“I was eight or so years old and that play inspired me to open up to the arts,” says Payette, Geordie’s artistic and executive director. “I was a shy kid and theatre offered a world where I could escape. I started taking acting workshops and got my first gig when I was 12!”
That first gig was no less than being cast in the children’s chorus of the Canadian touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat — the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical — at Montreal’s Place des Arts.
By age 19, Payette was cast in his first Geordie production directed by theatre veteran Dean Patrick Fleming, whom Payette later replaced as Geordie artistic and executive director in 2016. Then in March 2021, Payette announced he would be transitioning from Geordie in September to become the artistic director of the storied Tarragon Theatre company in Toronto, Ontario.
“My departure for Toronto is a bittersweet moment because I love the Montreal community and Geordie so much,” Payette says. “But I’m looking forward to what the next chapter brings. During my tenure, I’m proud of the work we’ve done in trying open up the tent for different voices and stories on the mainstage, creating theatre for all audiences and all ages.”
Indeed, culturally diverse representation has long been Payette’s personal and artistic signature: with Mathieu Murphy-Perron, BFA 08, he was co-founding artistic director of Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, where he directed the award-winning production of Michel Tremblay’s Hosanna in 2015. He was also past assistant artistic director of Black Theatre Workshop, the oldest professional Black theatre company in Canada.
Payette’s directing credits include the Quebec French-language premiere of Héritage (A Raisin in the Sun) at Théâtre Duceppe and a national tour of Lorena Gale’s Angélique that also headlined the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
Payette is a two-time Montreal English Theatre Award (META) recipient and currently serves as vice-president of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) board of directors.