar dreams of creating their own work in their own way. This led to the creation of Confluence. Our hope is that, over the coming years, Confluence will play a role in evolving the landscape of Edmonton’s theatre ecology and have a meaningful impact on the creative journeys of future creative leaders who identify as IBPOC.

The 2021/2022 Confluence fellow was chosen by a selection panel that included: Nadien Chu, Jonathan Christenson, Patricia Darbasie, Jessica Glover, Lana Michelle Hughes, and Kenneth T. Williams.

The opinions expressed by the Confluence Fellow are their own. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Catalyst Theatre, its staff or its board.

Past Confluence Artists

Tia Ashley Kushniruk is a Queer Woman of Chinese-Eastern European settler heritage from the Treaty 6 Territory of Edmonton AB. Since 2013 she has been affiliated with the Cirque Du Soleil and is a frequent collaborator of Jake W. Hastey for Toy Guns Dance Theatre (Edmonton). She graduated from The School of Toronto Dance Theatre (STDT) in 2017, receiving the Kathryn Ash Scholarship in 2016.

b/d/a OR The Race Play OR ‘I can’t believe I did a racism! (In my head)’ is a Physical-theatre Play co-written by Tia Ashley Kushniruk, Shammy (Shamsa) Belmore, Jocelyn Mah, and Clarke Blair.

This work follows three characters in a perfect sitcom world solving a problem with rent when the actors begin switching roles and ultimately reveal the racial biases underneath each said character, and between each other, culminating in a posed question to the audience – “What would you do?”

FOR MORE ABOUT TIA  – https://www.tiaakushnir.uk/

Our 2022/23 Fellow Will be Announced Soon! 


Current Confluence Artistic Fellow, Berend McKenzie.

The Catalyst staff along with our panelists, Nadien Chu, Patricia Darbasie, and Kenneth T. Williams were impressed by Berend’s articulation of their process, their passion, drive, and history of creating new work. We were inspired by their desire to commit to outreach activities throughout their fellowship, were moved by their vulnerability, and heartened by their deep commitment to their artistic practice. The Catalyst team is excited to build our relationship with Berend and participate in their creation process, while assisting them throughout their journey as an artist, producer, and mentor.


Berend McKenzie (he/she/they interchangeably) is a Treaty 6 Edmonton Alberta, Canada based, award-winning playwright, producer, actor, screenwriter, and published author. They are known for their unflinching, first-person writing style drawing from their own lived experiences as a mixed-race, queer Canadian. They tackle sensitive topics like homophobia and racism while imbuing characters with heart-wrenching honesty and humour.

Berend began writing short plays in 2004 for the Loud & Queer Festival in Edmonton, Alberta, including Fashion Police, Meet the Munts, Bloodbath at St. Paul’s, and Tassels. These pieces led to their first full-length play, the outrageous, award-winning queer puppet show for adults, Get Off the Cross Mary! In 2009, Berend embarked on their most ambitious work to date and premiered the groundbreaking one-person show for young people, NGGRFG (Would you say the name of this play?) Performing in schools, festivals, and theatres across Canada including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland.

Berend’s stage-acting credits include Poor Superman (The Arts Club Theatre), The Tempest (Leave it to Jane Theatre), The Coronation Voyage (The Vancouver Playhouse/NAC) and Beyond Therapy (Husky Guy Productions), where they won the People’s Choice Award for best actress at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival. His film and TV acting credits include Life or Something Like It (Angelina Jolie), Andromeda, Connie and Carla (Nia Vardalos), Jeremiah and opposite Halle Berry in Catwoman.

Their published works include NGGRFG (Signature Editions), Tassels (Brindle & Glass), Hockey Night in Canada (Arsenal Pulp Press).

They are a 2021 inductee into the Writer’s Guild of Alberta’s Mentorship Program where they began writing their auto-fiction novel, Adopted. Berend is thrilled to be named as a 2021 cohort in the inaugural year of Warner Media X Global Access Academy’s Writers Program and has recently completed a children’s television script for the Emmy award winning Lopii Productions.

Check out Liz’s Nicholls’ profile on Berend! 

A Message From The Artist

“I am thrilled to be the 2021-22 recipient of the Catalyst Theatre’s Confluence Fellowship and look forward to learning how to write a musical from one of the world’s renowned musical theatre companies.

Representation is more vital than ever as the world wakes up to the disparities BIPOC people face in every facet of our society. But, how can we rise and be lifted into spaces and opportunities once meant only for the privileged if we can’t get our foot in the door?

Initiatives like The Confluence Fellowship, which provide space and opportunity to less visible BIPOC creators, are an excellent first step in giving people who live in the margins of life the ability to shine in the centre of the stage.

Black Lives are already starting to matter just a little less than they did after the horrific death of George Floyd in 2020, and it is incumbent upon all of us to make sure the doors of opportunity remain open to everyone who enters. Thank you, Catalyst Theatre, for doing your part. 

One of my mandates for this season will be to reach out to young BIPOC creators, engage them in dialogue and encourage them to find their voices.”


“The project I will be working on with Jonathan and the Catalyst team is a musical called, In the Center.

Inspired by real people and events, In The Center is the story of Eduardo, an ill, clean and sober, ex-drag queen and landed immigrant from Mexico who’s admitted into a support home for people living with AIDS-related illnesses. Eduardo meets a crusty, no-nonsense nurse named Peter, who challenges Eduardo’s perceptions of life while forcing him to face his mortality.

I am so grateful for this opportunity!”

You can see Berend’s latest blog post about their experience so far here.


Berend has started a video interview series called Meet A BIPOC Creator where he gets to know local creators and chats about the theatre world and beyond. You can see the videos in the Confluence Blog, or on our Youtube Page!