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Susan Bertoia

Discipline: Theatre
Homebase: Vancouver
Languages: English
Contact Me: Email , Web

Susan's unique, invigorating and engaging approach to theatre from the classics to the avant-garde make her a well sought out theatre artist, teacher, director and devisor. She specializes in physical/movement-based theatre and mask performance including: commedia dell'arte, neutral and character. Both her professional and teaching/directing work explores poetic and pedestrian moments while her artistic leadership has been described as "engaging, encouraging and disarming". Since 2014, Susan has developed well over 15 new creative initiatives through ArtStarts' Artist in the Classroom Program including writing modern adaptations of Alice in Wonderland (Alice in the French Underground), Peter Pan (Flight to Neverland) and Gozzi's Love of Three Oranges; to more experimental and devised work with secondary theatre students including The Physical Space Project and the CT Project the latter was selected to perform at the ABCDE Provincial Drama Festival in 2016. As an award-winning actor (Jessie Richardson Award -Outstanding Performance and The Gordon Armstrong Theatre Artist Award), Susan has performed at/with the Arts Club Theatre, Western Canada Theatre, Firehall Theatre, Richmond Gateway and Boca Del Lupo. Susan also serves as a Speech Arts and Drama Adjudicator and facilitates Professional Development Workshops for both Performers and Drama Teachers. Susan has directed many diverse and multi platformed shows from children and youth engaged theatre to professional ensemble productions. Her training includes BFA in Theatre Acting from UBC and advanced studies in commedia dell'arte and physical theatre from international institutions (Dell'Arte School; One Yellow Rabbit; Frantic Assembly; etc.).


Susan has a wonderful ability to relate to the students, which gives them the confidence to experiment and improvise in front of the class. Her positivity and energy are contagious, no matter what age group she is working with. Andrea Superstein, Drama Teacher, St John's School
I had the great fortune to collaborate with Susan Bertoia thanks to the ArtStarts Artist in the Classroom program; my students were hooked by her energy and she quickly built rapport. Susan works to support an environment of safe risk where vigorous physicality and onstage courage are valued, where group exploration and critical self-reflection are inherent to her process-oriented approach. The evocative yet minimalist performance that Susan devised with my students, The CT Project, was selected at the district level to represent our zone at the Provincial Theatre Festival at Douglas College; the impact of this show reverberates still with alumni of the program and became a memorable reference point for educators and audiences at the Festival and beyond. Nicole "Coco" Roberge, Teaching Artist, Riverside Secondary's River's Edge Theatre

Project Examples

Project Orange

The focus of Project Orange was to engage Van Tech Senior theatre students in the classic style of theatre commedia dell'arte, traditional Italian mask performance, through its acting style, ensemble work and production values, then develop and perform an adaptation of Carlo Gozzi's 18thC play The Love of Three Oranges. Susan helped to contemporize the play as well she guided and directed the whole process from performance style to production values. Commedia dell'arte is an extremely entertaining form both for an audience and as a performer because of its high level of physical engagement through its audience interaction and its comedic characters and situations. The goal of Project Orange was to make this classic style accessible to students so that they can successfully share their production with a modern audience. The 2017/18 Van Tech Theatre Class was a strong ensemble interested in performing comedy and it's their and the artist's passion that saw commedia live on in its re-invention. We boldly took the torch and brought not only a dramatic form to life but also a newly invigorated and inspiring one.

The CT Project

The process-driven, student-centred devised performance theatre project at Riverside Secondary's River's Edge Theatre engaged 2 Acting 11/12 classes (30-50 students) and Drama Teacher Ms. Coco Roberge, with artist Susan Bertoia. Through a variety of critical thinking and metacognitive experiments and influenced by the avant-garde art and theatre practices, the CT Project performance was born! A ubiquitous challenge in every 21st century classroom is to inspire critical thinking in tandem with, sometimes in spite of, a required curriculum. The CT Project attempted to tackle some of life's "Big Questions". We came to appreciate their intangibility, even un-answerability, and to formulate critically crafted text and performance. The 3 month process, prompted through a series of activities led by Susan Bertoia, inspiring students to create and write their own performances. This project employed visual art (Miro, Mondrian, Escher), brain research, music (Jazz - and whatever Susan had in her CD collection from the late 90's!!), seminal surrealist and futurist texts, and physical theatre as prompts for journalling and performance creation. In a supportive and energized atmosphere of safe risk-taking, students animated their own ideas, then transposed them onto other actors or onto inanimate objects.

The Physical Space Project

A 10 week theatre residency in a Grade 5 classroom, which began as a series of immersive exploratory exercises/workshops stemming from sensorial and physical theatre exploration of Space; the bigger concept of the Solar System and the physical space we occupy, that culminated in a site specific, informal performance in one classroom with 29 students. The concise poetic abstract performance "Words Beyond the Ceiling" involved moving people, sounds and words and was approx. 15 min in length and was attended by students at Hastings. There were 5 shows in the one-day performance.

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