Sunny Drake

Sunny's inventive and award-winning theatre works have been presented in over 60 cities across the world and translated into 4 languages. His wide range of audiences have spanned international arts festival goers, queers in underground warehouses, elderly ladies in regional theatres and young people in drop-in centres.
Sunny Drake PortraitSunny Drake PortraitSunny Drake PortraitSunny Drake PortraitSunny Drake Portrait

Stories are the foundation of everything, including what we think is possible for ourselves and our planet. I aim to unmask the stories that keep us small and create new ones to call us into a different future

Sunny's inventive and award-winning theatre works have been presented in over 60 cities across the world and translated into 4 languages. His wide range of audiences have spanned international arts festivals goers, queers in underground warehouses, elderly ladies in regional theatres and young people in drop-in centres.

Sunny was commissioned by the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, Playwrights Guild of Canada and ATFC to write the 2019 World Theatre Day message for Canada. He was awarded the inaugural Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prize 2019 ($25,000) for having a significant impact on performing arts in Ontario, and was a finalist for the K. M. Hunter Theatre Award (2018). 

Sunny had an unconventional pathway into theatre, developing a unique approach to theatre by using skills learnt from a lifetime of defying conventions. At the time he was beginning his theatre practice, there was no place for him as a trans person in normatively gendered theatre training, so he taught himself through making theatre, then making more – initially putting on shows in living rooms, backyards and warehouses. To afford the rent while he was establishing his practice, at one point he lived in a bathroom with a mattress on top of the bath-tub, careful not to bump the taps! 

Later he brought his work and audiences into mainstream spaces, paving the way for other trans voices. Even after he could access cultural institutions, frequently he still chose to take theatre to the people: touring with lighting equipment to rural town halls, youth centres and the like.

His latest works aim to re-envision masculinity, examine the forces shaping our responses to climate change, explore collective economic and social systems, and uplift children’s ideas about the world. What ties them together is delving deeply into human stories to illuminate larger political contexts, and examining the impact of larger forces on human experience.

This year, Sunny is a creator-in-residence with Why Not Theatre, one of Canada’s most respected and dynamic companies. In 2019 he was a playwright-in-residence at the Stratford Festival, Canada’s largest theatre company. He has been awarded numerous other residencies including: the National Arts Centre’s Collaborations (2018-2020), Theatre Passe Muraille (2018/19), Nightswimming (2018), Factory Theatre’s Natural Resources (2017), Yaddo (New York, 2018), Playwrights Theatre Centre (2016), The Arctic Circle onboard a tall ship in the high arctic (2019) and Djerassi (2019).

Touring highlights: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Toronto), San Francisco International Arts Festival, Espace Libre (Montreal), Northern Arts & Cultural Centre (Yellowknife & Fort Smith), Brisbane Powerhouse (Australia), Nuovo Cinema Palazzo (Rome), The Basement Theatre (Brighton, UK), and three times in the USA National Queer Arts Festival. MEN EXPRESS THEIR FEELINGS premiered in Calgary with Downstage Theatre in 2020 just before the lockdown.​​ He is partway through 3 years of Canada Council multi-project funding – the first individual artist to receive this grant, previously only awarded to companies.

Sunny has over 20 years of producing experience in the arts. Back in the day, Sunny was instrumental in establishing a state-wide body for youth arts in Western Australia as the inaugural General Manager of Propel Youth Arts. He’s produced everything from indie theatre to international tours to community engagement processes to long distance political bike rides.

Sunny was the Director of the Emerging Creators Unit from 2015-2018 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre – the world's largest and longest running queer theatre.

Born and grown in Australia on Jaggera and Turrabul land, Sunny has lived in Tkaronto (Toronto) since 2011.

Photos: Luis Mora. Thanks to the Metcalf Foundation.

AWARDS

  • Best Original Play nomination for Men Express Their Feelings, Calgary Theatre Critics Awards, 2020 
  • Why Not Theatre creator in residence, 2021
  • (inaugural) Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prize 2019 - $25,000 award
  • Stratford Festival playwright in residence 2019
  • Invited onto The Collaborations with the National Arts Centre 2018-2020
  • Commissioned by Playwrights Guild of Canada, PACT and ATFC to write the 2019 World Theatre Day message.
  • “Outstanding Ensemble” for CHILD-ISH, NOW Magazine, Toronto, 2019
  • Harold Award, 2019
  • Stratford Festival Playwrights Retreat 2018
  • Peer assessor for Canada Council for the Arts, 2018
  • Theatre Passe Muraille playwright/creator in residence 2018-19
  • Nightswimming playwright/creator in residence 2018
  • 2018 Bay Area Playwrights Festival semi-finalist (San Francisco, 2018) 
  • K. M. Hunter Theatre Award 2018 finalist
  • Natural Resources playwrights unit (for mid-senior level playwrights) - Factory Theatre 2017
  • Spark Box Studio National Award, 2017
  • Dora Mavor Moore Award Juror 2017-18 season
  • Calgary Critics Award Nomination for Best Technical Design for “X”, 2015
  • TELUS Newcomer Professional Artist Finalist 2014
  • SummerWorks RBC Professional Arts Award 2013
  • “Outstanding Performance” and “Outstanding Design” for “X”, NOW Magazine, Toronto, 2013
  • Other awarded residencies: Djerassi (California, 2019), Klaustrid (Iceland, 2019), The Arctic Circle (The High Arctic, 2019), Yaddo (New York, 2018), Spark Box Studio (Canada,  2017); Ucross Foundation (Wyoming, 2017); PTC Writers Colony (Vancouver, 2016); Blue Mountain Centre writer’s residency (NY,  2016); Patio Taller (Puerto Rico, 2013 & invited back 2015); The Garage Theatre residency (San Francisco, 2008)

“Wildly, unabashedly funny.”

- Calgary Herald
Canada

“Charming and disarmingly clever…”

- Gscene
UK

"Vibrant and imaginative independent theatre at its absolute best..."

- ActorsGreenroom
Australia