Cast and Creative Team
Michelle Tocher (Playwright) for over two decades, has been writing books and telling poignant stories with mythic dimensions, often from a woman’s perspective. She is author of a number of celebrated books, including How to Ride a Dragon: Women with Breast Cancer Tell Their Stories and The Tower Princess: A Fairy Tale Lived. With a long career in communications and storytelling, Michelle has produced books and films for many organizations and community leaders, including Canadian Pediatric Society, the Canadian Career Development Foundation, and the women scientists of Waterloo. She has served as an Artist in Residence for Gilda’s Club of Greater Toronto, and Casey House, a hospice and treatment center for people with HIV/AIDS. For more information about Michelle, please visit: michelletocher.com
Nicole Arends (Director and Dramaturge – also plays Frederic Baton, Magazine Editor, and Miranda) is a York Theatre graduate and has been directing professionally, independently as well as with community theatre for over 30 years. She has also been a professional voice-over artist since 1997. Nicole engages in projects that push the boundaries of creation (in story and in method), examining how to make spirituality theatrical, and in blurring the line between audience and performance by using site specific and immersive theatre methods. Select directing credits include The Hope Slide, Cloud Tectonics, Hamlet, Collected Stories, Foxfinder, Evidence to the Contrary, Yeats in Love, Impressionism, and The Taming of the Shrew. Developing The Departure Train with Michelle has been an extraordinary creative experience! For more information about Nicole, please visit: nicolearends.com
Phil Strong (Composer and Sound Designer) has created sound and music for scores of varied award-winning projects spanning film, dance, theatre, musical performance, art installation and album production. However, The Departure Train marks his first exciting foray into the sonic world of audioplay production! Much of Phil’s work melds composing and sound design, as epitomized in such productions as Toronto Dance Theatre’s Sly Verb (Christopher House) and Ali Kazimi’s groundbreaking film, Continuous Journey, which received Gemini (now CSA) nominations for both Original Score and Sound. Another special interest is sound and music design for immersive art installations – most recently for Ed Burtynsky’s latest masterwork, In The Wake of Progress. For more information about Phil, please visit: phil-strong.com
Jane Hunter (Audrey) During her many decades on amateur and dinner theatre stages around Toronto, Jane has played many daughters and/or mothers. Most recently: feisty Carrie Watts in Trip to Bountiful; angry Jean in Quartet; glam grandma Emma in Over the River and Through the Woods and child-woman Charlotte in Beyond Therapy. None of them were quite as real as Audrey in The Departure Train. She is flawed and self-deceiving, and yet she evokes our “best wish” for her redemption. Jane’s home is the stage, but she hopes The Departure Train will carry her to many more sound studios in the future.
Pamela Barker (Pat) started performing in school plays and children’s theatre as a kid because she had a lot of extra energy and has always loved to see people smile. She studied at the University College Drama Program under Ken Gass, Peter Van Wart, and Rosemary Dunsmore. Pamela has written two Fringe shows (Grounded in Fantasy, Toronto Fringe 2011 and The Mirror, Montreal Fringe 2012) and directed Missed Metaphor’s A Canticle of Light by KT Bryski, June 2018. Since she boarded The Departure Train in 2018, Pamela has been delighted by all the stops she’s experienced along the way. Being a part of this audio recording has been another exhilarating part of the journey.
Melanie Stevenson (Megan) is an actor, writer, singer, and teacher. She has a Ph.D. in English (drama) and has studied screenwriting, voice (mezzo soprano), piano, drawing, and Karate. Prior to returning to a career in the arts, she taught writing, drama, and communication at the University of Toronto. Favourite roles in addition to Megan include Judge Brack in Hedda Gabbler, Jessica in Sweat, Bets in Fairview, Woman in The Father, Simon in Toronto the Good, and “Orpheus” in Eurydice. She has also written full-length and short plays, TV spec scripts, comic essays, and academic articles.
Lynn Oldershaw (Eleanor) recently returned to acting after taking a 35+ year “intermission” where she played a real-life psychologist, television executive, and mother of four (all boys!) In her youth, Lynn trained and performed in Toronto and New York City where she worked on various films, TV commercials, and theatre productions. Since her return to acting in 2017, Lynn has continued her training and has been cast in numerous stage shows and films. While Lynn has done some voice work in the past, this is her first time performing in an actual audio play, and she has loved every minute of it.
Chris Irving (The Conductor, Charlie) has been a theatre performer in and around Toronto for over 26 years, since transplanting himself from Nova Scotia. Highlights over the years have been: Angus Bennett in Robert Chafe’s Tempting Providence (The Curtain Club); John Barrymore in Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet (Scarborough Players); Anthony in John Patrick Shanley’s Outside Mullingar (Toronto Irish Players); Captain Mike in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Wonder of the World, The Actor in Stephen Mallatratt’s The Woman in Black, and Serge in Yasmina Reza’s Art (East Side Players). Chris has received a number of Association of Community Theatres – Central Ontario (ACT-CO) awards for his work as well as a Theatre Ontario Festival performance award in 2017. This is his first full-length audio drama.
Scott Moore (Christopher, Elevator Angel) is thrilled to step up to the mike again after years of performing on stage. After training at the Ryerson Theatre School, he has performed in numerous shows in Toronto including: Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, Cassius in Julius Caesar and Clarence in Richard III (Hart House Theatre); Menelaus in The Trojan Women and Moon in The Real Inspector Hound (Alumnae Theatre); Hitler in Mein Kampf, Tobias in Delicate Balance, and Deflores in The Changeling (Graduate Drama Centre); Goldberg in The Birthday Party and Ernest in The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine (Rhino Productions); Baptista in The Taming of the Shrew (Aquarius Productions).
Naomi Peltz (Kayla, Barista, Isabelle) is an actor, singer, and improviser. She studied at the Randolph Academy for Performing Arts and the Second City Training Center. Naomi has been in shows such as Guys & Dolls, Foxfinder, Obeah Opera, Straight Up, On the Rocks, and Evidence to the Contrary to name a few. She has had the opportunity to live and work abroad, first in China followed by Italy where she used theatre as a vehicle for learning ESL. Day to day Naomi typically teaches workshops about how to use the arts to overcome stress and anxiety. She is honoured to have been a part of The Departure Train cast since the beginning, and can’t wait to see where else this train goes.
Michael Pearson (Stewart, Brandon, Paramedic) is equal parts artist, educator and entertainer. The skills and thrills from his almost twenty years of performing are often shared and utilized within his classrooms of young artists. Michael has collaborated in award-winning theatrical productions and films across the globe, and has over ten years experience directing youth summer camps. Somewhere in there Michael also managed to fit in five years as an exotic animal handler; performing live educational shows around Ontario under the moniker “Madagascar Mike”. For more on Michael and his work, visit michaeljgpearson.com
Jennifer McKinley (Marketing Specialist) is a storyteller and arts manager with over ten years of experience organizing shows and live events. Production credits include The Underpants and New Ideas Festival (Alumnae Theatre); the award-winning Jacqueries, Part 1 (Jacob Niedzwiecki/SummerWorks); and the critically acclaimed Operation SUNshine (Toronto Fringe, Feminist F*ck It Fest), which she also wrote and performed. Jennifer was a regular contributor to Mooney on Theatre and is a founding member of and lead coordinator with Toronto’s Feminist Art Collective. She is driven by her passion to amplify stories from equity-deserving communities.
David Adkin (Video Director/Editor) is an award-winning documentary director, producer, writer and editor with over 30 years experience in the film and television industry. He studied music, theatre, and creative writing before earning BFA and MFA degrees in film screenwriting and production at York University. His documentaries on social justice, history, mental health, and LGBTQ+ rights have screened at festivals worldwide with broadcasts on CBC, PBS, HBO/Cinemax, Bravo, TVOntario, and other networks. In addition to directing he has edited many projects for broadcast and education. His 2017 collaboration with writer/storyteller Michelle Tocher, Sir Viss, garnered a Canada Shorts Award of Distinction.
Layne Coleman, Gilles Gagnon, Sabrina Gardiner-Michaud, Small Town Girl Promotions, The Canterbury Music Company, The Citadel, Gladstone House, Sterling Studio, Dan Giverin, Erica May/Wood, Ruth Danziger, Susan Q. Wilson, Jean Sheppard, Judith Johns Fiore, Rick S. Jones, Sunday Muse, Julien Hutchinson, Ellen Jaffe, Cathy Landolt, John Scully, Liz Pounsett, Jorge Molina, Chris Coculuzzi, Liz Best, Colleen Simm