Meet the Next Artistic Director of NAC French Theatre: Mani Soleymanlou

Mani-story-c-jean olivier
Mani Soleymanlou © Jean Olivier
Mani-story-3-c-jean francois hetu
Mani Soleymanlou © Jean-Francois Hétu
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Mani Soleymanlou © Jean-Francois Hétu

Theatre director, playwright and actor Mani Soleymanlou will be the next Artistic Director of NAC French Theatre, effective September 1, 2021.

Mani will take over from Brigitte Haentjens at the conclusion of her nine-year term.

NAC audiences will have already seen some of Mani Soleymanlou’s plays, notably Un (2014), Deux (2014), 8 (2017) and Zéro (2019). He was also part of the impressive team behind Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show (premiered at the NAC in October 2017), as director and co-artistic director.

Read: Mani Soleymanlou’s Biography

An Exceptional Candidate

Mani Soleymanlou’s energy, creativity and natural leadership made him the obvious choice for the position of NAC French Theatre Artistic Director. Through his work, Mani calls us to observe and imagine the world from new perspectives. He has an intuitive connection to audiences, their reactions and their needs; he encourages them to think, and often sends them away with questions without lecturing them. He wants to be open to everyone and to work with professionals from across the country, and, because of his background, he can appreciate all the subtleties of the French-language theatre scene. Mani Soleymanlou’s ongoing involvement in the Francophone theatre community, coupled with his expertise and sensitivity, make him an exceptional candidate who is able to grasp the full depth and complexity of Quebec and Franco-Canadian theatre.


Mani Soleymanlou had this to say about his appointment:

“It’s our turn now, dear audiences, dear artists; our turn to decide what we want to retain of our present experience, our turn to take action, no matter where we come from, where we’re going, whom we follow, despite our prejudices or our convictions, let’s all gather here, sharing the singular certainty of the power of Theatre, its capacity to make us dream, to bear witness, bring together, unite, shock, challenge ... And maybe when we’re together again, on stage and in the audience, we’ll be able to take time to set things straight, and momentarily silence the pervasive and incessant clamour of our era; to trade the ignorant arrogance of the scream that our age claims to prefer for the powerful subtlety of whispers ... or maybe not? Maybe all this is too intense ... or maybe not. Anyway, we’ll see.”

Strategic Plan 

Mani’s appointment also fits well with the NAC’s recently announced renewal plan for Canada’s performing arts sector. The plan reflects the NAC’s commitment to supporting artists and maintaining its efforts to reach out to all Canadian audiences.  

Search Committee

The search for Ms. Haentjens’ successor was launched in October 2019. It was an open competition overseen by a search committee made up of senior managers from the National Arts Centre and the Francophone theatre community: Marie-Hélène Falcon, founder of the Festival TransAmériques, Esther Duquette, artistic director of Théâtre la Seizième in Vancouver, and Alex Gazalé, a renowned technical director and the NAC’s former production director.

Brigitte Haentjens – whose last day at the NAC will be on August 31, 2021 – will program French Theatre’s 2021–22 season, which will be presented after her departure.

Media response

Le Devoir


Le Droit

La Presse

Globe and Mail

Ottawa Citizen



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