The Howland Company is thrilled to announce the appointment of the company’s first Board of Directors. The collective artistic leadership of the company are honoured to be working with board members Benjamin Dermer, Rona Ghanbari, Susannah Gouinlock, Michael Joseph, Steven Sager, and Tamara Thomas. These six theatre-loving and civic-minded board members bring a wide range of skills to the company and are already engaged in building on the company’s 8-year track record of electric theatrical productions and community programming.
Additionally, the company is proud to share that we are evolving as a theatre collective, with the support of our Board of Directors, into a solidified collective leadership model. Moving forward, Howland will be led by a slate of Artistic Leaders, currently set at 9 members, with ambitions to grow in the coming months and years.
This is a clear next step in Howland’s journey and we cannot wait to share what we’ve been planning with you. With the support and leadership of the board and a newly minted organizational structure, the company is poised to move into this next phase of its development, while continuing to center the values of art-making, collaboration, community building, and the creation of meaningful learning and working opportunities for artists.
Get to Know The Board:
Co-Facilitator of The Board
Tamara Thomas currently works as a Member/adjudicator at a Federal Administrative Tribunal in the Toronto area. A lawyer by profession, she graduated from the Dual J.D. program offered through the University of Windsor and the University of Detroit Mercy with a Canadian and U.S. Juris Doctor and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2016. Prior to law school, she studied theatre at Queen’s University after developing a passion and love for performance and has acted in a variety of roles throughout her post-secondary career. Following her graduation from law school in 2015, she worked in Nunavut and Ottawa before returning to Toronto in 2017, where she worked primarily in litigation, administrative and immigration law. Since returning to Toronto, she has taken steps to act on her love of theatre and, as a result, was fortunate enough to become involved with Nightwood Theatre’s Lawyer Show. She is very excited to be working as a member of the inaugural Board of Directors for Howland Company and to see and contribute to its continued growth and success.
In her free time, Tamara enjoys learning new things, playing her ukulele, singing karaoke, playing video games and going on adventures. She is currently in the process of writing a play that she hopes to someday share with the world.
Co-Facilitator of The Board
Steven Sager is the managing partner of the law firm Macdonald Sager Manis and primarily focuses his practice on the financial services sector. His main areas of practice include construction, take out and acquisition financing, corporate and commercial lending, asset-based financing, sub debt lending, multi-jurisdictional transactions, as well as various other areas of commercial financings. Steven also regularly assists developers and entrepreneurs in the acquisition, financing and development of commercial, residential, industrial, hospitality and retail properties. Additionally, he frequently speaks to industry groups and others on various aspects of secured lending and real estate.
Steven has been practicing law since 1989 and has an extensive background in secured lending, real estate and development. He holds an undergraduate degree from Western University and completed his LLB at Osgoode Hall Law School. Steven has many years of successful experience assisting foreign corporations in establishing a Canadian presence, including representing many American companies with various interests throughout Canada. Steven’s numerous contacts in the Canadian business and lending industries continues to allow for the smooth and efficient transition of foreign corporations into the Canadian marketplace.
Steven is invested in the Toronto community in which he was raised, and where he continues to reside with his wife, Arlene. He acts as counsel to numerous non-profit and charitable organizations and regularly chairs fundraising events. Outside of the office Steven enjoys golfing, supporting his beloved Leafs, Raptors, Jays and Bucs, listening to vinyl, traveling (including being with his daughter in LA) and used to enjoy competitive running.
Treasurer of The Board
Michael Joseph is a financial operations professional working for an international media and advertising firm in Toronto. Michael has held diverse finance roles within the advertising industry. At the companies Michael has worked for, he has been responsible for corporate accounting procedures. Additionally, he has also been responsible for maintaining sound financial stewardship on behalf of clients.
Michael has wide-ranging experience in non-profit capital fundraising. Graduating from the University of Toronto, Michael held many board positions under the University of Toronto International Health Program and was responsible for fundraising initiatives from alumni networks and private corporations. Recently, Michael had a past board appoint as a capital campaign board member for a local historical church in Aurora, Ontario. In this role, he planned fundraising strategies to renovate and modernize the building.
Michael is a passionate supporter of the arts and is a strong advocate for Canadian art and theatre advancement. He has been a volunteer with the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, a supporter of the Canadian Opera Company and The National Ballet of Canada.
Fundraising Committee Facilitator
Rona Ghanbari is a theatre lover and a corporate lawyer practising at Stikeman Elliott LLP. Her legal practice focuses on securities, mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and general corporate and commercial law. Previously, Rona held positions as a legal researcher for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, and was a legal intern at SECTION27, a South African constitutional human rights legal centre. Rona is a volunteer with Matthew House Toronto’s Refugee Hearing Program, a program which helps refugees prepare for hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Rona currently serves on the Board of Directors of Young Diplomats of Canada, a not-for-profit organization led by young Canadians which sends delegations of young subject-matter-experts to global forums such as the annual World Bank, IMF, and UN conferences, to ensure young voices are heard during policy making.
Rona graduated from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law in 2017, and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2018. During her time at U of T Law, Rona was the Editor-in-Chief of Rights Review Magazine, the independent student-led publication of the Faculty of Law’s International Human Rights Program, and was an Editor for an independent student-led publication called Ultra Vires. Additionally, Rona directed and produced the Faculty of Law’s annual sketch comedy show, Law Follies. In 2019, Rona starred in Nightwood Theatre’s production of Mamma Mia as Sophie. Rona indulges her love of theatre by continuing to be involved in Nightwood Theatre’s Lawyer Show each year, and taking advantage of the wonderful art the Toronto theatre community has to offer.
Ben Dermer is the SVP of Innovation and Deputy Creative Director of Spin Master Ltd., a leading multi-national Children’s Toy and Entertainment company. For over 20 years, Benjamin has worked hand in hand with designers, inventors, roboticists, artists and creators around the world, helping bring to market new Toy and Entertainment properties like Hatchimals, Paw Patrol, Present Pets, Bakugan, Kinetic Sand and more. His work spans classic toy brands such as Rubik’s Cube, GUND and Etch-a-Sketch, as well as global entertainment properties like Harry Potter, Disney, Batman, and Star Wars.
Benjamin is a patron of Toronto theatre and has previously worked with the Toronto Fringe board. He holds a BFA in Film Writing from Winters College, York University.
Susannah Gouinlock is a Senior Consultant in Enterprise Real-Estate and Workplace Transformation at CIBC to enable a modern, inclusive and connected workplace experience for all CIBC employees. Most recently this included creating and implementing an Inclusive Design Strategy to ensure that CIBC Square, CIBC’s new global headquarters in downtown Toronto opening in 2021, was designed without barriers, exceeding industry standards in accessibility and inclusion.
Previous to joining CIBC in 2017, Susannah worked in the non-profit and public sector developing expertise in diversity & inclusion, communications, public affairs and government relations. Most notably working with many Canadian organizations to advance women and business by supporting their diversity & inclusion efforts at Catalyst Canada Inc, and as a Strategic Advisor on the Strategy & Public Affairs team at CBC/Radio-Canada.
Her passion for theatre stems from her parents, whose preferred parenting method included reciting memorable lines from plays, movies and literature; “the truth is rarely pure and never simple.” After realizing she was not destined for the stage or screen, she became an avid audience member and supporter of Toronto theatre and a huge fan of The Howland Company. She is thrilled to be part of their first Board of Directors. Susannah lives in Toronto with her husband, Mark, and son, Sam.