The inaugural season of the Co-Curating Company in Residence programming  at NAC English Theatre sparks a transformation

August 19, 2021 – OTTAWA (Canada) – Last year, in light of calls for radical change in the theatre industry, and 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. These discussions led to the introduction of the Co-Curating Company in Residence program, which began in December 2020 with the appointment of Black Theatre Workshop (BTW). Under this initiative, BTW is curating half of English Theatre’s programming for the 2021-2022 season, providing the opportunity to envision its mandate of fostering and showcasing Black Canadian art and artists on a national scale. 
In planning for this groundbreaking season, English Theatre Artistic Director Jillian Keiley and BTW's Artistic Director Quincy Armorer have assembled an inspiring lineup of theatre, symposia and national artist development activities. 

Last year the stages went dark, but there was a great deal happening in the theatres offstage. NAC English Theatre is emerging from a period of reflection, reckoning and change,” said Jillian Keiley. “In all of the work that I’ve been privileged to bring to you over the years, since my first inhouse production, Metamorphoses, the stories have been about transformation. The best theatre is about the journey a character takes on the path to change. And truly great theatre tells us that transformation is possible for all of us. Usually it’s those individual stories that bring our audiences through these paths to evolution and perspective shifting. This season, we offer our own metamorphosis; the transformation is in the company itself. In the story of English Theatre over the past ten years, we have been on a journey to discover what our country’s National Stage could look like.  With the 2021-2022 season, we will discover a new English Theatre that opens the conversation about what the power of transformation can do.” 
“Beyond the pandemic, this past year has been a very painful one for Black communities. It’s been a time of deep reflection for us at BTW, and we are emerging with a desire to carve out a new path - one that honours our history and legacy but that also lays the groundwork for our evolution as a Black organization telling the stories relevant to our current world,” said Quincy Armorer. “The opportunity to co-curate programming at the NAC on the heels of a tumultuous year is indeed a very welcome one. After being forced to cancel our 50th anniversary season last year, we’re happy to be back - especially on the NAC stage - to offer a diverse selection of projects that will help us reflect, reengage and, hopefully, help us heal.”

It is with great excitement that NAC English Theatre and BTW jointly announce their first slate of programming for the 2021-2022 season. They will announce additional programming for the winter of 2021-22 in the fall.

NAC English Theatre will open in November with a production that was halted due to COVID in 2020, Michael Frayn’s award-winning Copenhagenwhich will be performed for live audiences in the theatre as well streamed online. Directed by Jillian Keiley, the play is a fictional account of heated words and profound ideas exchanged between two physicists during World War II. Next is an online presentation, Frequencies from HEIST in Halifax. Best described as one-part techno concert, one-part autobiographical confessional, Frequencies sweeps audiences into a waking dream with performer/co-creator Aaron Collier and his keyboards. Following that is an audio-production of Entangled from Jacob Berkowitz, which explores the secret friendship between Nobel Prize-winning quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli and psychoanalyst Carl Jung. 
The fall productions form the theme for the first Symposium, Theatre and Physics. “Quantum Physics turns out to be a wonderful metaphor for the human heart. Three playwrights have tackled the pairing in three unique ways and, along with the Symposium events, we will explore this concept in more detail and delight. Those who know their quantum physics will be thrilled by the clever and beautiful human parallels drawn by the artists, and those who claim they don’t know a particle from a proton will emerge with a new understanding of the universe in it’s reflections of our personal entanglements,” added Ms Keiley. This symposium will feature lectures, workshops and other engaging events to be announced later this fall. 
In a sneak peek at spring offerings, English Theatre will deliver a blazing commentary on a great classic, Calpurnia by Audrey Dwyer, that will forever change how you think about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. In a co-production with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and Black Theatre Workshop, further details about this production and related events in the spring Symposium will be announced soon. 


BTW’s programming as Co-Curating Company in Residence launches in February with The Epistle of Tightrope Time, a one man, multi-character tour-de-force written and performed by the legendary Walter Borden, that tells the story of a young man growing up Black and gay in rural Nova Scotia. This will be followed up by Black and Blue Matters, a satirical, interactive Hip Hop musical written by Omari Newton and directed by Diane Roberts, which deconstructs the justice system, truth, white supremacy, and the nature of post/neo-colonial trauma. This world premiere musical will open in Montreal before arriving at the NAC in March. The previously mentioned Calpurnia, will open in the spring. 
In addition to these exciting productions, BTW will partner with English Theatre on the Artist Mentorship Program Industry Showcase. This program, part of BTW’s programming for the past eight seasons, will accept between 10 – 15 emerging artists across all theatrical disciplines (actors, directors, designers, playwrights, stage managers), and place them under the guidance of theatre professionals for several months. Mentorship sessions and workshops will culminate in the on-stage program showcase in June. As part of the Co-Curating Company’s planning this season, this program will go national for the first time, allowing Black artists from across the country to apply and enabling greater outreach for this important initiative. 
Tickets for performances scheduled for September to November 30, 2021 go on sale today. Programming scheduled after November 30 will go on sale later this fall.


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, 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. 
this revisit of the co-curating company engagement term demonstrates an honest commitment to deepening the nac's quest for real connections with black arts communities... toward being a more inclusive place for all,” said NAC Co-Curating Interlocutor ahdri zhina mandiela. “by broadening the scope of the inaugural ccc project from a single to two-year term, the organization is on path to setting a firm structure in place for growing the ccc/nac model; while affording the partnering company (btw) time and space to expand and measure its programming impact.” 


Recently announcing its 50th season, Black Theatre Workshop (BTW) is Canada’s longest running theatre company dedicated to the works of Black and diasporic communities. BTW’s mission is to promote and produce outstanding theatre that educates, entertains and inspires. The company strives to create greater cross-cultural understanding by challenging its audience and the status quo. Expanding the representation of Black Canadian artists, BTW bridges cultural divides – uniting hearts, minds and communities. 

The National Arts Centre is Canada’s bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for the performing arts. The NAC presents, creates, produces, and co-produces performing arts programming in various streams — the NAC Orchestra, Dance, English Theatre in collaboration with Black Theatre Workshop, French Theatre, Indigenous Theatre, and Popular Music and Variety — and nurtures the next generation of audiences and artists from across Canada. The NAC is located in the National Capital Region on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe. 


EN: The National Arts Centre Foundation would like to thank Official Hotel Partner Embassy Hotel & Suites, and Official Rail Partner VIA Rail. Special Thank You to Margaret Fountain, C.M., DFA (h) & David Fountain, C.M. and to the Dr. Kanta Marwah Endowment for English Theatre.



Sean Fitzpatrick 
Communications Officer 
NAC English Theatre 
613 899-9737