Game Changers

We are NAC English Theatre. This is what we do.

NAC English Theatre opened its doors in 1969 with a production of George Ryga’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, programmed by NAC English Theatre’s first Artistic Director, Jean Roberts.

Young people grow old, new truths about the lands we inhabit get unearthed, financial standings shift, religious affiliations gain and lose power as do our elected representatives. So too the very makeup of Canada changes.

We see NAC English Theatre as a place where all people living in Canada – be it First Nations, Métis, Inuit, New Canadians and/or anyone who identifies as Canadian – see themselves reflected in our National Arts Centre. We see this as a huge and enlivening part of our mission.

Our theatrical journey began with The Ecstasy of Rita Joe. Today we continue to invest our hearts and minds into honouring the first peoples whose land we inhabit. One way we do this is by actively engaging with the wealth of theatre being created by indigenous peoples across this country.

NAC English Theatre is interested in creating and sustaining a living theatre – a theatre that is in conversation with the country it is helping to shape. We believe that our primary purpose is to serve the theatrical artists of this country in such a way that makes all of us feel like we are part of a conversation worthy of our time.

Theatre is our game and we play it with an insatiable curiosity as to how we can best respond to the speed of change in this country. With this in mind we are committed to the ongoing project of change. Canada, like the world it sits within, is in a constant state of change and the NAC English Theatre should reflect that.

So what are five things we are doing about change?

1. The Collaborations

We are interested in stories and ideas that are unique and that speak to the diverse experiences of living in Canada today. We are interested in the diversity of writing and creative voices in this country, all part of the ongoing project of making our work a reflection the evolving cultural milieu within Canada's borders.

2. The Cycle

Changing the face of Canadian theatre:
Theatre Research and Development in Canada

The National Arts Centre supports the evolution of theatrical performance in Canada.

The Cycle is a revolving, two-year research initiative developed by Associate Artistic Director Sarah Garton Stanley in partnership with artists and leaders from across the country. Our goal with each in-depth investigation is to gather practitioners around big ideas, engaging with the concerns of our contemporary society in theatrical terms. Areas of focus include Indigenous Performance (2014-15), Deaf, Disability, Mad Arts and Inclusion (2016-17), and Theatre & The Environment (2018-19).

Phase 1: The Summit is an intimate meeting place between artistic leaders from the milieu and empowered institutional representatives who act as listeners and respondents throughout the session.

Phase 2: The Study is a larger gathering of invested artists and leaders, students and specialists who together explore the breadth and scope of the work in view.

Phase 3: The Repast/ The Republic of Inclusion is an open sharing of ideas and work from The Study participants with the broader theatrical community: academic, artistic, independent and institutional.

Read all about Cycle #1 on Indigenous Theatre here.

3. Presenting Work

Each season we present work from across the country and beyond our borders. We have a set of criteria as to what makes it into our season and what does not. At the centre of our thinking is the notion that NAC English Theatre is for telling stories which help us better understand our place in the world.

4. SpiderWebShow

This is a theatrical space where Canada, the internet and performance minds intersect. Check it out at

5. Magnetic North Theatre Festival

New and exquisite works are found at this festival. Magnetic North celebrates highlights from the very recent Canadian theatre scene and put plays from across Canada in a ten-day conversation with one another.

From its inception in 2001 up to the present, NAC English Theatre has been co-presenting the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. Whether in its home city of Ottawa or its alternating ‘away’ city, NAC English Theatre is delighted to collaborate with the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. Check out the festival at

Thank you to the Friends of English Theatre for their passion and continued support.