Stage Door News

Ottawa: David Abel named as new Managing Director of the NACs English Theatre

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The National Arts Centre today announced the appointment of arts manager David Abel as Managing Director of the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre. He will work alongside Artistic Director Jillian Keiley, whose term has been extended until 2022. As the NAC celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019, this dynamic team will ensure the continuation of strong leadership at the helm of English Theatre.

“David Abel is a highly successful arts manager who will provide exceptional leadership for NAC English Theatre, and invaluable experience and insight to the NAC’s senior management,” said NAC President and CEO Christopher Deacon. “We are also delighted that Jillian Keiley, one of Canada’s most brilliant theatre directors, and a fierce advocate for theatre artists and companies from across the country, will continue as Artistic Director. Together, Jillian and David will make an outstanding team as they work to strengthen and support Canadian theatre across Canada.”

Since 2012, Mr. Abel has been the Executive Director of the Toronto-based Art of Time Ensemble, which  has won critical and audience acclaim for its concerts featuring some of the best Canadian artists in the performing arts, film and literature, as well as noteworthy international musicians. During Mr. Abel’s tenure, the company’s budget doubled and subscriptions more than tripled. Between 2007 and 2011, he was Managing Director and General Manager of Canadian Stage, where he managed the company through artistic leadership change and generated regular operating surpluses. 

David Abel, who begins at the NAC on May 21, 2019, said he was excited to work in partnership with NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Jillian Keiley, particularly to advance her vision to support theatre artists and companies from across Canada who are creating new work.

“I am thrilled to be joining the exceptional team at the National Arts Centre in their passionate pursuit of collective change-making on a national scale,” Mr. Abel said. “It is more important than ever to hear from artists across Canada, and I look forward to partnering with the extraordinary Jillian Keiley in supporting those artists to the greatest extent possible.”

“David Abel is a true champion of Canadian theatre and a passionate master of all forms of producing, from large scale blockbusters to small esoteric delights,” said Artistic Director Jillian Keiley. “He is one of the most respected managers in the whole country.  It’s a terrific day for the NAC.”

Mr. Abel has extensive experience producing, co-producing and presenting theatre over the past 25 years. He was Associate Producer for the Canadian premiere of Broadway musicals such as Crazy for You and The Who’s Tommy for the Mirvish organization. He produced new and established Canadian plays and musicals as Executive Producer of Canadian Stage, and most recently has been producing music, dance and theatre as Executive Director of Art of Time Ensemble. His experience also includes producing Canadian, American and international tours, including U.S. tours of Proof, Amadeus and Ain’t Misbehavin’ for Canadian Stage, tours to 37 U.S. cities over three years for Art of Time Ensemble, and a world tour of Morris Panych’s adaptation of The Overcoat for Canadian Stage, featuring a sold-out run at the Barbican Centre in London, U.K., as well as stops in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In 2013, he received the Mallory Gilbert Award for leadership in Canadian Theatre in recognition of his contributions to Canadian theatre. 



The NAC is delighted to announce the extension of Artistic Director Jillian Keiley’s term until 2022, furthering the renewal of the leadership team at NAC English Theatre. Since Ms. Keiley began as Artistic Director of English Theatre in 2012, she has led English Theatre to champion Canadian theatre in innovative ways.

“Working at the NAC has been a thrilling challenge and the greatest honour of my life,” Ms. Keiley said. “I look forward to this brand new chapter for English Theatre with David Abel holding the reins. With the power and passion of our wonderful staff, I truly believe we will bring English Theatre to new heights.”

During her tenure, English Theatre has showcased dozens of productions by Canadian theatre companies from across Canada on the NAC’s national stage. English Theatre facilitates national conversations on significant topics, such as Deaf, Disability, Mad Arts and Inclusion, through its multi-year theatre research projects called The Cycles.  Finally, English Theatre was instrumental in the creation of the new Indigenous Theatre department at the NAC, which will begin its first season of programming in September 2019, led by Kevin Loring and Lori Marchand.

An award-winning director from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the founder of Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland,  Ms. Keiley has directed and taught across Canada and internationally. Highlights at the NAC include a Newfoundland adaptation ofTartuffe by Andy Jones, which toured to five Newfoundland communities in the fall of 2017; Alice Through the Looking-Glass(which re-appeared at the Charlottetown Festival, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, and the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, with new, local casts); Twelfth Night (which was also performed at Theatre Calgary with a new, local cast); andThe Colony of Unrequited Dreams (with Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland), which was also performed at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s, and at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. She has directed critically acclaimed productions at the Stratford Festival, including Bakkhai and The Diary of Anne Frank. In the spring of 2019, she directs Between Breaths at the NAC (Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland) and The Neverending Story at the Stratford Festival. Ms. Keiley is a winner of the Siminovitch Prize for Directing (2004), and holds honorary degrees from Memorial University and York University.

Photo: David Abel.