Baņuta Rubess is a theatre artist and writer who pioneered feminist theatre, diaspora theatre, and contemporary opera to national renown in Canada and Latvia. She has lived in four countries and writes in two languages. 

Her stage work is blazingly visual, and often knits together music, theatre, and dance. 

She cut her professional theatre in Britain, where she co-founded an international touring company with British artist Neil Bartlett.

In Canada, she created groundbreaking works for Nightwood Theatre, Theatre Direct, and Tapestry New Opera Works. As Associate Artist at Theatre Passe Muraille, she threw open the doors to a new generation of theatre creators.

Her first foray into Latvian music theatre was a succès du scandal with a lasting impact. 

In 1998, she moved with her family to Riga, in order to join in the renewal of Latvia's democracy. She created productions across the country, ranging from an immersive version of La Ronde to an adaptation of The Trojan Women performed on a beach. For many years she was a regular columnist in the national newspaper. 

Her most celebrated works were collaborations with her creative muse and husband, the late composer /musician Nic Gotham. 

Baņuta returned to Toronto in 2012.

A Rhodes Scholar with a doctorate in history, she recently acquired an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. She has been nominated for many awards and has won a few, including Best Play, Best Director, Best Short Story.

 Currently, she is devoted to writing prose. She teaches theatre at the University of Toronto.

Baņuta is represented by Kathryn Willms at The Rights Factory. 

Bruno Slept Here, a memoir. To be published.

Up from Under, a memoir. To be published. 

Labie Draugi: Nopērc kādu! [Good Friends: Buy One Today!]. The story of a fourteen-year old and his robot. Published in Latvian translation by Zvaigzne, Riga, 2011, under the pseudonym BNR.1.

Two forty-five-minute episodes for the series Emīlija. Latvijas preses karaliene. [Emīlija. The Queen of the Latvian Press.] The series was produced by Mistrus Media and nominated for the local film awards, the Lielais Kristaps, including for writing. Broadcast on Latvian Television in the fall of 2021. 

Story editor for Laimīgie [The Lucky Ones], Studio Atom Art. 

Writer/director, Big Fat Lies, animation for children, Jetmedia, Riga.

Writer, To Hell with Wagner, a feature-length screenplay, Studio F.O.R.M.A. Story editor for Good Hands, a feature-length film produced by Studio F.O.R.M.A., Riga, director Peter Simm, 2001. Winner Best Screenplay Latvian National Cinema Awards Lielais Kristaps

“Flotsam,” Winner of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2022, published in Aestehtica Creative Writing Anthology. 

“Kod mēlē,” [Eat Your Tongue], Domu zīme magazine, Riga, 2021.

“Nemesis,” Creative Non-Fiction, Issue 74: Moments of Clarity, Winter 2021, pp. 24-28.

“The Search for Alternatives in Latvian Theatre, 1991 — 2004: A Creator’s Notebook,” in eds. Vessela S. Warner and Diana Manole, Staging Postcommunism: Alternative Theatre in Eastern and Central Europe after 1989, University of Iowa Press, 2020, pp. 47-60.

“Moonwalk”, in Theatre Passe Muraille: A Collective History, Playwrights Canada, 2019.

 “Why I’m Going to the Women’s March”, special to the magazine IR, Riga, Latvia, January 18, 2017.

"So Weird and So Awesome:  Rachel Maddow, Rhodes Scholar '95", www.rhodesproject.com, 2009.

"Mīla-vīla" (Fooled by Love), Robežas (Borders), in Latvian and English, editor Vita Matīss, Neputns, Riga, 2006.

“Riga for Poets”, a radio poem, published in the Canadian literary journal Descant, 2004. Published in Latvian translation in Karogs, Riga, 2005. 

"Kicking with Poetry," eds.  Marcel Cornis-Pope, John Neubauer, History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe. Junctures and disjunctures in the 19th and 20th centuries, Volume I, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Virginia Commonwealth University / University of Amsterdam, 2004.

An opinion column and feature articles for the national newspaper Diena, Latvia, 1999-2006.

Articles in Theatrum, Fireweed, Canadian Theatre Review, Literary Review of Canada.

#7Love, verbatim performance at the Paddock Tavern, devised with Julia Aplin and ensemble, Summerworks Festival Toronto, 2016.

Mrs. Benjamin. Tips for Modern Living. In Latvian. Based on the true story of a female publishing magnate who perished in Siberia. A solo performance in three rooms of her former mansion, now a hotel. Riga, 2009-present. Tour to USA, 2011.

 Oh Pilot. Libretto for a chamber opera. Composer Nic Gotham. World Stage Festival, Toronto, 2005;  Latvian National Opera Studio, Riga, 2007. DVD. Radio play version, Canadian Broadcasting Company, Toronto, 1996.

 Escape from Troy. In Latvian. An adaptation of The Trojan Women combined with the oral history of World War Two refugees. Produced on a beach for the European festival SEAS by the New Theatre Institute, 2004. DVD with subtitles, broadcast on Latvian National Television.

 Fruits of the Earth. New music theatre in five languages on the themes of cooking and childbirth. Composer Nic Gotham. Performed by the Latvian Radio Choir and the Riga Saxophone Quartet, at the Latvian National Opera, Riga, 2003. Available on CD.

 No. Here comes Ulrike Meinhof and Oblivion.The Story of Isabelle Eberhardt, radio plays written and produced for a series of my own devising, Adventure Stories for (Big) Girls, Broadcast on CBC Radio Canada, 1990-1992. Published in ed. Ann Jansen, Adventures for (Big) Girls, Blizzard Publishing, Winnipeg,1993.

 Head in a Bag, a political dramedy. Excerpt published in Taking the Stage, Playwrights Canada Press, Toronto, 1994. Published by Exile Editions, Toronto, 1996.

 Boom, Baby, Boom! A jazz play. Du Maurier World Stage Festival, Toronto.. Published by Canadian Theatre Review, and in The CTR Anthology, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1993, as well as Exile Editions, 1996. Nominated for a Dora Award, Outstanding Production

 Horror High. A multi-media teen drama.Theatre Direct, Toronto. 1986. Nominated for a Dora Award, Outstanding Production in Children's Theatre. 

 Thin Ice. A teen drama, co-written with Beverley Cooper. Produced by Theatre Direct, Toronto; subsequent productions across Canada and in Latvia. Published in Wanna Play? Three Plays for High School. Toronto: Playwrights Canada, 1997. 52 pages. Winner of the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Theatre for Young Audiences and the Chalmers Children's Play Award.

 Pope Joan. A comedy. Produced by Nightwood Theatre. New Canadian Drama. Ed. Rita Much. Ottawa: Borealis Press,1993. 83 pages. Print. Nominated for the Chalmers Play Award.

 Smoke Damage: A Story of the Witch Hunts. A drama. Produced by Nightwood Theatre. Toronto: Playwrights' Union of Canada, 1985. 95 pages. Also published by Exile Editions, 1995. 95 pages. Print.

 This is for you, Anna, a spectacle of revenge. Created collectively with Ann-Marie MacDonald, Maureen White and Suzanne Odette Khuri, produced by Nightwood Theatre and toured across Canada and the UK. Published by Canadian Theatre Review. Toronto: 1985. 26 pages. Also in The CTR Anthology: Fifteen Plays from the Canadian Theatre Review. Ed. Alan Filewod. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993. 32 pages. Print. Nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Innovation in Theatre.

 

 

I have directed nearly all my own plays. This is the work I've directed by other authors:

The Rover by Aphra Behn, Ryerson University, 2018.

Sweat, an opera by Anna Chatterton and Juliet Palmer, Bicycle Opera, Ontario tour 2017.

The Shoe Project, writing by immigrant and refugee women, drama coach. Arts and Letters Club, Toronto, 2016 and 2017.

Boots, a 20 minute opera by Juliet Palmer. Presented by Urbanvessel and Opera Peepshow, at Campbell House, 2016. 

At the Centre for Drama, University of Toronto, 2011-2015:

    Katie of Heilbronn: An Obsession by Mr. Heinrich von Kleist

    You are Invited to the Cast Party After the Production Formally Known as Mrs. Dalloway

    The Rules by Charles Mee

    The Possibilities by Howard Barker 

Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, KIT Theatre and Meduza Productions, Riga, 2010-2011.

The Birds' Opera, Latvian National Opera, Riga, 2001-present. Nominated for Best Production Children's Theatre. Available on DVD with subtitles.

The Snow Queen, children’s drama with string quartet, composer Patrick Cardy, New Riga Theatre. 2008-2012.

Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Daile Theatre, Riga, 2008-2009.

Nigredo Hotel, chamber opera, composer Nic Gotham/writer Ann-Marie MacDonald. Tapestry New Opera Works, with the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, 1992. Tour to Great Britain, 1993.  Cross-Canada tour, 1995.  Nominated for eight Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Second production on the 25th anniversary of Tapestry, Toronto, 2005.

Opera to Go I and II, fifteen-minute operas, Tapestry New Opera WorksToronto, 2002 and 2004.

Possible Worlds by John Mighton, New Riga Theatre, Riga, 2004.

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, Liepaja Theatre, 2002-2004. Best Director Award.

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill, New Riga Theatre, Riga, 2000-2003.

Orfeo and Euridice, by C.W. Gluck, the Latvian National Opera, Riga, 2000.

Rondo, an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, a site-specific production for five separate audiences, New Riga Theatre, Riga, 1999-2002.

1987-1999, over a dozen productions directed in theatres across Canada; several national and international tours; radio drama. Selected works:

The English premiere of Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons by Wajdi Mouawad, Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa and Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto.

The Stillborn Lover by Timothy Findley, Theatre Passe Muraille. Nominated for six Dora Awards, including Outstanding Production and Outstanding Direction.

MEME, a nopera (sic) by David Mott and bpNichol, produced by The Music Gallery, 8 December 1990  and recorded for CBC's Two New Hours, 1991.

The Avenging Woman by Aspazija, co-directed with Neil Bartlett, at the Kabata theatre in Riga; tour to Berkeley Stage, Toronto. Winner of the PBLA Arts Award. Latvian Critics' Award.

The premiere of Goodnight, Desdemona by Ann-Marie MacDonald, Nightwood Theatre, Toronto. Tour across Canada.

Director/dramaturge of workshops of new scripts for Urbanvessel, Soulpepper, The Music Gallery, Nightwood Theatre, Crow's Theatre, Theatre Columbus, Theatre Direct, Theatre Passe Muraille, Tapestry New Opera Works, Tangled Art & Disability, Toronto; Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa; Playwrights' Workshop, Montreal.

1992-1996 Associate Artist, Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto 

 Baņuta has co-founded two companies:

Froth - with Alisa Palmer and Leslie Lester, Canada, in 1994, to create performances that united the human body with the body politic.

The 1982 Theatre Company – with Neil Bartlett, UK, an international company devoted to collective creation and with a deliberately limited shelf life. Tours across Britain, Europe, North America, including London, York, Colchester, Stockholm, Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, New York.

2011 - present. Visiting and Sessional Lecturer at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto, Canada. Courses include:

UNI102 Engaging Toronto: Performing the City
DRM 202: Introduction to Directing
DRM 268/366 Canadian Theatre History
DRM 386 Performance and Reality: Contemporary Theatre of the Nineties and the Noughts
DRM 400 Advanced Performance: Devised Theatre

DRM 400 Advanced Performance: Acting
DRM 401 Movement for Actors

DRM 402 Directors’ Showcase

DRM 403 The Resource Show

Workshops: 

Devising for the Community, workshops across Latvia for Shakespeare Meets Blaumanis, 2018.

Embodying Reality, FOOT conference 2016; Cracking Movement Theatre with choreographer Julia Aplin.

Experimental Playwriting at the Latvian Academy of Culture, Riga.

Seminars, lectures and workshops at the universities of York, Winnipeg, Simon Fraser, Queen's, Canada; University of Dusseldorf, Germany; University of Alaska, USA.

Topics: Acting; Playwriting; Directing; Improvisation; Collective Creation; Theatre History

"Think Like a Prisoner," a talk about resilience for Conference: Creativity, Cēsis, Latvia, 2018.

Keynote video lecture, "Creativity during a Crisis," Subject: Creativity, Liepāja, Latvia, February 20, 2015.

Post-show talk, "Building The Anna Project," Hart House Theatre, March 5, 2015.

Lecture, "You're Invited: Performing Mrs. Dalloway," 24th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, North Illinois University, June 5-8, 2014.

Colloquium, "Boom, Baby, Boom," with Martin Julien, Centre for Drama, University of Toronto, April 1, 2014.

Lecture, "Devising Truth: The Role of Theatre in Post-Soviet Latvia," After the Wall. University of Toronto, November 19-21, 2009.

"One Red Chair", Theatre by Design: Scenography in Canada. University of Toronto, January 24-25, 2003.

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, University of Guelph, Canada.
Ontario Graduate Scholarship, Connie Rooke Scholarship 

D.Phil. in Modern History, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, England.
I am one of the first dozen female Rhodes Scholars. 

B.A. (Hons.), First Class, History and Drama, Queen's University, Kingston.
Queen's University Anniversary Scholarship, Susan Near Drama Prize, History Prize