Canada’s National Arts Centre has remained the head of the country’s performing arts for over half a century. Situated in the capital of Ottawa, it serves as not only a home for renowned Canadian theatre but a massive investor in both English and French theatre throughout the country, bringing national productions to international eyes. This past week saw the cultural pillar appoint a new artistic director to the NAC’s English theatre—acclaimed Filipino-Canadian director Nina Lee Aquino.
Nina Lee Aquino is well known for her role in championing and developing opportunities for Asian-Canadian theatre. Artistic director of Cahoots Theatre and then Factory Theatre in Toronto, Aquino has been the driving force behind Asian-Canadian theatre conferences, books, and the influential fu-GEN theatre company. The multiple-time artistic director and multiple-award-winning theatre creator clearly has a glowing record for this prestigious role, bringing not only a wealth of experience but a passion for bringing representative theatre to Canada.
Aquino stated that she was “deeply honoured” at the appointment. “I see my appointment as a continuation of the rich legacy of Artistic Directors who came before me and presented stories about the complexity of contemporary Canada. Theatre has been pivoting, shifting and adapting long before this current moment. The idea of this country – that is the Canadian experience, citizenship, identity – is continually evolving, perpetually being defined and re-defined through the lenses of our artistic work. The NAC that I dream of is a creative catalyst for change and transformation”
The appointment of Aquino sees the departure of ten-year artistic director Jillian Keiley, her term ending this August. Keiley will be programmer for the English theatre’s 2022-23 season in conjunction with Black Theatre Workshop—a Montréal based incubator and presenter of BIPOC theatre and the current co-creating company at the NAC.
Canada’s arts institutions have, as always is a potential across the world, risked stagnation over the recent years. But actions by both the National Arts Centre as well as the National Gallery of Canada prove them to be looking to the future of their companies’ impact and influence across artistic communities. Nina Lee Aquino’s appointment as artistic director indicates a desire to put progressive, representative, and boundary-pushing voices in the spotlight. Without a doubt, the NAC has selected a strong leader to steer their creative vision through current turbulent waters and beyond.