Stage Door News

Ottawa: NAC annual report details an unprecedented 2019/20 season

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The National Arts Centre’s Annual Report entitled Embracing Changewhich was tabled in Parliament earlier this month,  documents the NAC’s extraordinary 2019–2020 season. It included the landmark launch of Indigenous Theatre; digital initiatives to support artists and connect with audiences nationwide during the pandemic; the launch of the NAC’s new Strategic Plan called The Next Act; and the NAC’s vision to lead and support the recovery of the Canadian performing arts sector.

Those highlights and many more will be discussed at the NAC’s virtual Annual Public Meeting on Thursday, February 18 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. EST.

Speakers include: 

  • Adrian Burns, Chair of the NAC Board of Trustees 
  • Christopher Deacon, President and CEO 
  • Kevin Loring and Lori Marchand, Artistic Director and Managing Director of Indigenous Theatre, who will give a presentation about Indigenous Theatre’s inaugural season
  • Annabelle Cloutier, Executive Director of Strategy and Communications

 A question-and-answer period will follow the presentation. Individuals who are interested in attending the Annual Public Meeting are invited to register here.


There were many highlights of the National Arts Centre’s 2019–2020 season. They include:

  • Mòshkamo, the opening festival of Indigenous Theatre, included 111 events that featured 332 participants, and attracted 15,000 people and strong national media coverage. The first production was The Unnatural and Accidental Women by Métis-Dene playwright Marie Clements. Indigenous Theatre’s first season featured more than 10 Indigenous languages, and celebrated the beauty, strength and resilience of Indigenous women;
  • #CanadaPerforms, an initiative launched with initial support from its founding partner Facebook Canada, allowed the NAC to financially support 700 Canadian artists for their online performances between March and May 2020 through a $700,000 relief fund. This fund was made possible through generous contributions from Facebook Canada, Slaight Music, RBC Foundation, SiriusXM Canada and the Bennett Family Foundation. In June, with an additional $500,000 investment from Facebook Canada, the NAC announced that #CanadaPerforms would continue as a two-year partnership to benefit livestreamed performances, music events and festivals. In the fall of 2020, #CanadaPerforms went “on tour,” with the NAC producing events in front of small audiences in venues across Canada, with full safety protocols aligned with provincial health authorities;
  • In addition to #CanadaPerforms, the NAC launched a number of new digital initiatives to engage with audiences in response to COVID-19 in 2019–2020. Digital NACO, the NAC Orchestra’s digital initiatives, included NACO Lunch Break – 95 performances by  Orchestra musicians performing from their homes, which received more than 440,000 views on Facebook and YouTube. (Lunch Breaks have now received nearly 900,000 views to date). NAC Dance celebrated International Dance Day with performances by eight Canadian dance artists on #Canada Performs. And French Theatre distributed La Sentinelle, a newsletter that explored productions from the season. In 2020–2021, the NAC has continued to increase its digital presence, engaging with online audiences through on-demand and livestreamed performances, including concerts by the NAC Orchestra from Southam Hall, Popular Music and Variety artists from the Fourth Stage, and performances by Dance artists from across Canada through #DanceForth. The NAC is continuing to develop opportunities to engage with audiences across Canada and around the world through the performing arts;
  • As part of The Next Act, the NAC’s new Strategic Plan, the NAC committed to identifying and dismantling racist structures within the institution. The NAC also committed to diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion, and to creating a welcoming and respectful space. The NAC has since put in place a series of measures, and has taken actions to concretely tackle systemic racism in the institution, including the hiring of a Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and anti-racism training for the Board of Trustees, NAC Senior Management and staff;
  • In 2019–2020, the National Creation Fund invested $6.5 million of privately raised money in 42 new projects, many of which are led by IBPoC artists. At a time when Canadian creators have been facing unprecedented challenges, the Fund remained a strong catalyst for the performing arts, investing in bold, ambitious Canadian productions from coast to coast to coast;
  • The Kipnes Lantern served as a beacon of hope in the Nation’s Capital, and to online audiences through social media. In June, in honour of National Indigenous History Month, the Lantern displayed the beautiful works of acclaimed Indigenous visual artists  Germaine Arnaktauyok (Inuk), Christi Belcourt (Métis) and Simon Brascoupé (Algonquin and Haudenosaunee). The Lantern also thanked frontline workers through beautiful and inspiring imagery;
  • NAC English Theatre led The Green Rooms: The Earth is Watching … Let’s Act, an innovative three-day, digital gathering that explored how artists and arts organizations can reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainability. The Green Rooms report and videos are available on the NAC’s website.


“The 2019–2020 season was both challenging and transformational for the NAC,” said NAC President and CEO Christopher Deacon. “The launch of Indigenous Theatre was one of the most momentous occasions in NAC history, beginning with the Mòshkamo festival that attracted 15,000 people to experience Indigenous artists and stories. Our stages were filled with extraordinary performances by a diversity of artists in music, theatre and dance. When the pandemic was declared, we reached out to Canadian artists and audiences through digital technology. And we launched our Strategic Plan, with a vision to lead and support the renewal of the performing arts sector in Canada, and a commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion. I am very grateful to the Government of Canada for their tremendous support, to our Board of Trustees for their invaluable leadership and guidance, to NAC Foundation donors from across Canada for their generosity, and to our exceptional staff for their passion and hard work for the Canadian performing arts.”

Photo: NAC Kipnis Lantern. © 2020 Jason Westerlund.