Kelley Jo BurkeKelley Jo Burke (click on my name to email me)

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Kelley Jo Burke is an award-winning playwright, creative nonfiction writer and documentarian, a professor of theatre and creative-writing, and was for many years host of CBC Radio’s SoundXchange.  (For complete employment history, see final section C.V.)

She was the 2017 winner (with composer Jeffery Straker) of Playwright Guild of Canada’s national Best New Musical Award for Us, which premiered at the Globe Theatre Feb 28 of 2018 directed by Valerie Pearson.  Her other recent plays which have been been produced and published in Canada, and around the world, including "The Lucky Ones, " "Somewhere, Sask.," “Ducks on the Moon” (Hagios), "The Selkie Wife" (Scirocco), "Jane's Thumb" (Signature), and "Charming and Rose: True Love (Blizzard).

 She is is also a director, dramaturge and editor. Her latest editing project, Glass Beads by the wonderful Dawn Dumont, won the 2018 Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction, and is nominated for the national Danuta Gleed Award for best new Canadian collection of short fiction. A recent favorite project was the audio version of the great Jean Okimasis' Cree: Language of the Plains. 

She has her MFA Special Case, Playwriting and Dramaturgy 2013, was SSHRC recipient,  the 2011 Doris and W.A. Riddell Fine Arts Graduate Scholarship recipient, and a 2011 recipient of a teaching fellowship with the U of R Theatre Department.

She has been a workshop leader in creative process, writing, performance, and creative non-fiction writing and production for more than twenty years.

She is a cultural citizen, serving on Saskatchewan Arts Board juries, judging awards and competitions, a sought-after speaker and panel member for many conferences and arts events, past president of the Saskatchewan Playwrights’ Centre, and past executive member of the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada.

She was 2009 winner of the Saskatchewan Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts, the 2009 City of Regina Writing Award (her third time receiving that award), and the 2008 Saskatoon and Area Theatre Award for Playwriting. 



Comments about Kelley Jo Burke: 


About Kelley Jo Burke’s writing

“powerfully deconstructionist”--Aritha van Herk

“Cynical,  pointed and rude” –Glenda McFarlane.


About The Lucky Ones:

The Lucky Ones is  a kind of ghost story of mature love, or what 
struggles to be mature. It’s about Enid and Marty, who meet by chance 
and despite genuine doubts about human relationships in general, and 
their own lovability, in particular, fall for each other one summer 
night, high above a moonlit lake, trapped in an abandoned fort. And 
contrary to everyone’s expectations, especially their own, they stay 
together. And that’s how, one summer night, high above the city, 
trapped in a hospital room, Marty finds himself the guy lucky enough to 
be the one asked to decide to let his love die, when her illness 
becomes intractable. And that’s where this play begins—with Marty 
flat out refusing to accept his luck. Good thing Enid has never NOT had 
the last word…

"A+--" impossible not to appreciate." Saskatoon S-P. 

About Somewhere, Saskatchewan


Written by Kelley Jo Burke and Carrie Catherine, performed by Carrie Catherine

Written by singer-songwriter Carrie Catherine and playwright Kelley Jo Burke, “Somewhere, SK”, a two-act musical, is the story of Ez—formerly of Saskatoon—who followed her rock n’ roll dream (and her band mate/boyfriend) to Toronto. But the boyfriend’s a rat, the dream’s gone splat, and Ez is on the run, driving a stolen mini-van halfway across Canada before she realizes she’s heading home. She finds herself broken down and busted flat on the side of Highway 16. Ez looks around at the wind-battered prairie, and sees.....NOTHING. Until, she takes a closer look.


"Somewhere, SK" is a collaboration between Dancing Sky Theatre and... playwright Kelley Jo Burke and singer/songwriter Carrie Catherine. Kelley Jo, one of our province’s best playwrights, wrote the multi award winning "The Selkie Wife" produced by Dancing Sky in 2008. Carrie Catherine is Saskatchewan’s own award-winning prairie chanteuse. Playful and passionate, she mesmerizes audiences with her soulful roots sound and crafted songs.


This play will take our hybrid mix of live theatre and live music to exciting places that it has never been before. Full of original music intricately woven with the magic of theatrical storytelling, "Somewhere, SK" promises to be a new kind of experience that explores the power of creation, music, home and landscape. --Dancing Sky Theatre website (

“There is a lot to echo what is happening on the stage with real life. For example, Carrie came back to the Prairies to find her dreams, like Ez. Also, the venue was once the town community centre, only to be refurbished as the Living Sky Theatre, much like an incident in the story....There is a lot to be enjoyed by this production in its zeitgeist. Carrie’s singing, Hal’s rhythm and foley contributions, Kelley’s words, each individually would make an enjoyable experience. Altogether, it is a fun night of indie theater.”-- Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen


“Saskatchewan singer / songwriter Carrie Catherine and award-winning playwright Kelley Jo Burke have teamed up to create a play inspired by the province's hidden gems – places where the two artists have toured and performed, who celebrate the arts. 'Somewhere, SK' tells the story of an abandoned prairie town that is transformed into a vibrant place where artists of all kinds can find inspiration.”-- Jessi Gowan, Prairie Post.


About Ducks on the Moon


Written and performed by Kelley Jo Burke


About “Ducks on the Moon”

“It’s a triumph of the human spirit, isn’t it?”
(audience comment, Regina premiere)

“Ducks on the Moon” is writer-documentarian Kelley Jo Burke’s “99% true” performance documentary about the first five years with her son, who in the play she calls “Noah”, because as she says, “My need for anecdotes does not trump my family’s need for privacy.”

In this non-fiction solo performance piece, Kelley Jo begins her talk to the audience on the day after her five year old autistic son has had dental surgery in the hospital. It hasn't been an easy 24 hours. She is almost immediately interrupted by her unseen, but very much felt, son, who continues to make appearances (of which the audience hears only Kelley Jo’s portion) throughout the performance.

In a series of stories and movement, the performer reflects on the boy's birth, and early childhood, and attempts to answer the question, "when did you first know that Noah was ...different?"

Through the stories the audience gets to share Kelley Jo’s learning curve as she meets not the child she expected but the child she has. The child has obvious differences, but Kelley Jo’s resistance to the idea of the child's autism is equally obvious. The question becomes, how bad will things have to get before this parent sees her child as who he is?

Ultimately, the piece is about the passage from denial to acceptance, not just for the parent of an autistic child, but any parent, making the transition from clinging to her expectations of motherhood, to the realities of life with her particular child. It is funny, heart-breaking and both entertaining and informative.

“Ducks on the Moon” was the winner of the 2009 City of Regina writing award. It has been performed in across Western Canada, by Kelley Jo Burke, with the Curtain Razor’s Theatre Co. 2009/10 season tour being a highlight.

“Ducks on the Moon” has been made into a documentary for the CBC radio program IDEAS, first broadcast on January 25th, 2010. A book of the same name, which includes the play, the interviews done for the documentary and other support material, was released fall 2010 by Hagios Press (see below).

Response to “Ducks on the Moon”

Susan Ouriou (novelist and translator)

“Kelley Jo Burke's… one-woman show is an unflinching look at one mother's hard day's night bringing up her autistic child. What we have seen so far is full of wisdom, wit, brutal honesty, and a willingness to challenge and be challenged. She gives voice to the fear, despair, love, and wonder of "special" mothering and a demonstration of the courage it takes, day after day after day, to drill into the hard rock of love, patience, creativity, and combativity that bringing up Noah requires. Thanks to Burke's gifts as a playwright, we anticipate a theatre piece that allows us to share in the triumphs and tragedies of the Noahs and Noahs' families of the world.”

Di Brandt (poet and teacher)

“It's ever so difficult to capture the sweaty anxious adoring pleasurable mix of giving birth and mothering young children in words. In this vivid monologue, Kelley Jo Burke manages that impossible task with verve and panache. The child in this case is not only young and demanding, but extraordinarily so, an autistic toddler, who can't sleep through the night without falling out of bed and injuring himself, who can't let go of his mother's hand or skin for even a second. The mother in this case is energetic and articulate in her response to the child, taking us through the swirl of emotions and ambivalences, the sorrow, guilt, weariness, anger, wonder and joy of mothering such a needy but also eerily gifted child, an increasingly common challenge in our time. This is sharply delineated human drama at its most tender, most vulnerable, most courageous. Excellent theatre.”


Karen Jeffrey, artistic director, Sunset Theatre

"Ducks on the Moon" by Kelley Jo Burke is a journey of the un-daunting spirit of a mother and an invitation to the open heart of a child, filled with wonder, awe and courage. It puts a whole new perspective on what it means to be a mother. It's honest- raw- and moves us to take a deeper look at our life, children and loves and examine not what we see but perhaps what we've missed!”


Watch the book trailer: 


About The Selkie Wife: 


Winner of the Saskatoon and Area Theatre Award for playwriting

(from the book jacket)

“An ancient Celtic myth explodes in the centre of a modern Canadian family in this strikingly original drama…there are moments of uproarious comedy thoughout the play. But Burke’s themes are serious, and the questions her characters face go to the very essence of their lives; The Selkie Wife is a dramatic meditation about love and sex, about freedom and oppression, about making concessions and making choices.”

"The play works on many levels...Burke has crafted a beautifully-written story of love, longing, and identity."—Cam Fuller, Saskatoon Star Phoenix

"Even in the darkest moments there's tea being had and jokes being made. It's that Scottish and Irish sensibility.… Kelley Jo is like that as a person. She's really funny and she can also deal with very serious things.'' Paula Costain, actor.

About Charming and Rose: True Love:  a modern fairy tale with a dark edge.

Performed in Canada, the US and in Europe, short-listed for the Chalmers and Dora Award for Playwriting. Winner of the 1992 City of Regina Writing Award, Finalist, finalist, 1993 Dora and Chalmers Awards.

 “Kelley Jo Burke’s “Charming & Rose: True Love” is a darkly humorous, foul-mouthed inversion of a fairy tale that leaps off the page in a fury. Like Marie Clements, Burke uses multiple time values and highly visual stage imagery to present insidious male violence. “Doing the princely” in this setting produces bruised flesh, not a glass slipper.” Kevin Burns, Quill and Quire.



About Kelley Jo Burke’s work on CBC:



“Today will see the very last episode of the CBC Radio program SoundXchange, curated and hosted by the inimitable Kelley Jo Burke. This is a profound loss for Saskatchewan art and artists. Over the last decade, Kelley Jo has hired me to improvise and perform characters, narrate short stories and poetry, create and produce radio plays, write and perform comedy, and has broadcast all this work across the province. She has done this for countless other writers, musicians, actors, poets, and playwrights as well. SO MUCH of my development as a creator is due to the amount of time and care KJ invested in my work and career. I cannot overstate how lucky I am to have had these chances, I would not have had these opportunities to grow and learn and create without her. She made me better year after year and continued to encourage me to make more stuff.

I am so, so grateful to you Kelley Jo. Your effort and love did not go unnoticed and it mattered a lot. I was honoured to work for you, I would do it a thousand times again, thank you.”

-Comedian/Teacher/Actor/ Jayden Pfeifer


“Late yesterday, I drove for three hours across the landscape of this beautiful province, from Swift Current, where I'd taught a workshop, home to Saskatoon. For one of those lovely hours, the final edition of Sound Xchange kept me company. Sound Xchange, and white ribbons of snow geese in the sky. Thanks, Kelley Jo.”

-Author Leona Theis


“The air waves of Saskatchewan are poorer because you and SoundXchange won't be broadcast. But we all know you will continue to contribute to the arts community and to society in your own outstanding way.”

-Dr. Cyril Kesten, Dept of Education U of R


“Kelley Jo is without a doubt the most genuine and ardent fan of Saskatchewan talent on the face of this earth. She made you feel special in a time and place where it was very hard to do so. She taught me to deepen story - including mine - and to bring the light, even in the darkest places. The projects that I worked on with Kelley Jo connected me to intimate life stories that I feel honoured to have carried (with Kelley Jo's amazing touch) to listeners. The gift is double sided and I know that all of you who have worked with Kelley Jo understand the meaning of that - she's sneaky that gal and I feel certain that she chose projects with an understanding that some of us needed the release in the service of the word as much as the word required the service of our heart and lungs to be told. KJ - I love you and want to work with you again - I just know I'll find a way.”

-Actor/producer Wendy Anderson



Selected Arts Work C.V. for Kelley Jo Burke:

Arts Work Resumé:                         Kelley Jo Burke

Kelley Jo Burke is a playwright and CNF writer. Her plays include the upcoming “Us” with Jeff Straker (Globe Theatre, 2018), “Ducks on the Moon” (Hagios), "The Selkie Wife" (Scirocco), "Jane's Thumb" (Signature), and "Charming and Rose: True Love (Blizzard). Her eighth CBC IDEAS radio documentary was heard across Canada in May 2017.  She also edits, dramaturges, directs and produces for stage and radio, with a specialization in cross-cultural and inclusionary practice.  And she was a host/producer for CBC for 13 years. She has been the recipient of multiple awards for writing and arts leadership.


She has been playing with story her whole life. Lately she gets paid for it.


Awards and Grants (selected):


2016, SAB IA Theatre, Development of Us

2016 Culture on the Go Grant, Performing Women launch, CWS2016

2014 SAB Arts in the Community project grant, Fireflies (now titled Us)

2014 Saskatchewan Foundation for the Arts, City of Regina Theatre Grant, The Lucky Ones

2014, SAB A IA grant, The Lucky Ones 2013  2013 Culture on the Go SAB, Somewhere, Sk.

2012 SAB Project grant, Somewhere, Sk.

2009, Saskatchewan Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts.  

2009, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Culture on the Go grant (Solo Performance Mix)

2009, Saskatchewan Arts Board, IA, (Ducks on the Moon)

2008, Saskatoon Area Theatre Award for Best New Play (The Selkie Wife)

2008, City of Regina Writing Award (Special); City of Regina, 2008.

2000, Worldplay (Big Ocean) CBC Radio, and around the world.

1999, scholarship (Comfort and Joy) Banff Centre of the Arts.

1996 City of Regina writing award (Comfort and Joy),

1995, winner, Saskatchewan Playwrights' Centre 24 hour Playwriting Competition for Jane's Thumb.

1994, Saskatchewan Arts Board, B Grant, (Comfort and Joy)

1993, Finalist, Dora Mavor Moore award for outstanding new play in the Toronto season. (Charming and Rose: True Love)

1993, Finalist, Chalmers Award for outstanding new Canadian play (Charming and Rose: True Love)

1992, Canada Council Short-term grant recipient.

1992 Winner, The Fiddlehead poetry competition.

1992, City of Regina Writing Award, 1992 (Charming and Rose: True Love).

1992-1, Pick of the Fringe, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Saskatoon for Fat Girls (wear all sizes), Charming and Rose.

1991, Saskatchewan Arts Board, IA.



Arts Work--Publications:


“Why Ducks” in Performing Women, edited by Penn Kemp, Living Archives of the League of Canadian Poets, 2016.

“A Conversation about Radio Drama”, with Allan Boss, in West-Words, edited by Moira Day, Plains Research Centre, 2011.

Ducks on the Moon: A Parent Meets Autism, annotated play and interviews, edited by Harold Rhenisch, Hagios, 2010

The Selkie Wife, play, edited by Glenda McFarlane, Scirocco, 2009

Jane’s Thumb in Two Hands Clapping   , edited by Kit Brennan, Signature, 2006.

Safe in Going it Alone: Plays by Women for Solo Performers. NuAge Editions, 1997, edited by Kit Brennan.

The Jesus Monologue in Short Spells.  Playwrights Union Press1998, edited by Valerie Shantz.

At the Arena in Going Top Shelf: An Anthology of Canadian Hockey Poetry, Heritage House, 2004, edited by Michael P.J. Kennedy.

Fat Girls (wear all sizes), International Readers' Theatre, edited by Peter Atwood, 1993.

Charming and Rose in Prerogatives Blizzard, 1996, edited by Peter Atwood, and in Amazing  Plays of the 1992 Winnipeg Fringe  (anthology of 3 plays) Blizzard Publishing, 1992, edited by Peter Atwood and Gordon Shillingford.

Arts Work--Stage and Radio Productions:

 (as playwright)


  • ·         Us
  • ·         The Lucky Ones,
  • ·          
  • ·         Lookingglass,
  • ·         Ducks on the Moon,
  • ·         Special,
  • ·         The Selkie Wife
  • ·         Jane’s Thumb
  • ·         Comfort and Joy
  • ·         Big Ocean
  • ·          
  • ·         Jane's Thumb,
  • ·         Crack!
  • ·         Had a Great Fall
  • ·         Charming and Rose: True Love
    • ·         And Fringe runs and multiple production of Fat Girls (wear all sizes), play, July 1993; Fetal Assessment, play, University of Texas Theater Department, student production, 1990;
    • ·         Pig Shuffle


Arts work—Creative nonfiction radio documentaries: (as writer, director and performer—premiere broadcasts only--all for CBC IDEAS with Dave Redel producer except where notes))

                                                Bringing Up (Fur) Baby, May 2017,                                          

Shame on Youtube, May 15, Dec 3, 2015.

 Ducks on the Moon: a Parent Meets Autism, January 25, 2010.

The World for World is Imagination: the ideas of Ursula K. Le Guin, April 12 and 13, 2004.

Fat Girls Sweet, variations on body size in eight body parts, November 26/27, 2001.

Mother of Miscarriage,  September 20 and 21, 1999.

Do You Believe in Magic,  October 17, 1996.

Chorus of Angels, March 13, 1995.

(as producer or contributing producer—all broadcasts for CBC Radio)

                The Donovan Show, words and music documentary, national holiday broadcast, poetry written by Beth Gobeil, host/producer KJ Burke, February 15, 2010.

The First Room, docu-drama on CBC’s Outfront, as producer, written by Cliff Burns. Upcoming, winter, 2008—plus work as associate on a number of other network specials.


Also arts work as a director, dramaturge, actor storyteller, arts journalist, and poet and as producer and sound artist for over 300 literary art radio productions