March 8th features free events and performances including the REDdress project, experimental vocalist and artist Tanya Tagaq, and the NAC Orchestra’s groundbreaking performance Life Reflected

OTTAWA — On March 8, the National Arts Centre will celebrate International Women’s Day with a lineup of powerful events and activities honouring inspiring women. The day is an occasion to recognize the remarkable achievements of women and to renew collective efforts to achieve gender equality.

This year the Government of Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is #InnovateForChange; a call to action that encourages the public to harness the power of technology to create a more equal world. At the NAC, this theme will be echoed throughout an array of free events, installations, performances and a special presentation of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s groundbreaking immersive performance Life Reflected—a symphonic celebration of : Roberta Bondar, Rita Joe, Alice Munro, and Amanda Todd.

“The National Arts Centre is pleased to contribute to the conversation on international women’s day, engaging with the community around issues that matter deeply to Canadians. In the creations we support, the performing artists and creators we work with or the public events we deliver, our aim is to give voice and reflect the diverse culture and society we live in,” says Christopher Deacon President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts Centre.

Sixth Estate: Before the Bell - special show dedicated to International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day programming will get underway with a Sixth Estate: Before the Bell themed discussion focused on #BalanceforBetter. Guest host Susan Delacourt will interview and discuss elements of gender balance in: business, Canadian society, and politics and around the world.

The free event takes place from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. in the Rossy Pavilion. Advanced registration is required.  

The REDdress Project at the National Arts Centre

The REDdress Project was created by Jaime Black a multidisciplinary artist of mixed Anishinaabe and European decent and it is an art installation that draws attention to and creates space for dialogue around violence against Indigenous women and girls. The dresses act as spectral reminders of both their absence through acts of violence and also the powerful presence of Indigenous women and girls in shaping a way forward for future generations. The dresses call on the public to confront the dangerous reality faced by Indigenous women and girls across the globe and remind us of our collective responsibility to create safe, thriving communities. As Jamie Black explains, “Through the installation I hope to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Indigenous women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence.” Black’s art practice engages in themes of memory, identity, place and resistance and is grounded in an understanding of the body and the land as sources of historical and cultural knowledge.

The REDdress Project is a free installation and will be open for public viewing on March 8 at noon. The installation will be on display until March 14.

Free recital by Aella Choir honoring extraordinary women composers

At 6:00 p.m. the Aella Choir will perform a free, recital of works written by women composers. Aella is a women's choir is composed of advanced singers from the National Capital Region, who perform without a conductor. Described by Classical Ottawa as "everything modern choir should be – innovative, technically precise, joyous, comforting and representative," Aella was founded in 2016 by Jennifer Berntson.

The free performance is from 6:00 on the Glass Thorsteinson Staircase.

The NAC Orchestra’s Life Reflected, and performance by experimental vocalist and artist Tanya Tagaq

At 7:00 p.m. the NAC Orchestra and conductor Alexander Shelley will shine a light on four remarkable Canadian women, through Life Reflected, a richly emotional and immersive orchestral experience, featuring soprano Nathalie Paulin, and actor Monique Mojica.

The concert will open, with the creative genius of Inuk experimental vocalist and artist Tanya Tagaq, winner of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize, in the performance of Qiksaaktuq where she improvises the lament for murdered and missing Indigenous women.

This will be followed by the NAC orchestra’s signature new creation, Life Reflected, a richly emotional and immersive orchestral experience conducted by Alexander Shelley and directed by Donna Feore.

Roberta Bondar, Rita Joe, Alice Munro, and Amanda Todd are the inspiration behind Life Reflected, a unique symphonic and multi-media celebration of youth, promise, and courage. The National Arts Centre Orchestra commissioned four works by Zosha Di Castri, Jocelyn Morlock, Nicole Lizée, and John Estacio to create its largest production ever. The staging includes stunning projections, which immerse the audience in sound, motion picture, photography, and graphic design.

The performance begins at 7:00 p.m. in Southam Hall and tickets are available online.

Pre-Concert Talk

Join host Candy Palmater composer Jocelyn Morlock, as well as special guests Carol Todd and Ann Joe, as they discuss the powerful stories and voices of Amanda Todd and Rita Joe featured in the evening performance of Life Reflected. (English only).

6:00 – 6:30 p.m. location: Canal lobby stage

NAC Presents Franco-Ontarian pop singer-songwriter, Mélissa Ouimet

Over the last decade and via countless shows, Mélissa Ouimet has been quietly sowing an incredible career. Marked by her poise and knack for pop lyricism, the Franco-Ontarian singer-songwriter’s emotive rock has been celebrated by fans and festival alike, including the Francofolies of Montreal, Constellation Francophone in Toronto and as part of Canada 150.

Released in early 2018, her sophomore album builds on the foundation of rock, blues, and pop she established on her debut with producer Gautier Marinof. To boot, Mélissa launched "Les Sessions M", an interview-based web series, where she talks art, life, and beyond with some of her favourite artists. NAC Presents is thrilled to welcome this eclectic and tenacious talent!

The performance begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Fourth Stage. This is a ticketed performance.

English Theatre’s Gender-Bending Prince Hamlet casts Christine Horne as Hamlet

This is Hamlet like you’ve never seen it before. Starring Christine Horne as Hamlet (Dora Mavor Moore Award Nomination for Outstanding Performance) and Dawn Jani Birley as Horatio (Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best Actress in a Play) English Theatre’s gender-bending Prince Hamlet is an inclusive take on the world’s most famous play.

When he learns of his father’s death was no accident, Prince Hamlet sets out to find the truth for himself. Staring down his own mortality, the prince uses theatre and trickery to gain a confession from his uncle, and ultimately becomes a killer himself.

Visionary director Ravi Jain brings forward a Hamlet for our rapidly changing times. Combining English and American Sign Language, this remixed, reimagined, and bilingual Prince Hamlet features a cross-cultural, gender-bent cast and creates a fully integrated retelling for both hearing and Deaf audiences. – “this is no ordinary Hamlet.” - Toronto Star.

The play begins at 8:00 p.m. in the Azrieli Studio and is a ticketed performance. 

Kipnes Lantern

As the signature feature of the new NAC — and the largest transparent LED screen in North America – the Kipnes Lantern will be illuminated in support of International Women’s Day. This beacon of downtown Ottawa, will project the stunning artwork of Métis artist Christi Belcourt on March 8. Imagery on the Kipnes Lantern is created in collaboration with Montreal-based multimedia studio Moment Factory. The Kipnes Lantern is named in honour of Edmonton’s Dr. Dianne Kipnes, C.M., and Mr. Irving Kipnes, C.M. in recognition of their generosity.


The National Arts Centre collaborates with artists and arts organizations across Canada to help create a national stage for the performing arts, and acts as a catalyst for performance, creation and learning across the country. Founded on June 2, 1969, the National Arts Centre is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019 with an array of special programming and activities throughout the year.  A home for Canada’s most creative artists, the NAC strives to be artistically adventurous in each of its programming streams – the NAC Orchestra, English Theatre, French Theatre, Dance and NAC Presents. NAC Indigenous Theatre will begin its first season of programming in the fall of 2019. The NAC’s National Creation Fund invests up to $3 million of privately raised funds every year in 15 to 20 ambitious new works by Canadian artists and arts organizations. The NAC building has recently undergone two extensive renewal projects, generously funded by the Government of Canada that have re-oriented the NAC to the city; allowed the NAC to become more welcoming and accessible; and returned its performance halls and production facilities to contemporary standards. The NAC is at the forefront of youth and educational activities, offering artist training, programs for children and youth, and resources for teachers in communities across Canada. The NAC is also a pioneer in new media, showcasing the performing arts across the country through the Kipnes Lantern, the largest transparent LED installation in North America; using technology to teach students and young artists around the globe; creating top-rated podcasts; and providing a wide range of NAC Orchestra concerts on demand. The NAC is the only bilingual, multidisciplinary performing arts centre in Canada, and one of the largest in the world.


Andrea Ruttan

Communications Officer

National Arts Centre

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