Fashion Machine Returns

Fashion Machine Returns | International Tour 2023   |    Victoria, New York (March), Fayetteville, AR (May)

SKAM has called for participants ages 9 to 13 for shows in Victoria on the first weekend in March. Then we’re off to New York where FIAF (French Institute Alliance Française) will host shows on March 11. We’ll take a well earned break and head to Fayetteville, Arkansas for shows at the Walton Arts Center as part of their annual Artosphere Festival, May 12 to 14.

Five artists from the fields of textiles, theatre, and photography work with 28 local kids to prepare them for a show where they will remake outfits in less than one hour. Following training from professional SKAM artists, the kids circulate among the audience and select lucky, brave patrons (among those wearing “I’m In” stickers – the less brave wear chickens) to be taken inside the Fashion Machine. Then the action begins.

After an interview with the subjects and a brainstorming session, the young designers retreat to their open workshop space and begin redesigning the volunteers’ outfits. The audience circles the perimeter and watches the children at work while a photographer captures up-close images of the budding artists that are broadcast on a giant screen in an ever-expanding slideshow loop. The audience meets the young artists through videos they shot during the training sessions. After 50 minutes at the hands of the kids’ sewing machines, scissors, buttons, ribbons, fabric, needles and thread, the seven audience members don their remade outfits and showcase their new looks in a fashion show with commentary by the kids.

Fashion Machine is an opportunity to help foster the creativity of the next generation of artists; a new, exciting breed of performance art; and a whole lot of fun.

Know someone who might want to participate in the Victoria production? View our Call for Particpants and read the FAQ below.

Fashion Machine poster listing date location and a small blurb

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the age group for participants?

We encourage children ages 9 to 13 to apply.

What is the time commitment? Do we have to come to every training?

 Approximately 14 hours of training and 4 ½ hours for the actual show (including pre-show arrival). If you have to miss one afternoon, we can likely accommodate that. 

What is the cost for Fashion Machine?

 We value the program at $200, however we want no barriers for participants. As such, the program cost is flexible. If you can contribute, great–please do!

What will the set up be like inside the Satellite Studio?

You will be seated but you can walk around the space while the artists and kids are working. Theatre lights will be above you and you will have to navigate under them. There will be no strobe though lights might change quickly and a fog machine may be used. There will also be no florescent lights. There may be some some flashes from the camera.

How much are tickets?

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Fashion Machine Company Members

Megan Hands
Lynnéa Chan
Sophie Groves
Becky Johnson
Matthew Payne
Pauline Stynes
Katri Tahvanainen
Shayna Ward

Artist Bios

Lynnéa Chan (She/her)

Lynnéa (she/her) is a queer, Chinese-Canadian theatre artist, and graduate of the University of Victoria. She strives to create casually diverse stories that are both loving and provocative. Lynnéa is fond of all elements of theatre craft, with past work in design, teaching, writing, directing, and performance. This is her second time touring with Fashion Machine, and she’s excited to work again on this unique show with such inspiring people! Her creative interests include collaborative creation, experimental prose, and the legitimacy of genre fiction. Previous fashion/costume work includes Crimes of the Heart (Phoenix Theatre), and Going All The Way (Theatre SKAM). Lynnéa spends her spare time baking, bookbinding, making music, doing needlecraft, and rotating her ever-changing wheel of hobbies.

Sophie's headshot

Sophie Groves (She/her)

Sophie is an actor, director, photographer, and educator hailing from the Comox Valley. Sophie is currently completing her final year of a BFA in Theatre from the University of Victoria, with a focus on performance, directing, and applied theatre, and is working towards a Post-Graduate degree in Education. 

Sophie’s recent theatre credits include acting in Subway, a two-hander at Theatre Inconnu (2022); directing Perspective, a one-act play at the UVic Student Alternative Theatre Company (2022); and performing both improvised and musical theatre with Enchanted Fables Princess Parties (2019-2023). Sophie’s recent work as an educator and leader includes working as the Summer Camp Coordinator at Comox Community Centre (2021-2022); working as the Artist Coordinator and Assistant Stage Manager for Victoria’s Music by the Sea festival (2022); and volunteering as an Education Assistant in local elementary school classrooms (2018-2023).  

In her free time, Sophie can be found working as a freelance photographer, singing in music ensembles, teaching and performing improv, exploring local beaches, and petting friendly dogs. 


Meg Hands headshot

Meg Hands (She/her)

Meg (she/her) is a queer emerging theatre artist from the Vancouver area, currently living in Victoria after graduating with a degree in Writing from the University of Victoria. Meg is interested in stories that are weird – quirky, witty, and intense, and she has a weakness for re-told myths of all kinds. After specializing in playwriting in school, Meg developed her graphic design, photography, and video editing skills for advertising. After a three-year stint in marketing, she is refreshed to be using her photography skills for such a fun and unique project as Fashion Machine! Alongside reading and writing, Meg also enjoys playing music, and has been known to fool around on the piano, ukulele, and guitar. 

Becky headshot

Becky Johnson (She/her)

Becky (she/her) is a veteran of the Canadian comedy and theatre scene with over 30 years experience. She is an alumna of the Toronto Second City Mainstage and has created and toured her original improvised and scripted works internationally. Becky has also starred in iconic Canadian plays like the world premiere of Sheila Heti’s All Our Happy Days are Stupid (Suburban Beast, Toronto/The Kitchen, NYC) and the European premiere of Daniel MacIvor’s A Beautiful View (Volcano Theatre, Toronto/BeMe Theatre, Munich). Becky has won two Canadian Screen Awards for writing with Baroness von Sketch Show and has won multiple Canadian Comedy Awards for her work in improvisation. Becky can be seen on TV shows like Workin’ Moms, Baroness Von Sketch and What We Do in the Shadows. She also co-founded Toronto’s largest independent craft fair, City of Craft, and loves to sew!

Matthew Payne (he/him)

Matthew (he/him) lives and works as a theatre professional on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen speaking peoples (Victoria). Since graduating from the University of Victoria in 1993, he has worked regularly in Canadian Theatre, taking on a variety of roles and spending time in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto. Matthew dedicates his professional career to dreaming up inspirational and innovative projects that tour the world, to the development of new work (primarily by Victoria writers) and to building community. 

Matthew has worked professionally as a writer, performer, carpenter, director, production manager, stage manager and administrator. He has worked with a myriad of companies, including: The Belfry Theatre, Pacific Opera Victoria, Story Theatre, Kaleidoscope Theatre, Giggling Iguana, Nightswimming, Crow’s Theatre, and a dozen peer companies based in Vancouver.

In 2010 he furthered his training in a director’s master class led by Peter Hinton, Martha Henry and Josette Bushell-Mingo.

As Artistic and Managing Producer, Matthew has shepherded Theatre SKAM through a period of remarkable fiscal growth. Over the past five years, the company’s annual budget has grown from five figures to over $1,000,000. The public funding received by SKAM in its season speaks to the high opinion Matthew’s peers have of the company and of his leadership.

In 2019 Matthew was awarded the ProArt Mid Career Artist Award.

Pauline Short at sewing machine

Pauline Stynes (she/her)

Pauline (she/her) has over two decades of work as a tailor, dressmaker, and costume designer. She has been called upon to produce these for individuals, costume shops for theatre and opera, and for the TV and film industry. Having completed a degree in theatre design from the University of Victoria, as well as a mentorship with Pacific Opera Victoria, Pauline has made a niche for herself in the Victoria arts community: regularly dressing for the film industry and acting as designer and head of wardrobe for Blue Bridge Repertoire Theatre; as well as stitching for The Belfry Theatre. Pauline has taken her passion for clothing and design internationally coming to Canada from Ireland and travelling across Europe to attend The Prague Quadrennial Exhibition in 2015. Pauline has a long history of working with children, and it is her great delight to bring her two worlds together in Fashion Machine!

Headshot of Katriona

Katri Tahvanainen (she/her)

Katri (she/her) discovered her joy of sewing and crafting at a young age having grown up in a very rainy climate with nothing to do.  All through her schooling sewing was a steady companion, even when she should’ve been working harder on her undergraduate papers in university (oops).  After a few years of working a daily grind in a boring job she refocused and followed her true calling – sewing – which led down a path to becoming a professional costumer.  Having spent over 20 years working on fabulous things for stage (ballet, opera, theatre, puppets, marionettes, Olympic ceremonies and so on) and screen (Deadpool 2, Star Trek Beyond, So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Snowpiercer, countless Hallmarks and more), she has now refocused again to teaching costuming in the theatre department at the University of Victoria.  Katri wants most to share her love of sewing and show how beautifully expressive clothing and textile arts can be. 

Shayna ward sketched headshot

Shayna Ward (she/her)

Shayna (she/her) is a Victoria-based multifaceted artist specializing in costume design and wardrobe technician work. She has been fortunate to travel with her career throughout Canada, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Shayna was honoured to have her costume designs featured at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial exhibition. She has been a teaching artist with Theatre SKAM’s Fashion Machine since 2016, and regularly teaches youth sewing, design, and a variety of other fibre arts within her community. Shayna is the current Head of Wardrobe for Stars On Ice. Selected design biography includes: Bunk #7 (The Raven Collective), The Drowsy Chaperone (The Guild Theatre); 7eventy-7even (Theatre SKAM); Spit Delaney’s Island, Tom Waits’ Alice (Theatre Inconnu), The Skin of Our Teeth, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown! (Phoenix Theatres).


Praise for Fashion Machine

“It was like nothing I’d experienced in 25 years of reviewing theatre for radio, TV and print. That made it typical Theatre SKAM stuff, gently pushing boundaries and letting audiences in on something they just wouldn’t get anywhere else:  atmospheric, engaging and modestly edgy.

This is the kind of show that will be talked about in any community it plays.”

David Lennam

CBC Radio

“I can truly state I was dramatically changed by the experience (both in hair style and fashion choice), as well as emotionally engaged. And as
the father of a 10-year-old who participated in Fashion Machine, I can further attest to the essential role of Theatre SKAM’s staff as active facilitators, and that they are integral to the success of these performances.

Don’t be fooled by their
name: Theatre SKAM is the real deal.”

John Threlfall

Freelance Arts Reviewer

“Thank you SKAM, once again, for the smiles and the education you gave Gabriela and Talitha. They ‘are in’ for MORE of what you can offer them in the
future… AND what a great success it was!!! I think you all do an amazing job.
Last night was a hit… We’ll see you again!!!”

Kyrie Bond

for Gabriela Martinez and Talitha Tarr


Production History

Phase one. March 29, 2012 to May 3, 2012. In collaboration with the Victoria Intercultural Association: two Theatre SKAM instructors and two ICA staff conducted 6 weekly 2-hour drama classes with children of ICA clients. These new-to-Canada kids aged 6-12 were introduced to the idea of the project through fun drama games that imagined elements of Fashion Machine.

Phase two. August 13-17, 2012. After meeting the kids of the ICA, SKAM and ICA took the project to the next step. Three Theatre SKAMartists and the ICA staff conducted a one-week summer camp for children ages 10 to 13. These junior kampers met designers, tailors, and seamstresses, toured local clothing makers’ facilities, and learned the rules of fashion and style. Then they broke some of those rules as they remade the outfits of 5 adults brave enough to offer up their favourite clothing.

The camp featured guest artists and educators- Dr. Jennifer Wise, Erin Macklem, Everett Wong, April Parchoma, Trish Tacoma, Sandra McLellan, and Mark Dusseault- working with children drawn from SKAM’s previous work with ICA clients. With field trips to Smoking Lily, the Pacific Opera Costume shop, and the Belfry, along with a range of local clothiers presenting workshops or short lectures, this was a fun and educational experience for young artists-in-training. Plus we went for ice cream.

Phase three. April 28, 2013. Open Space (Gallery) saw the rehearsal, installation and presentation of a preview of Fashion Machine with ICA children and families! Many thanks to Jenny Ambrose from The Make House. 

Phase four. June 6-8, 2014. The World Premiere of the show took place at the Pacific Opera Victoria’s Opera Shop.

May 2016. Our widely acclaimed project Fashion Machine completed a tour of the UK. We visited Mayfest Bristol, England) and Chapter (Cardiff, Wales).

April 2016. And most recently… Fashion Machine visited one of our favourite local schools, Ecole George Jay Elementary where a group of students took 5 lucky audience members on a fashion journey.

Touring Information for Presenters

Fashion Machine is:
  • Five artists on tour
  • Artists need to be in your town for 7 to 10 days
  • We have ongoing support from Canada Council with travel assistance
Presenter provides:
  • Artist fee, accommodation, per diems (We can be accommodated in a house with five bedrooms)
  • Recruitment of the young participants the presenter is interested in targeting
  • Venue, tables, chairs
SKAM provides:
  • An extraordinary arts experience for children and their families in your community
  • A strong application to funders to cover travel costs
  • Honoraria for the participants
  • All sewing machines and related show items
  • Baggage fees (Our gear travels with us in suitcases- unless we’re doing Fashion Machine 100, the version with 100 kids)
  • Tools to assist in recruiting and processing artist applicants

Interested in presenting? Matthew would be happy to chat with you through or 250-386-7526.

International Tour 2019   |    Canada (May), UK (July & August)

SKAMartists had a blast entertaining audiences in Philadelphia as part of the 2018 IPAY conference. We enticed 83 delegates to see the work. Artistic Producer Matthew Payne also traveled to PUSH Festival in Vancouver the following week, and we’re now engaged in dialogue about potential appearances of the show around the world. Seriously humbling.

Scroll down for photos from Philadelphia.

(Poster by Rayola Design; Photomontage by Betty-Ann Lampman.)

Image of the students from Fashion Machine. There are over twenty kids sitting together and smiling.
Image of a girl standing at a mannequin pinning at design for Fashion Machine.
Image is of two fashion machine students working on a design.

(Poster by Rayola Design; Photomontage by Betty-Ann Lampman.)

Image of a girl sitting at a sewing machine working on her design.