Black Theatre Workshop Extended as Co-Curating Company for NAC English Theatre

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How Black Mothers Say I Love You. Dayane Ntibarikure, Andrea Davis, Keren Roberts. Set & Costumes: Diana Uribe / Lighting: Tim Rodrigues © Andrée Lanthier
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The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God. Quincy Armorer, Lucinda Davis and Ensemble. Set & costumes: Astrid Janson / Lighting: Jason Hand © Andrée Lanthier
Angélique. Jenny Brizard, Omari Newton. Set & costumes: Eo Sharp / Lighting: David Perreault Ninacs © Andrew Alexander

In December 2020, National Arts Centre English Theatre, in partnership with Black Theatre Workshop (BTW), announced an unprecedented, shared curation model for the national stage. NAC English Theatre committed to the annual appointment of a Co-Curating Company in Residence, and as the inaugural company, BTW, the oldest Black theatre company in Canada, will curate half of English Theatre’s programming for the upcoming 2021-2022 season.

As the planning cycle for the 2021-22 season began, NAC and BTW realized an abbreviated season would not be enough to properly create the full potential of the residency. Today, both theatre companies are very excited to announce that BTW will continue as Co-Curating Company through to the 2022-2023 season. This will allow BTW to co-curate with access to the greater range of resources available in a more stable planning cycle and will allow NAC English Theatre to benefit from working with BTW for another season.

“this revisit of the co-curating company engagement term demonstrates an honest commitment to deepening the nac's quest for real connections with the wider 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.”

The upcoming 2021-2022 NAC season will be announced later this summer. With these two seasons, BTW, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, will have a greater opportunity to realize its mandate of fostering and showcasing Black Canadian art and artists on a national scale.

In addition, the Montreal-based BTW will participate in the process of identifying the Co-Curating Company for the 2023-2024 season.

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.

BTW’s performance of Black and Blue Matters – Track 1: No one Gives a F**k about a Cop, will be a part of NAC English Theatre’s Grand Acts of Theatre.

NAC Co-Curating Interlocutor

It is of critical importance to note that the role of the Co-Curating Company is exactly that: curation. BTW has not been engaged to solve the systemic racism issues facing English Theatre; that is English Theatre's work to do. In order to ensure that BTW is relieved of this burden, we have engaged ahdri zhina mandiela as Interlocutor, with the role defined as follows: ahdri will be available to BTW as a resource to whom BTW can relate any issues they may encounter over the course of their work with English Theatre and the NAC as a whole. Addressing these issues is work that will be done by English Theatre and ahdri, until they are resolved. As Interlocutor, ahdri will also have third-party resources available should a particular expertise be required.

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