Zahida Rahemtulla

Artist in Residence 2024/2025

Playwright Zahida Rahemtulla grew up in Burnaby, BC and later spent years living in Metchosin, Abu Dhabi, and Toronto. Her first play, The Wrong Bashir, premiered in Vancouver and Toronto to critically acclaimed, sold-out runs (Touchstone Theatre, 2023 and Crow’s Theatre, 2024) . Her second play, The Frontliners, a comedic drama about refugee resettlement, won the Fringe New Play Prize. Her plays have received the Playwrights Guild of Canada Tom Hendry Award, Theatre BC’s Play of Special Merit Award, and runner-up for the national Voaden Prize in Playwriting. Zahida is currently working with Nightswimming Theatre and Talk is Free Theatre to create new acting training programs for community actors of colour over the age of 55 to build capacity in this demographic and encourage them to train professionally. Zahida is currently an instructor in the Community Development and Outreach Department at Capilano University, where she teaches Adult Education. She also works at Blind Tiger Comedy in access.

The Frontliners is a comedic drama set in January 2016, during Canada’s resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees. In an East Vancouver hotel, three employees face the daunting task of finding homes for refugee families amidst a housing crisis. Their mission is a whirlwind of challenges: persistent journalists, overwhelming but well-meaning good Samaritans, bureaucratic red tape, unpredictable donations, demanding landlords, and the dreams and aspirations of the families themselves all complicate their endeavours, laying bare the humours and harsh realities of this on-the-ground work.

“Captures, with economy, humour, and heart, the intense rollercoaster ride of working in a refugee placement agency during a housing crisis.” -Voaden Prize in Playwriting

The Frontliners was developed with Playwrights Theatre Centre through the 2021-22 New Play in Development Prize. The first draft of The Frontliners was written at the Arts Club Emerging Playwrights Unit.