Our Artistic Director
Photo by Brian Chan, Opening of Children of God at the National Arts Centre.
An interdisciplinary storyteller, writer, composer, director in theatre and film.
Photo credit: Luke Fontana
Corey Payette is a member of the Mattagami First Nations, with French Canadian and Irish ancestry, and lives on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl’ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples.
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 Award for Reconciliation 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.
Payette has been the Artistic Director of Urban Ink since 2014, an Indigenous and Culturally Diverse creation company in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, past Artist-in-Residence and Associate Artist with English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre, and founding Artistic Director of Raven Theatre, focusing on his new musical works. Payette has served as Artistic Associate with Full Circle: First Nations Performance, Talking Stick Festival, and The Indigenous Cycle at the National Arts Centre, an investigation into the broad spectrum of the Indigenous body of work being created within Canada’s borders. This cycle resulted in the creation of a new department of Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre, which launched its inaugural season in 2019.
As a musical creator, Payette writes the music, lyrics, and directs the productions. His original musical Children of God has been performed across Canada since 2017 at The Cultch (Vancouver), National Arts Centre (Ottawa), Citadel Theatre (Edmonton), Western Canada Theatre (Kamloops), Segal Centre (Montreal), Vernon Performing Arts Centre (Vernon), Capitol Theatre (Nelson), Key City Theatre (Cranbrook), Surrey Arts Centre (Surrey), and NVIT (Merritt). Upcoming tours planned across the Prairies and Northern Territories.
His second musical Les Filles du Roi (The King’s Daughters) written in English, French, and Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) with Julie McIsaac had its world premiere in 2018 at The Cultch (Vancouver). In 2021, Payette directed a film adaptation produced by Urban Ink and Raven Theatre that is to be presented by the Cultch in 2023. Payette’s third musical Sedna co-created with Reneltta Arluk and Marshall McMahen had its world premiere at Caravan Farm Theatre in 2018, and had its Vancouver premiere postponed due to the pandemic.
In 2023, his original musical Starwalker premiered at the York Theatre produced by Urban Ink and Raven Theatre, commissioned and developed by Musical Stage Co. (Toronto). In 2021, Starwalker began development under Warner Media / Access Canada writer’s program as a television series. Payette has two other original musicals that have been commissioned by Bard on the Beach (Vancouver), and the Stratford Festival.
As a director, other credits include: Moonlodge (Urban Ink/NAC English Theatre), associate director for A Christmas Carol (NAC English Theatre 2017 & 2018), upcoming Tom Jackson musical Blue Water with Theatre Calgary and Rainbow Stage and most recently made his film directing debut with Stories that Transform Us which premiered at VIFF, Guide My Way a concert film, Les Filles du Roi feature film to be released in 2023, and Starwalker feature film currently in post-production.
Corey holds a B.F.A. in Music Composition from York University, and composed the film score to the documentary AMIN AMIR (OMNI TV). He is the past Grand Chief of the Board of Directors of the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (IPAA) and past board member of Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society providing mental, physical, and spiritual relief to Indigenous peoples on the DTES (Vancouver, BC).
Payette has three musical albums “The Music from Children of God”, “The Music from Les Filles du Roi”, and “The Music from Sedna”, Children of God & Les Filles du Roi scripts have been published through Scirocco Drama, and piano/vocal songbooks are available as well. He is the recipient of the John Hirsch Prize from the Canada Council, Fleck Fellowship from the Banff Centre, has won 3 Ovation Awards and 2 Jessie Awards for his writing and directing work. He lives in East Van with his husband Marshall and tuxedo cat Mabel.