• Written by Colleen Murphy
  • Nattilingmiutut translation by Janet Tamalik McGrath
  • Director Reneltta Arluk
  • Nattilingmiutut Language Direction by Nilaulaaq Miriam Aglukkaq

In 1535, after experiencing an unsettling vision of the future, an Inuk woman named Hummiktuq adopts a polar bear cub. Dramatic and humorous, The Breathing Hole follows the bear as he takes the audience on an epic five century journey from a tiny Inuit community, through the tragic Franklin Expedition, and into a 21st century ravaged by climate change.

With extraordinary design featuring large-scale puppetry and an outstanding cast of 16 actors, The Breathing Hole is a masterful feat of stagecraft and imagination.

The play is presented in English and Inuktut. 


Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre is the first National Indigenous theatre department in the world! Our art is alive—it is shape-shifting and developing as we continue to learn, create, and share with one another. In many ways, its trajectory is tied to the rise of Indigenous activism beginning in the 1960s, marking a shift towards Indigenous self-determination and self-representation. Over the decades, Indigenous folks and organizations across Turtle Island gathered to resist policies and legislation that banned our cultural expression and practices. Out of this refusal, artworks reflecting Indigenous identities and realities emerged, triggering new ways of creating and performing Indigenous theatre.

We have, and continue to, witness our artistic community break down barriers, rise to artistic excellence and embody culturally specific storytelling practices. As Indigenous artists ourselves, we want to bring the joy we feel as dreamers, makers and doers to a wider community. Through all of our initiatives, we aim to foster and preserve Indigenous artistic practices and create welcoming spaces of cultural resurgence and inspiration. We humbly and passionately strive to honour the past and present work of Indigenous performing artists as we build a future together. This work is not over; it is just a beginning.

Dr. Lindsay Lachance, Artistic Associate 

Creative team

  • Written by Colleen Murphy
  • Nattilingmiutut translation by Janet Tamalik McGrath
  • Director Reneltta Arluk
  • Nattilingmiutut Language Direction by Nilaulaaq Miriam Aglukkaq
  • With Siobhan Arnatsiaq-Murphy
  • Choreographer Shannon Litzenberger
  • Sound Designer/Composer Carmen Braden
  • Set Designer Daniela Masellis
  • Costume Designer Samantha McCue
  • Original Costume Designer Joanna Yu

National Creation Fund investment

The National Creation Fund’s investment of $200,000 supports three workshops during the final phase of the project’s development:  a language workshop in the Inuktut dialect of Nattlingmiutut with Nilaulaaq Miriam Aglukkaq; a traditional Nattilik drumming workshop in Gjoa Haven led by Attima Hadlari; and a puppet workshop with members of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop.  These workshops are essential elements of a creation process that respects Inuit culture, traditions and protocols.   


An NAC Indigenous Theatre / NAC English Theatre co-production, in association with the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund.

The Breathing Hole is presented as part of Nordic Bridges, a year-long cultural initiative led by Harbourfront Centre in Toronto and supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Visit NordicBridges.ca to learn more.  

Performance dates

Past performances

December 2 to 10, 2022 : Babs Asper Theatre, National Arts Centre (Ottawa) 

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