For the Birds — Debra McGrath, Colin Mochrie, Chick Reid, Tom McCamus & Friends


Is this thing on? Two of Canada’s most revered improv artists are at The Barn – but where is the audience?? Join Deb McGrath (Little House on the Prairie), Colin Mochrie (Whose Line is it Anyway?), actors Chick Reid and Tom McCamus (Stratford & Shaw Festivals) and a meadow full of musicians and dancers in a merry search for new meaning. (Also featuring Mateusz Swoboda, cello; Luke Mercier, fiddle; Stephanie Booth and Rebecca Baptista, Northumberland Contemporary Dance Collective; and Jana Reid, singer)

artist bios

Stephanie Booth and Rebecca Baptista | Dancers

Northumberland Contemporary Dance Collective founding members Rebecca Baptista and Katie Flindall are dance educators, artists and mothers creating performance pieces from a tapestry of regional inspiration, personal interests and community collaboration.

Rebecca Baptista: Inspired to captivate a new audience for dance, Rebecca co-founded the Northumberland Contemporary Dance Collective with whom she very much enjoys creating and performing site-specific dance in the community in collaboration with artists of different disciplines. Rebecca is a teacher of movement for all ages and all levels of skill. Rebecca trained in Royal Academy of Dance classical ballet technique in Peel region. Later she attended the Banff School of Fine Arts and the School of Classical and Contemporary Dance in Toronto. Rebecca trained professionally at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and then performed with the Newton Moraes Dance Company on stages in Canada, Brazil, and Germany. She has worked as an independent dance artist and choreographer, showcasing her work in the Toronto Fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists, as well as in her own productions.

Stephanie’s love of dance began at an early age, creating dances to ABBA songs with her sister in her parent’s living room. She attended the dance program at Ryerson Theatre School as well as the contemporary dance program at the School of the Toronto Dance Theatre, where she graduated in 1996. Stephanie has been a dance educator for over 24 years and has been leading the co-curricular dance program at Trinity College School for over a decade. She is one of the founding members of Northumberland Contemporary Dance Collective, with Rebecca Baptista and Katie Flindall. For Stephanie, her greatest reward in life, other than spending time with her 3 children, comes from sharing her passion for dance, whether it’s with her students or a captive audience.

Brian Finley | Artistic Director

Brian Finley is the co-founder of Westben as well as its Artistic & Managing Director. He also continues his multifaceted career as a pianist, composer, director and impresario. Brian Finley enjoys a multi-faceted career as a composer, pianist, director and impresario. In addition to several works for the stage, Brian’s compositions include music for piano, voice, choral works and arrangements for full symphony orchestra. He has written and produced several full-length opera-musicals including SAMSON (2001), Rapunzel (2005) and The Selfish Giant (2010) and most recently, an opera based on his own original story The Pencil Salesman inspired and commissioned by Dr. Agnes M. Herzberg (2016). As a director he has staged musical productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, The Sound of Music, The Magic Ornament and his own works including Requiem for a Millennium and A Westben Christmas Carol.

As a pianist, Brian has performed with orchestras from Dallas to Calgary as well as at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington, Wigmore Hall in London, England, and the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. Having appeared in over 10 international piano competitions including the 8th International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, he won the third prize in the AMSA International Competition in Cincinnati as well as the Gina Bachauer Award in Dallas. His recordings include solo piano music from Wigmore Hall, three critically acclaimed CDs with his wife, soprano Donna Bennett as well as world premiere recordings of his Requiem for a Millennium (1999) and Rapunzel (2005). He has also been heard on CBC, CFMX, KING-FM in the US and on Soviet Television. As an accompanist, he has collaborated with some of Canada’s top singers including Adrianne Pieczonka, Richard Margison, Marie-Josée Lord, Mark DuBois, John Fanning as well as his cousin, Gerald Finley. With Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto, Brian's principal teachers included Maria Curcio (UK), Boris Lysenko and William Aide.

Together with his musical and life partner, soprano Donna Bennett, Brian co-founded the Westben Arts Festival Theatre near Campbellford, Ontario in 1999, serving ever since as the organization’s Artistic & Managing Director. Described as a cultural cornerstone in rural Ontario, the festival has brought together both professional and amateur musicians at “The Barn”, a uniquely inspiring custom-built timber-frame theatre situated in a lush meadow amongst the gently rolling farmlands of Northumberland County. Presenting artists ranging from Angela Hewitt to Oliver Jones, they have exposed audiences to an array of top quality musical presentations of fully-staged traditional and world premiere operas, symphonic and choral works, chamber and solo music, jazz, world and music theatre. Their work has contributed to community-building in the region, and has played an important role in supporting Canadian music and emerging artists. Brian was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 in recognition of his work within his community and with his fellow Canadians. For their work with Westben, Donna and Brian were both appointed Members of the Order of Canada in 2017.

Tom McCamus | Actor

Versatile and engaging actor, born in Winnipeg Manitoba in 1955. Tom McCamus attended Oakridge High School in London, Ontario and graduated from the University of Windsor in 1977 with Bachelor of Fine Arts. From 1978 to 1980 he was a member of the Young Company at the Grand Theatre, London, while William Hutt was Artistic Director, where he acted in Twelfth Night.

Since 1993, he has played a wide range of lead and character roles for the Stratford Festival, including: a conflicted but loyal Menenius in Coriolanus (2018); the title role in King John (2014); Antonio in The Merchant of Venice (2013); Iachimo in Cymbeline (2012); Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath; Justice Overdo in Bartholomew Fair (2009); Horace Vandergelder in The Matchmaker; Captain Hook in Peter Pan; Le Vicomte de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons; Master Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor. He also played in the 1998 productions of Julius Caesar and Much Ado About Nothing, 1997 productions of Camelot and Coriolanus. He played Edmund Tyrone in the 1996 production of Long Day's Journey into Night (which was filmed), and Vladimir in Waiting For Godot.

McCamus also performed for three years with the acting ensemble of Theatre Plus, and won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for his role in Abundance with that company.

He performed at the Shaw Festival in the 1980s for eight seasons when Christopher Newton was Artistic Director, including the title roles in a hugely popular production of Peter Pan (1987-88) and Androcles and the Lion (1984); Napoleon in Man of Destiny; and Brother Martin in Saint Joan. He returned to the Shaw Festival in 2017 to play the title role in The Madness of George III by Alan Bennett, and Warwick in Saint Joan.

He has acted in theatres across Canada: Arts Club Theatre; Phoenix Theatre (Dreaming and Duelling, 1982); Manitoba Theatre Centre; National Arts Centre; Soulpepper Theatre Company (Mill on the Floss, 2000; and A Flea in Her Ear, 2001).

McCamus has also performed extensively on television and in films, notably The Sweet Hereafter; and Robert Lepage's film of John Mighton's Possible Worlds. He lives in Warkworth Ontario, and is married to actor Chick Reid

Deb McGrath | Actor

Deb McGrath’s most recent projects include, “Baroness Von Sketch” ,“Private Eyes”, “Let’s Get Physical”, and “Majiic”. A veteran of the Second City in Toronto, improv is still a huge part of her life, touring all over Canada with her husband Colin Mochrie in their show, “Colin and Deb’s One Couple Show”. She played Mayor Ann Popowitz on “Little Mosque on the Prairie”, and has done everything from “The Ron James Show” to “Degrassi” to “Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town” to Getting Along Famously” a series she created with her husband for CBC. In the voice world she has been the voice of “Winners” and many voices in animated series including Franklin, Beetlejuice, Sailor Moon, Berenstein Bears and numerous others. Deb has a star on the Scarborough Walk of Fame and last year won best actress at Canada’s short film Festival.

Luke Mercier, Fiddle

Born in Toronto, Canada, Luke took to music at a very young age. While completing his classical piano studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music with Antonin Kubalek in Toronto, Luke began his apprenticeship in Violin restoration at Geo. Heinl & Co. Ltd., in 1991. As a violin restorer of nearly 30 years, he has come to treasure his experience of having handled, studied and restored many rare and important instruments of the violin family; works by Antonio Stradivari among them.

In January of 2006, Luke and his young family relocated to Hastings - Prince Edward County where they set up a home based workshop / studio in Springbrook.

Luke is a musician / composer and performs occasionally with various musicians in Appalachian, Celtic, French Canadian and Bluegrass music circles. As well as playing traditional tunes he also continues to compose from time to time.

Colin Mochrie | Actor

"Canadian comic genius" - TV GUIDE

Colin Mochrie is an alumnus of Toronto's famous Second City comedy troupe and is widely considered to be one of the leading improvisers in the world. In 2013, Colin Mochrie was named Canadian Comedy Person of the Year at the Canadian Comedy Awards.

After nine years as a regular on the British improvisation series Whose Line is it Anyway?, he became a regular on the American version hosted by Drew Carey, which ran for six years on ABC and three years on ABC Family. In 2011, the entire cast was reunited in Vegas for Drew Carey's Improv‐aganza, a new series which aired for one season on GSN. A new hit version of Whose lne is it Anyway?, featuring Colin, Wayne, Ryan, and new host Aisha Tyler, is currently airing on the CW Network. Launched in July of 2013 with 12 episodes, it has subsequently been renewed for a second season with an order of 24 more shows to air in 2014.Colin appears regularly in film and television and was notably a cast member of CBC's classic news spoofThis Hour Has 22 Minutes for two seasons. With his wife, Debra McGrath, he produced, wrote and starred in the CBC show Getting Along Famously.

A native of Scotland but life‐long resident of Canada, Colin has remarkably toured worldwide for the past ten years, with Whose Line castmate Brad Sherwood, performing a live improv show. An Evening with Colin and Brad, has the distinction of being one of the longest running comedy tours in history. Their first live, taped special, Colin and Brad: Two Man Group, will air soon on the CW Network. In 2012, ABC aired eight episodes of Trust Us With Your Life, produced by the makers of Whose Line and co-starring Colin, Wayne Brady, and many of his former Whose Line cast members (but without Ryan Stiles). Fred Willard was host. Colin has garnered awards including a Writers Guild of Canada award (writing, 22 Minutes), three. Canadian Comedy Awards (writing – 22 Minutes, “Pretty Funny Male” – Whose Line and Canadian Comedy Person of the Year 2013) as well as a Gemini Award (Best Ensemble, 22 Minutes). In 2010, Colin received the ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence. Perhaps his greatest award to date was for Best Hollywood Appearance at the 2010 B‐Movie Awards (Jane White is Sick and Twisted). His first book of fiction, Not Quite the Classics, in which he uses the first and last lines of familiar classics as a launching and landing point and re‐imagines everything in between, was released by Viking, a publishing arm of Penguin Canada, in October 2013.

Chick Reid | Actor

Chick is entering her 44th year as a theatre professional. Her long and varied career includes thirteen seasons with the Stratford Festival, including Tempest, Napoli Milionaria, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Beaux Stratagem, Grapes of Wrath, Little Years Noises Off, No Exit; four seasons at Theatre Plus Toronto, including Saint Joan, Burn This, Abundance, Holiday, Crimes of the Heart; six seasons at the Shaw Festival, including Cavalcade, Back to Methuselah, The Women, Marathon 33, Peter Pan, War and Peace, The Madness of George III, Dracula, Getting Married and The Ladykillers. Chick has also done extensive work across Canada and internationally, including Tarragon Theatre, Nightwood Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Grand Theatre, Neptune Theatre, Theatre New Brunswick, Sudbury Theatre Centre, Globe Theatre, Citadel Theatre, Westben Arts Festival Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Broadway. This season was to be her seventh season at the Shaw Festival, playing Ann Dudgeon in Devil’s Disciple and Nanny Bull in Sherlock Holmes; the Raven’s Curse.

FILM/TELEVISION: most recently, Fairfield Road, Everything She Ever Wanted. TEACHING: fifteen years in the Dan School of Drama and Music at Queen’s University. Chick was honoured to be the 2108 Recipient of CAEA’s Life Membership Award for her contribution to the performing arts in Canada. She lives on a farm in Warkworth, Ontario with husband Tom McCamus which they share with their beloved Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.

Jana Reid | Singer

Jana Reid has been singing, composing and performing for the past 40 years in a wide range of genres including pop, country, blues, folk and jazz. In recent times she has become focused on Jazz and her full voice infuses it with passion and wisdom.

Mateusz Swoboda | Cellist

Born in Poland, Mateusz emigrated to Canada with his parents, both musicians, at the tender age of three. Surrounded by music as a child he began violin and piano lessons but found his musical voice in the cello.

Having graduated from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music he continued his studies in the United States (Shenandoah Conservatory) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam Conservatory). He has performed as guest principal cellist with numerous orchestras throughout Ontario. He was the principal cellist of the Hyogo Performing Arts Centre Orchestra in Japan during the 2005-2006 season. His best musical memories, however, are of performing with his brother and parents as the Swoboda Piano Quartet.

As well as being a cellist Mateusz has also worked as an instrument salesman, artistic director, stagehand, bike courier, music teacher and piano tuner.

He is currently a full-time writer of commercial fiction.

His greatest joy in life springs from his charming wife and their two darling children.


behind the scenes