Fringe Festival Volunteer Coordinator Swati Khanna is a rising presence in Montréal theatre as one of our community’s beloved cultural workers. Having first pursued a calling in the arts at the age of 5 as an Indian classical dancer, she then forged a successful career in Mumbai as a creative director/producer in film, television, and advertising. Despite having to rebuild a professional profile from scratch upon moving to Canada in 2017, she swiftly found herself at work with established companies – from the Fringe, Just for Laughs, Teesri Duniya Theatre, and Silk Road Institute – to her current position as Program Manager for the English Language Arts Network (ELAN).
With the stage arts again coming into focus, her previous experience in theatre acting, design, and production have now lent themselves to comprise a comprehensive industry skillset. “Everything that I have learned in these past 15-16 years of my career, I’ve put it all together to do the work I do today.”
Swati is a valued behind-the-scenes contributor at the local Fringe in coordinating 150+ volunteers for the fest. “It’s pretty intense,” she muses, “but it’s been a good run.” On what she cherishes most about the job, she cites “the raw energy. Then there’s the fact that it gives back to the community in a big way. I’ve met so many diverse people and made good friends along the way.”
Embraced by the community through her dedicated work and generosity of spirit, Swati still attributes her success to some fortune. As a BIPOC woman with little knowledge of French and few connections in Montréal, “I have been very lucky that I’ve been able to navigate myself here, and I am grateful to the community for supporting me and giving me so many opportunities.” she says. “I have also been lucky to not have experienced many issues of racial discrimination in Canada, but, just because racism hasn’t affected you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and that you can turn a blind eye to it.”
On her hopes for the theatre community, she reflects: “I have a lot of faith in human spirit, actually. Great minds will come together to find a solution that is going to help art at large. The landscape will change and the nature of how we produce and consume art might change, but art is here to stay. And maybe the silver lining is that it is going to become much more inclusive.”
FRINGE FIRE ROUND
Favourite Fringe show you’ve seen?
The Drag Races.
Annual Fringe tradition?
Going to the Fringe Park. It’s a great place to meet people. It’s like the Central Park of Montréal in my head.
Most memorable moment at the Fringe?
The great energy from the staff and volunteers.