Now We’re Talking! NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Jillian Keiley Opens the Conversation on the 2017/18 Season

Now We’re Talking! NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Jillian Keiley Opens the Conversation on the 2017/18 Season.

March 6, 2017 – OTTAWA (Canada) – From adaptations of classic novels, to powerful stories told in various musical styles, to real-life events brought to the national stage with stunning visuals, the 2017/18 NAC English Theatre season offers a wide array of experiences fostering meaningful exchange between audiences and artists.

There is nothing better than good conversation. Over a cup of tea, over a drink, over the supper table, I love the tennis match of argument and learning that comes from hearing and responding to someone else’s point of view,” said Jillian Keiley, NAC English Theatre Artistic Director. “This season delivers great sparks to ignite conversation, with provocative productions selected to fuel impassioned dialogue and the exchange of ideas.”

The Theatre Series kicks off the season with a raucous and stirring musical spin on Pushkin and Tchaikovsky’s Onegin, courtesy of Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille. Next is Gateway Theatre’s hilarious play within a play, King of the Yees by Lauren Yee. The New Year sees the return of stage wizard Robert Lepage to the NAC, appearing in English in his autobiographical masterpiece 887, followed by David Yee’s powerful Governor General’s Award-winning drama inspired by the 2004 tsunami, carried away on the crest of a wave, under the direction of Siminovitch Prize laureate Kim Collier in her NAC mainstage debut. The series closes with Janet Irwin’s adaptation of Brian Doyle’s beloved Ottawa story of a young boy’s journey to manhood, Up to Low.

The Studio Series delivers a wide arrange of storytelling beginning with the world premiere of Drew Hayden Taylor’s provocative comedy Sir John A: Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion, which tells the story of two best friends from the reserve who go on a mission to steal the bones of Sir John A. Macdonald, as leverage against a museum that is holding a family’s sacred First Nations objects. Next up is Mr. Shi and His Lover, an exquisite theatre-opera performance about a diplomat and an opera star, a huge hit from the 2016 SummerWorks Festival in Toronto, sung in Mandarin with English surtitles. The Studio Series wraps up with Omari Newton’s critically-acclaimed Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy of, a fast-paced hip-hop theatre hybrid that follows the police shooting death of a DJ named Sammy.

In addition, for 2017/18 NAC English Theatre offers a wide variety of special presentations. Back by popular demand, A Christmas Carol arrives for the holidays with the one and only Andy Jones reprising his role of Ebenezer Scrooge. In February, Adam Lazarus’ highly provocative Daughter performs at the NAC for three nights, with audiences invited to stay in their seats following each performance to join in a lively debate on the play’s theme with a recognized expert in the field. For young audiences, SNAFU and the Snack Music Collective’s wonderfully creative Table Top Tales arrives in time for Family Day 2018. Finally, in the spring, English Theatre presents Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre’s extraordinary dance-theatre work Betroffenheit for a limited two-night run. Dates and locations for Daughter and Table Top Tales will be announced later in the spring.

In addition to performances on the NAC stage, English Theatre takes to the road to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial with its hit 2013 production of Tartuffe, adapted by comedian Andy Jones and directed by Ms. Keiley, touring Newfoundland and Labrador in the fall of 2017.

We know you’ll be drawn in by our political, funny and courageous stories, and trust you’ll have lots to talk about long after the curtain goes down,” said Ms. Keiley.


The NAC is propelled by the idea that all of Canada is our stage. The Collaborations responds by partnering with theatre companies across Canada, placing English Theatre resources in the hands of creators developing and premiering work in their home communities, and refining the work in venues across Canada and abroad.

NAC English Theatre’s The Collaborations, a vehicle through which Ms. Keiley and Associate Artistic Director Sarah Garton Stanley have worked tirelessly over the past five seasons to offer artistic, financial and dramaturgical support for the development of new Canadian work, continues to foster dialogue with artists and companies across the country and beyond. As in 2016/17, The Collaborations program continues to make its way onto the NAC stage, this time with Up to Low and Daughter, both of which received support from The Collaborations and are now presented as part of the 2017/18 season.

Sarah Garton Stanley: “When considering projects for The Collaborations I have to ask myself questions such as: What is unique, or entirely special about this piece? Is this idea a good match for our programming goals? And perhaps most importantly: Can our investment give this piece a better life?

NAC English Theatre is proud to be contributing to the development and growth of new Canadian works and ideas for the stage. For more information, visit


Ms. Keiley continues to be one of the busiest artists in Canadian theatre, recently directing a touring production of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams with Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland. After its highly successful January/February run at the NAC, the production moved to Halifax’s Neptune Theatre, followed by the Grand Theatre in London in March. This spring, Ms. Keiley heads back to Stratford where she will direct a production of Euripides’ Bakkhai, in a new adaptation by Anne Carson opening June 16 at Stratford’s Tom Patterson Theatre.

For 2017/18 Ms. Keiley has once again created a season that delivers the best stories from across Canada to the national stage.


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NAC English Theatre and The National Arts Centre Foundation extends a warm thank you to Dr. Kanta Marwah for establishing the Dr. Kanta Marwah Endowment for English Theatre, and to Jenepher Hooper Endowment for Theatre and the Jenepher Hooper Fund for Theatre. Special thanks to the members of the NAC Foundation Donors’ Circle and Corporate Circle who generously support English Theatre at the National Arts Centre and the National Youth and Education Trust. The Official Hotel Partner of NAC English Theatre, the Extended Stay Canada, Sun Life Financial, presenting partner of the NAC’s Share the Spirit program and Via Rail, Official Rail Partner. A thank you also to the Government of Canada for its support.




Sean Fitzpatrick
Communications Officer, English
National Arts Centre
613 947 7000 x389 (toll free 866 850 2787 x389)

by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille
Directed by Amiel Gladstone
Produced by The Musical Stage Company (Toronto) in collaboration with NAC English Theatre
September 13 – 30
NAC Theatre

Onegin is a charismatic and bored bad boy who makes ruinous choices at every turn, leaving devastation in his wake. Based on Alexander Pushkin’s serial poem about unrequited love in 19th century Russia, this sweeping and romantic story for the ages gets a hip and acclaimed new theatrical treatment. With inventive choreography and a sharp, 21st century sensibility, Onegin is as fresh today as it was nearly two centuries ago. From the creators of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, and including a raucous and uplifting score by Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone, this is the very definition of passion. Lubov!

A breathtaking experience… you really felt a part of what was happening onstage.” –VanCityBuzz


King of the Yees 
by Lauren Yee
Directed by Sherry J. Yoon
A Gateway Theatre Production (Richmond, BC)
October 25 – November 11
NAC Theatre

It’s mid-rehearsal, and two actors playing Lauren and Larry deliver their lines. All is well until the real Larry wanders onstage. When the real Lauren – who, it seems, is also the playwright – leaps up from the audience and chaos ensues. Throw in some rogue spectators, a corrupt senator, lion dancers, ghostly ancestors, and a few firecrackers, and you have King of the Yees, an unapologetic and hilarious take on Chinese culture and tradition in North America. From stage to backstage to audience and back on stage again, this play within a play bulldozes the fourth wall in an epic joyride through Chinatown.

“Jaw-droppingly funny... satirizing western stereotypes of Chinese culture while lovingly sending up some actual, traditional Chinese customs.” – Georgia Straight

Ex Machina / Robert Lepage
Written, designed, directed and performed by Robert Lepage

English Translation Louisa Blair
Creative Direction and Design Steve Blanchet
Dramaturg Peder Bjurman
Assistant Director Adèle Saint-Amand
Composer and Sound Designer Jean-Sébastien Côté
Lighting Designer Laurent Routhier
Image Designer Félix Fradet-Faguy
Associate Set Designer Sylvain Décarie
Associate Properties Designer Ariane Sauvé
Associate Costumes Designer Jeanne Lapierre

An Ex Machina Production (Québec)
Commissioned by the Arts and Culture Program of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. In co-production with Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, La Comète - Scène Nationale de Châlons-en-Champagne, Edinburgh International Festival, århus Festuge, Théâtre de la Ville-Paris, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Romaeuropa Festival 2015, Bonlieu Scène Nationale Annecy, Ysarca Art Promotions - Pilar de Yzaguirre, Célestins, Théâtre de Lyon, SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs, on the occasion of Simon Fraser University’s 50th anniversary, Vancouver, Le Théâtre français du Centre National des Arts, Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Montréal, Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, Canadian Stage, Toronto, Le Volcan-scène nationale du Havre, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, The Bergen International Festival
January 10 – 27
NAC Theatre

Celebrated theatre-maker Robert Lepage returns to the NAC with an autobiographical journey through his childhood, in a Quebec just beginning to awaken to its own promise. Unable to memorize a poem he must recite, Lepage uses the “memory palace” technique, assigning stanzas to the familiar rooms of his childhood home. But re-opening the doors to each room reveals more inside than just the poem he put there. With stagecraft that will take your breath away, 887 recreates the world of a young boy growing up in 1960s Quebec.

"Amazing, resonant storytelling, beguiling us at every turn... demands to be seen." – The Globe and Mail

carried away on the crest of a wave
by David Yee
Directed by Kim Collier
An NAC English Theatre Production
March 21 – April 1
NAC Theatre

Born of a single cataclysmic afternoon, David Yee’s stunning play tosses lives together and just as quickly pulls them apart – an apt metaphor for the massive tsunami that rolled across the Indian Ocean in 2004. Millions of lives were changed forever in a fury of water whose ripple effect gave rise to these far-reaching stories, extending from a Toronto shock-jock radio studio to the shores of Thailand. Winner of the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama and directed by Siminovitch Prize laureate Kim Collier, carried away on the crest of a wave shows that despite our differences, we are all connected through serendipity, loss and love.

Be prepared to be hit by and possibly carried away on the crest of a wave… richly nuanced, far-ranging show.” –

Up to Low
By Brian Doyle
Adapted for the stage and directed by Janet Irwin
An NAC English Theatre Production
May 1 - 19
NAC Theatre

Based on the novel by Ottawa’s beloved Brian Doyle, Up to Low is the magical and mystical tale of a young boy’s journey to manhood. Twelve-year-old Tommy is on the road with his father and volatile family friend Frank, heading back to the cabin they haven’t visited since Tommy’s mother died. But Tommy also remembers Bridget, whose eyes are the deep green of the Gatineau Hills. Filled with deserted farms, smoky taverns and midnight rows upstream, Up to Low captures 1950s Ottawa Valley and Gatineau River in a way that is both familiar and brand new.

“Up to Low is captivating, heart-warming, and above all, magicaldefinitely a show worth seeing for the whole family.” –

Studio Series

Sir John A: Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion
by Drew Hayden Taylor
directed by Jim Millan
An NAC English Theatre Production
October 3 - 14
NAC Studio

Bobby Rabbit has unfinished business with Canada’s first Prime Minister. His grandfather’s medicine bundle lies languishing in a British museum, another casualty of the residential school system. So Bobby enlists the help of his friend Hugh, a rockstar wannabe, and Anya, a Queen’s University dropout, to secure a bargaining chip and execute a heist so epic in scale they might never see the light of day again. Filled with humour and sorrow, this bittersweet sesquicentennial story is about finding life’s purpose, knowing when to hang on, and when to forge a new path.

Drew Hayden Taylor has a deft touch for mixing comedy and commentary in an entertaining and all-Canadian form of social satire.” Vancouver Sun

Mr. Shi and His Lover
Music by Njo Kong Kie
Text by Wong Teng Chi
Directed by  Tam Chi Chun
A Macau Experimental Theatre/Music Picnic/Point View Art Association Production (Macau/Toronto)
January 3 - 13
NAC Studio

This elegant musical drama tells the story of a respected diplomat and a Chinese opera star who fall hopelessly in love, only to find themselves caught in a web of deceit and betrayal. When the opera star is revealed as a spy – and a man – the two must face the prospect of their mutual downfall. Based on a true story that rocked the diplomatic world, Mr. Shi and His Lover is an intimate portrayal of forgiveness and redemption – because the heart wants what it wants. Performed in Mandarin with English surtitles.

NNNN - Four 'N' Rating! “stunningly sung!"- NOW Magazine

Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy of
by Omari Newton
Directed by Diane Roberts
Produced by Sal Capone Productions (Vancouver/Toronto)
April 10 - 21
NAC Studio

This raw and passionate tale by exciting playwright Omari Newton digs deep into the lives of a hip-hop crew coming to terms, personally and professionally, with the police-shooting death of their DJ, Sammy. In the aftermath of the tragedy, this once-tight group struggles with grief in different ways. Do they carry on with canned beats? Or do they seek revenge? With seismic hip-hop beats and powerhouse performances, Sal Capone raises a mighty fist to prejudice, homophobia and injustice with grace and wit.

"Intelligent and often exciting... killer music and... dynamite performances." – The Vancouver Province

Special Presentations

A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens
Adapted and Directed by Jillian Keiley
Featuring Andy Jones as Scrooge
An NAC English Theatre Production
December 5 - 24, 2017
Opening Night Friday, December 8
NAC Theatre

Back by popular demand! Wander through snow-filled forests, smell the Christmas goose and figgy pudding, lift Marley’s ghostly chain… then take your seat for the NAC’s breathtaking production of the beloved classic A Christmas Carol, brought to life by the one and only Andy Jones as Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s Christmas Eve and Scrooge is on his own, rich but miserable, until the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-to-Come offer him a last chance at redemption. A perfect holiday show for the whole family!

“A spirited tale of how things should be… haunting and magical.” – Capital Critics Circle

Created by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young
Written by Jonathon Young
Choreographed and Directed by Crystal Pite
A Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre Co-production (Vancouver)
Co-producers: PANAMANIA Arts and Culture Program of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, Sadler’s Wells (London), National Arts Centre (Ottawa), The Banff Centre, the CanDance Network, Canadian Stage (Toronto), Agora de la danse (Montréal), Brian Webb Dance Company (Edmonton), and Dance Victoria (Victoria).
April 6 -7
NAC Theatre

One of the world’s best-reviewed dance theatre performances of the past decade, Betroffenheit is a virtuosic gift to the world – a visceral expression of sorrow that is nevertheless filled with humour, hope, and love. What happens when we experience a loss so deep and distressing we lose the ability to give it words?

**** “Betroffenheit is a stunning testament to what can happen when life turns into art.” – The Globe and Mail

Crystal Pite is an NAC Associate Dance Artist.


Written and performed by Adam Lazarus
Created by Adam Lazarus, Ann-Marie Kerr, Jiv Parasram and Melissa D’Agostino
Directed by Ann-Marie Kerr
Produced by QuipTake and Pandemic Theatre
The most talked-about performance of the 2016 Toronto SummerWorks festival, master clown Adam Lazarus explodes the taboos of fatherhood in Daughter, a provocative performance that asks where dads are supposed to file the wilder ideas and experiences of their earlier lives. Guaranteed to start a debate!
Date and Location to be announced

Table Top Tales
Directed and Co-created by Ginette Mohr
Co-Created by Andrew G. Young, Elliott Loran and Ingrid Hansen
SNAFU and the Snack Music Collective Production
In a cozy, playful corner of the newly renovated NAC, young children (and their parents, if they are brave enough!) share stories of family and friends, and the adventures and challenges of growing up. The stories are then instantly brought to life through puppetry by Canada’s Fringe favourites, SNAFU Dance Theatre.
Date and Location to be announced