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The Playhouse Honours Archives

Established in 2008, the Playhouse Honours is given to an individual selected by the Fredericton Playhouse board of directors. Generously presented by Atlantic Mediaworks, the program recognizes an individual’s involvement in the performing arts in Fredericton, fostering a deeper appreciation of the value that people can bring to community life through their work in music, theatre, dance, spoken-word and multidisciplinary performing arts.

A permanent display in the west gallery of the Playhouse recognizes the honourees.

Ilkay Silk

Ilkay is well known in the community for her work as an actor, director, producer, playwright, educator, volunteer and organizer. She was the driving force behind the opening of the Black Box Theatre at St. Thomas University (STU), has taught at STU for almost 30 years, was a founding member of the TNB Young Company and the Notable Acts Theatre Festival, chaired the NB Arts board between 1994 and 1999, and has produced and directed countless plays in our community. In 2008, she currently chairs the Theatre New Brunswick board of directors.

Brent Staeben

Brent Staeben has been one of the foremost leaders of Fredericton’s music scene for the past 15 years. For the past ten years, he’s been music director of the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, building it into one of Atlantic Canada’s largest and most influential festivals. He also spent four years as chair of the Festival during its formative years.

As music director, he’s not only presided over unprecedented growth of the event, he’s maintained a firm commitment to the development of local and Atlantic Canadian musicians. He’s been a juror at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis and sat on the board of the Maple Blues Society. He does all this as a volunteer.

Philip Sexsmith

Philip founded and led Characters Incorporated, a youth-based performance troupe which produced high-quality music and theatrical productions. They travelled internationally, representing New Brunswick and Canada throughout the 1980s and 90s.

In addition, he has worked on numerous other youth productions with Leo Hayes High School and the Theatre New Brunswick Theatre School. Countless young people have benefited from Philip’s leadership.

His approach to creating and developing Characters Incorporated not only resulted in producing high level performances, but also developed discipline, social skills and artistic development in its young members. The “Characters” legacy includes numerous professional artists, arts educators and administrators who themselves are contributing greatly to our community.

Walter Learning

Walter Learning founded Theatre New Brunswick in 1968, creating the first professional theatre company in New Brunswick, and one of the longest running regional companies in Canada. He served as artistic director of TNB from 1968 to 1978 and returned as artistic producer from 1995 to 1999.

An accomplished actor, director and playwright, Learning collaborated with critically acclaimed literary figure Alden Nowlan to produce several world premieres during his tenure at TNB. He also oversaw the institution of TNB’s Young Company, which has been bringing professional theatre performances to elementary, middle and high schools in Fredericton, and in communities across the province, for over 35 years.

Mabel Doak

Mabel Doak is a gifted music teacher. Generations of her students have come to know her unwavering commitment to their own personal success. Her students attest to her high expectations and her extraordinary level of technical knowledge and musicality being paired with a teaching style that is marked with generosity, warmth, positivity, encouragement and patience.

She began taking singing lessons herself at a young age and went on to win various scholarships and competitions, giving acclaimed performances, conducting award-winning choirs, adjudicating at music festivals and serving for many years at the Fredericton Music Festival and the New Brunswick Federation of Music Festivals.

Several of her students have gone on to pursue academic study and professional careers in singing. Many have gone on to teach others thereby perpetuating her personal legacy. Students of Mabel Doak not only learn lessons in music, they learn valuable lessons in achieving a productive and fulfilling life.

Bonnie Kilburn

Bonnie Kilburn is a dancer, a teacher, a leader and a friend. Considered Fredericton’s own “Dean of Dance,” she has been teaching for nearly five decades. A linchpin in the community, she has been a mentor, educator and a philanthropist to many, setting an example for students and parents alike about the importance of giving back to the community.

Bonnie is a native of Fredericton and, since the age of 16, has been involved in the performing arts. She taught her first handful of students in the 1960s, and as her class sizes began to increase, she traveled abroad to further train and build upon her dance repertoire. By the 1980s Kilburn was in demand for lessons all over the region, and she began sending her top students to teach classes at satellite studios to fill demand.

Bonnie Kilburn has nourished generations of young people hungry for a creative outlet. The children and adults that join her school develop a lot more than just dance; they also develop self confidence, leadership skills and a long list of those they can call a friend. 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of her Dance Spectacular at The Fredericton Playhouse.

Michael Doherty

A gifted musician, composer, sound designer, producer and musical director, Michael Doherty’s artistic career has seen him playing in and leading award-winning bands, running his own sound-recording studio (SingingDog Studio), working as an educator in local high schools and universities and holding the position of resident composer/sound designer and music director for Theatre New Brunswick (TNB).

A fixture in the local music and theatre communities, he has provided musical direction for numerous ensembles and musical theatre productions as well as acted as a director and mentor to countless students. One of his most noteworthy contributions to the local community has been his involvement with Christmas@theplayhouse – a large-scale local production which he co-founded in 2001. Over its 13-year history, Doherty collaborated on each original script, wrote and arranged musical numbers and provided musical direction.

Mr. Doherty has made an outstanding contribution to the local performing arts scene and continues to develop his artistry in live theatre and music both locally and nationally.

Aida and Hrvoje Tisler

Aida and Hrvoje Tisler have played a pivotal role in raising the standard of musical excellence within the city of Fredericton. Since immigrating to Canada from Sarajevo in 1994, the Tislers have used their considerable skills as string performers to teach new generations of musicians. Over the past two decades, the number of highly talented and well-trained young string players in the city has taken a quantum leap forward.

The Tislers’ uncommon dedication to teaching frequently involves long hours of work and self-sacrifice. Annually, more than 100 of their students perform in the Fredericton Music Festival and many win first places, medals and prizes. Several of their students have continued with advanced musical education and are working toward careers as professional performing musicians or music teachers.

With more than 70 years of combined teaching experience, the Tislers have literally taught, coached and directed hundreds of students in Fredericton. Among other accomplishments, they have performed in numerous concerts with Symphony NB, the Fredericton Chamber Players and Atlantic Symphonia.

Peter Pacey

Peter Pacey is one of the most recognized theatre personalities in Fredericton, known for his work as an actor, director, writer and producer. Peter is often called upon to play a role at special events, but most would agree that his greatest contribution in the city of Fredericton is his role as a mentor and inspirational guru to young performers through his work with the Calithumpians Theatre Company.

Over the past 35 years, Peter has helped shape the lives of hundreds of young theatre students thanks to his dedication to the Calithumpians, a treasured tradition in Fredericton. Since its inception, the Calithumpians have combined education and entertainment to give the gift of free, live theatre and historic walking tours to more than 450,000 Frederictonians and tourists.

Peter challenges young people to combine history with comedy, resulting in original plays performed to large crowds each summer. His enthusiasm for theatre has motivated countless children and young adults to become leaders in their chosen communities, with many of them going on to pursue serious training in the arts.

Lynn Addleman

For 40 years, Lynn Addleman has worked diligently as a leader and supporter of the arts community in Fredericton. Much of this work has been behind the scenes in her volunteer role as costume designer and coordinator for Fredericton High School drama and musical theatre productions.

Lynn crafted costumes for more than 100 students each year. The care she took to ensure each student felt special and valued was evident from the work that was put into each costume, always making sure it fit just right, that each student was comfortable and happy in their garments, and that the costumes fit the period of the show.

Lynn has also maintained more than 10,000 costume pieces, and has prepared rentals for local public schools, universities, Noteable Acts, Bard In the Barracks, Theatre New Brunswick’s Theatre School as well as other community theatre groups and individuals. She has also taken on roles as a fundraiser, event coordinator and volunteer for many other arts groups in Fredericton.

Lynn has demonstrated excellence in her craft of costume design, while showing care and compassion for those she serves. Her ability to support and inspire others while working behind the scenes is most impressive.

Tania Breen

A brilliant educator, director and performer, Breen has been a vital part of Fredericton’s performing arts community for the past 20 years.

Breen recently finished her tenure as director of the Theatre New Brunswick (TNB) Young Company and Theatre School. Parents and former students alike will tell you that she not only inspired a lifelong appreciation for the arts in the children and youth she worked with – she changed lives. At the Theatre School, children from kindergarten to grade 12 had a safe space to play, create and explore. While teaching them her craft, she nurtured their self-confidence, work ethic and fostered an acceptance of others.

In this next chapter, Breen continues to be an invaluable part of the performing arts community in Fredericton, teaching musical theatre in the fine arts department at St. Thomas University (STU) – her alma mater. Her career seems to have come full circle as she trains the next generation of performers, directors and educators in the same place that she trained with, previous Playhouse Honours recipient, Ilkay Silk.


Maggie Paul (2019)

Maggie Paul is an Indigenous Passamaquoddy elder, teacher and song carrier who has travelled around the world to share Wolastoqey/Maliseet and Passamaquoddy culture. Known for her voice, Maggie has recorded two albums — capturing the traditional songs of the Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqiyik/Maliseet people.

A leader in the community, Maggie uses song to mentor young people who are looking to find their voice — like Polaris Prize winner Jeremy Dutcher. Work on the multi-award-winning album began when Maggie suggested he listen to century-old wax cylinders of Wolastoq songs, housed in the archives of the Canadian Museum of History. In 2018, when Dutcher accepted the Polaris Prize for his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, he thanked Maggie for encouraging him to study the songs of his community.

Born in Maine, Maggie has raised six children and lived most of her adult life on the Wolastoqey/Maliseet St. Mary’s First Nation in Fredericton. Her contribution and dedication to song has inspired a new generation of singers to maintain their culture. A true inspiration to people through song, Paul is also an invaluable supporter of those in her community who are struggling.

Leslee Dell (2020)

Leslee Dell has dedicated over 38 years to Fredericton’s performing arts scene though her significant contribution to dance. Leslee has enlightened, encouraged and trained countless young dancers in her role as Artistic Director for Dance Fredericton Danse Inc. In addition to nurturing her dance students, Leslee has mentored many dance teachers, instilling a positive influence in both their professional and personal lives. Ms. Dell has also worked to offer scholarships and make dance education more accessible. Recently, she completed specialized training in a Dance for Parkinson’s Disease Program and spearheaded a program in conjunction with the Fredericton Parkinson Society of NB, offering specialized dance classes to patients, families, friends, and care workers with the goal of helping them improve their lives through dance.

Leslee continues to innovate and expand Dance Fredericton’s offerings to engage other members of the community to promote wellness, movement, confidence and independence.

“Mrs. Dell” as the students and many parents call her, has provided her countless students over the years with a life long love of dance, and musicality, with an appreciation for many genres of dance, and a desire to produce excellence in all they do.  – Germaine Pataki-Theriault