Ottawa: The National Arts Centre English Theatre announces its 2022/23 season

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

As the year moves forward and audiences begin their return to live performances, NAC English Theatre has been preparing for an exciting 2022-2023 season.

The playbill is led by co-productions and collaborations with multiple theatre partners, highlighted by the continued co-curating partnership with Black Theatre Workshop (BTW). Introduced in December 2020, BTW will curate half of English Theatre’s programming for the 2022-2023 season, providing the opportunity to envision its mandate of fostering and showcasing Black Canadian art and artists on a national scale.

2022-2023 is also a season of transition, as it marks the farewell season for Jillian Keiley as Artistic Director of English Theatre. Stretching over ten remarkable seasons, Ms. Keiley has brought dozens of exciting productions to the stages of the NAC, representing a unique national outlook on the country. Her final season of programming reverberates with the theme of forgiveness.

“This last season is a culmination of so much that I’d dreamed of for our National Theatre – the excellent artistic projects and the national partnerships have been at the core of our mission,” said Jillian Keiley. “But it is more than that. When I started here ten years ago, Associate Artistic Director Sarah Garton Stanley planted a seed. She said, ‘all you ever talk about in the theatre is forgiveness.’ She wondered if that would be the theme of my tenure to come. Ten years later as I hang up my hat (which I tip with admiration to incoming Artistic Director Nina Lee Aquino), I recognize that Sarah was right. The forgiveness we give and that we long for, is in everything I’ve tried to do here. In this second bloom, but first full season of projects in the Black Theatre Workshop/NAC English Theatre collaborative programming model, we have emerged with a season full of stories of forgiveness. As I leave and begin to reflect on the ten years that I’m so proud of, I hope you, English Theatre’s audience, know how much I have loved these stages and all the people associated with them – backstage, onstage and all of you out in front.”

In planning for this ground-breaking season, Ms. Keiley and BTW’s Interim Artistic Director Tyrone Benskin have assembled a powerful lineup of theatre and storytelling.

“We are particularly excited about this season’s offerings as co-curators of the NAC 2022-2023 English theatre season,” said Tyrone Benskin. “We are extremely thankful to Jillian for recognizing that there are many voices that speak in this land and that they need to be heard. The historical presence of people of African Descent and our stories only adds to the rich and complex history that is Canada.”

It is with great excitement that NAC English Theatre and BTW jointly announce the programming for the 2022-23 season.

NAC English Theatre

NAC English Theatre’s programming begins in November with The Breathing Hole by Colleen Murphy with Siobhan Arnatsiaq-Murphy and Nattilingmiutut translation by Janet Tamalik McGrath, a co-production with NAC Indigenous Theatre. Directed by Reneltta Arluk and presented in both Inuktut and English, the play tells the tale of a polar bear cub adopted by an Inuk grandmother, carrying us through centuries of contact between those who honour the North and those who exploit it.

In March, English Theatre is proud to deliver the world premiere stage adaptation of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s internationally acclaimed novel Fall On Your Knees. A sweeping novel that chronicles three generations of Cape Breton Island’s Piper family, the story moves from the battlefields of the First World War to the emerging jazz scene in Harlem, NY, and into the lives of four unforgettable sisters. This stage adaptation by Hannah Moscovitch and directed by Alisa Palmer will tour to four cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, and London, through early 2023. Fall On Your Knees, an NAC, Vita Brevis Arts, Canadian Stage, Neptune Theatre, and Grand Theatre production, will be presented in two parts, allowing audiences to enjoy two extraordinary evenings at the theatre.

“The long anticipated two-part Fall On Your Knees, based on Ann-Marie MacDonald’s revolutionary novel, speaks to the hurt carried down by generations that only confession and apology can begin to heal,” said Ms. Keiley. “The Breathing Hole, our co-production with Indigenous Theatre, moves us to understand the climate crisis and alter its course before it becomes impossible for the future to forgive us at all.”

Black Theatre Workshop

BTW’s programming as Co-Curating Company in Residence launches with Aleshea Harris’ Is God Is, a Tarantino-esque contemporary tragedy fusing the Spaghetti Western and Afropunk in a story of two sisters on a journey of righteous revenge. This co-production with Obsidian Theatre, Necessary Angel and Canadian Stage arrives at the NAC in February. The second curated project will be announced shortly.

CO-CURATING COMPANY IN RESIDENCE

The creation of the Co-Curating Company in Residence came to light after calls for significant change in the theatre industry. Recognizing the substantial lack of resources and opportunities available to Black artists in Canada, NAC English Theatre engaged members of the IBPoC arts community to guide us in a response. The catalysing force of Ravi Jain and his team from Why Not Theatre, along with advisors Audrey Dwyer and Mike Payette, worked alongside the leadership of NAC English Theatre to develop the model of the Co-Curating Company.

As the planning cycle for the 2021-22 season began, NAC and BTW realized that an abbreviated season would not be enough to allow the residency to reach its full potential. In July 2021, it was announced that BTW will continue as Co-Curating Company through the 2022-23 season. This will allow BTW to co-curate another season, with access to the greater range of resources available in a more stable planning cycle and equally, will allow NAC English Theatre to benefit from working with BTW for another year.

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