Black Theatre Workshop announced as Inaugural Co-Curating company for NAC English theatre

Actors Lucinda Davis, centre, and Quincy Armorer during a performance of The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God in an undated handout photo. (National Arts Centre/Andree Lanthier/Canadian Press)

National Arts Centre English Theatre, in partnership with Black Theatre Workshop, today announced on December 9 an unprecedented shared curation model for the national stage.

NAC English Theatre has committed to the annual appointment of a Co-Curation Company in Residence, beginning in the 2021-22 season with the invitation to a Black-mandated theatre organization to envision their mandate through a national lens.

As the inaugural Co-Curating Company in Residence, Black Theatre Workshop (BTW) will have agency over half of English Theatre’s programming resources for the 2021-22 season. Black Theatre Workshop, the oldest Black theatre company in Canada, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, will have the opportunity to envision its mandate of fostering and showcasing Black Canadian art and artists on a national scale.

"It has been the greatest gift to curate works for the national stage and our beloved NAC audiences. While our team has used that gift, that agency, to bring diverse works to our audience, we recognize that this is not enough,” said NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Jillian Keiley. “The next logical step is to apply the same pluralist principle to our leadership and curation structure. We have the platform, and we have the talent to stand on it. I’m very proud to partner with Black Theatre Workshop in this endeavor. The artists they engage, the history of the company and the great artistic works that our audiences have seen in previous seasons from BTW sets us up for a great year to come.”

"We are thrilled to be invited by NAC English Theatre to play a major role in helping shape the programming for our national stage,” Black Theatre Workshop Artistic Director Quincy Armorer said. “This is the time for Black stories to be seen and heard on all stages across the country. We need these stories now more than ever, and this shared curation model affords us the chance to expand the BTW mandate, providing more opportunities to Black artists and bringing even more stories from Black communities to Canadian audiences.”

In addition, the Montreal-based Black Theatre Workshop will participate in the process of identifying the next Co-Curating Company for the 2022-23 season.

In light of recent calls for substantial 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. 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 and the process to select the organization each year.

"This step is exhilarating because it has the potential to transform artistic practice across the entire country,” said Audrey Dwyer on behalf of the advisors. “Black Theatre Workshop is dedicated to the works of Black and diasporic communities and has a combination of experience, bold imagination, and a thrilling plan towards mentorship, new play development and community building, as well as a history of collaborating with other theatre companies across Canada.”

“As part of our commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion, the National Arts Centre is extremely proud to be partnering with Black Theatre Workshop as our first Co-Curating Company,” said NAC President and CEO Christopher Deacon. “Their artistic excellence, and their dedication to the works of Black and diasporic communities, will enrich the National Arts Centre and theatre audiences across the country.”

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.

The National Arts Centre (NAC) is Canada’s bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for the performing arts.

— BLACK THEATRE WORKSHOP

— NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE

— AB

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