JANUARY 2023 | Volume 223


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Starwalker a new musical written and directed by Corey Payette. An Urban Ink & Raven Theatre co-production in association with The Musical Stage Co. Actor Dillan Chiblow; Art Direction Andrea.

by Corey Payette
Urban Ink & Raven Theatre in assoc. with The Musical Stage Co.
York Theatre
Feb. 16-Mar. 5
From $25 or 604-251-1363

Corey Payette's powerful new musical premieres at the York Theatre

The Cultch is thrilled to present Urban Ink & Raven Theatre's world premiere of Corey Payette's Starwalker, which comes to the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl'ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations February 16 until March 5, 2023, at the York Theatre.

The story follows Starwalker, an Indigi-Queer Two-Spirit drag queen learning the ropes of the East Van Drag community. When Starwalker is introduced to Drag at the House of Borealis, their whole world changes, introducing them to a home they never knew they needed, creating a new persona that blends their grounded Indigenous cultural spirit with drag performance, resulting in an empowering and celebratory experience that only tearing down the patriarchy can provide. 

Award-winning interdisciplinary storyteller, writer, composer, and director Corey Payette has gained acclaim for his large-scale contemporary musicals, which bring his Indigenous perspective to mainstream spaces—including Children of God, and Les Filles du Roi (which Payette co-wrote with Julie McIsaac). Both powerful musicals had their premieres at The Cultch's York Theatre, and have toured extensively, receiving accolades wherever they go.  

In 2021, Payette received the inaugural BC Reconciliation Award for his work and commitment to inspiring and making lasting change to reconciliation through the arts. His highly acclaimed musical production, Children of God, has brought conversations on truth and reconciliation to audiences throughout Canada. 

Starwalkerwas commissioned and developed by The Musical Stage Company (Toronto). Their blank canvas offer gave Payette the freedom to explore a side of himself that he hasn't spent as much time within his other work. It allowed him to express the joy he finds in his Two-Spirit and queer identity.

Starwalker will share a familiarity of style and scope with Payette's past work, but brings to life a more modern story, presented with a contemporary score combining pop/rock music, with pulsing drums, and powerful vocals from some of Vancouver's most talented.

An incredible cast—Dillan Chiblow (known as Tommy/Tom in Children of God), Stewart Adam McKensy (known for his portrayal of Lola in Kinky Boots), and Jeffrey Follis (Drag Queen Urupa)—bring Starwalker's story to life with choreography from Ralph Escamillan, and musical direction from Sean Bayntun. "I really wanted to look at uplifting some of these voices in a way that was joyous and wasn't tied to their trauma," says Payette. "While the characters have experienced hardship, the show is actually about how they are working their way through those issues to find joy, to find love, and to find family and home."

"Starwalker is a brilliant and unique piece that expertly and unexpectedly blends musical styles to tell moving stories in innovative ways." — Playwrights Guild of Canada, Tom Hendry Awards Jury

Commissioned by: The Musical Stage Company and The Aubrey & Maria Dan Fund for New Musicals
Developed in partnership with: Urban Ink, Raven Theatre, & The Musical Stage Company

Book/Music/Lyrics and Directed by Corey Payette
Choreography by Ralph Escamillan
Music Direction by Sean Bayntun

Dillan Chiblow as Starwalker
Stewart Adam McKensy as Mother Borealis
Jeffrey Follis as Levi
Featuring: Jesse Alvarez, Ryan Maschke, Connor Parnall, Ralph Escamillan, and August Elzinga

Creative Team:
Set Design: Anna Shearing
Costume Design: Alaia Hamer
Lighting Design: Jonathan Kim 
Sound Design: Bradley Danyluk
Producer: Fabian Aspell Morales
Production Manager/Technical Director: Matthew Oviatt
Stage Management: Melanie Thompson 
Assistant Stage Manager: Sara Allison
Apprentice Stage Manager: Jennifer Wilson
Associate Choreographer: Ross Wirtanen
Fight Director: Mike Kovac
Intimacy Director: Lisa Goebel
Head of Wardrobe: Tiffany Bishop
Head of Props: Kaleigh Funnell
Assistant Production Manager/Technical Director: Blake Kriedemann

WHEN: February 16 - March 5, 2023

WHERE: York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive

TICKETS: Tickets from $25. Single tickets on sale now through The Cultch's Box Office: 604-251-1363 or

For over 20 years, Urban Ink, and its circle of artists have broken barriers, through stimulating story, performance, and media. As we look ahead to the next 20 years to come, we strive to continue an Indigenized practice that centres Indigenous and diverse voices, making space for our communities across Turtle Island.

Corey Payette is an interdisciplinary storyteller, writer, composer, and director in theatre and film. He is a member of the Mattagami First Nations, with French Canadian and Irish ancestry. Known for his deeply moving, large-scale original musical creations, Payette's work challenges the public's notion of what musicals can be, inserting Indigenous perspectives and narratives into mainstream spaces, igniting conversations that inspire social change. Payette's work explores themes of colonization, Indigenous language revitalization, cultural healing, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and the complexity of historic and contemporary Indigenous experiences across music, theatre, and film. Payette's deeply collaborative, multi-disciplinary, and community engaged creation process has been integral in shining a light on stories that have gone unheard for generations. In 2021, Payette received the inaugural BC Reconciliation Award from The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, created to honour those who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, integrity, respect, and commitment to furthering Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the province of British Columbia. He is the Artistic Director of Urban Ink, past Artist-in-Residence with National Arts Centre [NAC] English Theatre, and is the founder of Raven Theatre. His musicals Children of God, Les Filles du Roi, Sedna, and Starwalker have won multiple awards and have toured extensively across Canada. He was awarded the John Hirsch Prize from the Canada Council, Jessie Awards for Composition and Direction, and Ovation Awards for Best New Musical and Outstanding 

Since 1973, The Cultch (formally the Vancouver East Cultural Centre) has been one of Vancouver's most diverse and innovative arts and cultural hubs. The organisation operates three theatrical venues, a gallery, various ancillary spaces in the heart of East Vancouver, as well as our RE/PLAY digital platform that reaches international audiences. The Cultch offers dynamic contemporary programming in theatre, dance, music, and the visual arts, bringing world-class cultural presentations to thousands of citizens each year through its own programming and through providing rental opportunities for community users. Our purpose is to provide a venue for performance that serves a diverse and engaged public and provides space for artistic experimentation and development, building an audience for local companies and presenting cutting-edge national and international work.

The Cultch is located on the unceded Indigenous land of the xwməϴkwəýəm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil‑Waututh) Nations.







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