Associated with the Directing Program

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An individually tailored study for a professional theatre director from an equity-seeking community*, who wishes to deepen their directing practice through an intensive period of study at NTS. 

  • The length of the Independent Study is flexible and can contain a mix of online and in-person elements.
  • The curriculum, designed to inspire, challenge, and expand the professional artist’s range, will be created in collaboration with the NTS Directing Program.
  • While interface with the school’s other programs is possible, this study is closely associated with the NTS Directing Program.  
  • NTS provides an intensive dive into specific areas of directing practice to support a deepening of artistry, and to nurture a long and sustainable artistic career.

*Equity-seeking communities are groups that face significant collective challenges in participating in society. This marginalization could be created by attitudinal, historic, social and environmental barriers based on age, ethnicity, disability, economic status, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation and transgender status, etc.

Structure of the Independent Study

This Independent Study is created to respond to the specific needs of the participating director. It will be designed in partnership with and shaped by the participating artist with the support of the Directing Program.

Depending on the artist’s professional and personal circumstances, their period of training at NTS could be condensed into a short period (minimum of one month) or spread out over the course of the school year.

The study will be made up of a combination of any number of elements available through NTS:

  • Existing classes and projects currently offered at the School
  • Specifically created workshops and learning modules
  • Personal mentorship with NTS staff and faculty, and/or guest coaches
  • Online training components
  • Opportunities for observation and internship with NTS partners.

NTS is committed to reducing obstacles for members of equity seeking communities by providing bursaries towards travel to Montreal and accommodations for the period of study.

Who Should Apply?

The Independent Study is available to theatre directors from equity-seeking communities with 5 or more years of professional practice in the performing arts.  

Applicants should...

  • Be seeking to develop specific elements of their directing craft;
  • Have a strong sense of their artistic approach and practice; 
  • Believe in the power and usefulness of lifelong training; 
  • Be seeking to learn and share their own experiences with the community of the School.


Fill out the online application form by April 22. You will be asked to inlcude:

  • A detailed CV (max. 3 pages) 
  • An artist’s statement (max. 3 pages) that addresses the following points:
  1. Why do you make live art?
  2. What about your professional trajectory has led you to apply?
  3. What specific areas of your directing practice do you want to focus on at NTS?
  4. What do you hope to gain from your time at NTS?
  • A letter of recommendation that speaks to different aspects of your artistic practice.

Any questions about your application can be sent to Matjash Mrozewski 

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Vanessa Sears, Independent Study, October 2023 – May 2024

“Getting to train with an amazing group of industry mentors was the practical, intensive, hands on work I’ve been hungry for. Working with brilliant actors, having a directing coach, and collaborating with knowledgeable and generous designers was a game-changing experience. I felt fully embraced by NTS students and faculty alike, and after my residency I feel equipped with new tools and more confidence in my directing craft.” - Vanessa Sears

An award-winning and established actor, Vanessa Sears began her formal training in Directing in 2020 when she was selected as a recipient of the Kathleen C. Freeman Development Fund. Vanessa was a Directing Apprentice in the Musical Stage Company's 2020 RBC Apprentice program in Toronto, where she co-directed the Banks Prize Cabaret Baapii Roho in High Park. She has since gone on to direct for The Grand Theatre, Theatre Sheridan, Talk is Free Theatre, and the Stratford Festival Meighen Forum. Vanessa's current training includes the 2022 ThisGen Directing Cohort with Why Not Theatre and a mentorship with the Lincoln Center Theater's resident director, Lileana Blain-Cruz.   

Vanessa is the recipient of Dora, Toronto Theatre Critics, Broadway World and Critic’s Pick awards and recently she made her Broadway debut in the original cast of New York, New York. She currently serves as the vice-chair of the board for the Canadian Green Alliance, a non-profit which aims to bridge the gap between theatre and sustainability.  

Vanessa is thrilled to have been chosen for the 2023/24 Independent Study in Directing and looks forward to connecting with the community at the National Theatre School while completing her residency.  


James Viveiros, Independent Study, September 2022 – May 2023

James Viveiros is an interdisciplinary performance artist of mixed Cree, Metis and Portuguese ancestry whose career spans over 25 years, most notably as a dancer with Compagnie Marie Chouinard. Since graduating from Alberta’s Grant MacEwan University’s Musical Theatre and Dance Programs in 1998, James has performed in a range of choreographic works in festivals and theatres across the world. In 2016, with support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec, James traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to study with the Batsheva Dance Company under Ohad Naharin and became a certified Gaga teacher. In addition to creating and collaborating with artists across Canada, James travels frequently to share his passion and expertise in movement at various school, universities and arts institutions.

Alaina Viau, Independent Study, October 2021 - March 2022

Alaina is a daring director, creator and producer based in Toronto. She is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of award nominated indie opera company Loose Tea Music Theatre where she creates genre-defying productions that center on critical social issues, raising underrepresented voices and cross-cultural relationships. Alaina is a queer disabled artist seeking a new framework for safe and compassionate creation processes that decolonize and dismantle hierarchical practices. She was a finalist in Crow’s Theatre national RBC Rising Star Emerging Directors Prize who “will make a strong impact on the performing arts in Canada.”

Alaina undertook an extensive mentorship with Jackie Maxwell with a particular focus on the dynamics of bodies in space, and how blocking can support impactful storytelling. She also explored how collaborating with theatre actors could inform her work with opera singers.

Cherissa Richards, Independent Study, October 2020 - March 2021

This study offered me the chance to do a deep dive into a specific area of study - allowing me to investigate, dream and gain a clearer understanding of my craft. I was given concrete tools that have helped me grow as an artist. NTS worked tirelessly to find incredible artists for me to learn from and I always felt like I was in great hands, all along the way. The discoveries I made and the possibilities we dreamed up in each session were so exciting and invigorating!” - Cherissa Richards


After working as an actor for over 15 years, Cherissa recently begun to pursue a career as a theatre director, a journey which has taken her across the country. In 2020 Cherissa took part in NTS’ inaugural Independent Study, focusing on the director’s relationship to design and the design process, working alongside mentors Julie Fox (scenography), Audrey-Anne Bouchard (lighting design), Troy Slocum (sound design), Jessica Poirier-Chang (costume design) and Mike Payette (directing).

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