Mani Soleymanlou has been appointed Artistic Director of NAC French Theatre

Christopher Deacon, President and CEO of Canada’s National Arts Centre (NAC), today announced that director, playwright and actor Mani Soleymanlou has been appointed Artistic Director of NAC French Theatre, effective September 1, 2021.

“Theatre invites us to see things differently,” said Mr. Deacon. “Through his work, Mani Soleymanlou calls us to observe and imagine the world from new perspectives. He has an intuitive connection to audiences, their reactions and their needs; he encourages them to think, and often sends them away with questions without lecturing them. He wants to be open to everyone and to work with professionals from across the country, and, because of his background, he can appreciate all the subtleties of the French-language theatre scene. His energy, creativity and natural leadership made him the obvious choice.”

Mani Soleymanlou had this to say about his appointment:

“It’s our turn now, dear audiences, dear artists; our turn to decide what we want to retain of our present experience, our turn to take action, no matter where we come from, where we’re going, whom we follow, despite our prejudices or our convictions, let’s all gather here, sharing the singular certainty of the power of Theatre, its capacity to make us dream, to bear witness, bring together, unite, shock, challenge ... And maybe when we’re together again, on stage and in the audience, we’ll be able to take time to set things straight, and momentarily silence the pervasive and incessant clamour of our era; to trade the ignorant arrogance of the scream that our age claims to prefer for the powerful subtlety of whispers ... or maybe not? Maybe all this is too intense ... or maybe not. Anyway, we’ll see.”


Mani Soleymanlou will take over from Brigitte Haentjens on August 31, 2021, at the conclusion of her nine-year term. Ms. Haentjens will program French Theatre’s 2021–22 season, which will be presented after her departure. Besides Ms. Haentjens, Mr. Soleymanlou’s predecessors include such renowned French-language theatre artists as André Brassard, Robert Lepage, Denis Marleau, and Wajdi Mouawad.

The search for Ms. Haentjens’ successor was launched in October 2019. It was an open competition overseen by a search committee made up of senior managers from the National Arts Centre and the Francophone theatre community: Marie-Hélène Falcon, founder of the Festival TransAmériques, Esther Duquette, artistic director of Théâtre la Seizième in Vancouver, and Alex Gazalé, a renowned technical director and the NAC’s former production director.


A 2008 graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Mani Soleymanlou has lived in Tehran, Paris, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, and has worked with such acclaimed directors as Alice Ronfard (Les pieds des anges), Brigitte Haentjens (L’opéra de quat’sous), Claude Poissant (Rouge gueule, The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi), Serge Denoncourt (Projet Andromaque, Les trois mousquetaires), Olivier Kemeid (Furieux et désespérés), Denis Bernard (Ce moment-là), and Eric Jean (Variations sur un temps).

He is best known as the founding artistic director (2011) of the Montreal-based theatre company Orange Noyée. His distinctive artistic practice investigates notions of community identity (Un/One, Deux/Two, and Trois/Three) and social relationships (Ils étaient quatre, Cinq à sept, 8). He pursued this approach more recently in Neuf [titre provisoire] and Zéro, presented in fall 2019 in Montreal and Ottawa, and also in various artistic collaborations over the years:Lapin blanc, Lapin rouge, Les Lettres arabes II and À te regarder, ils s’habitueront. Mani Soleymanlou was part of the impressive team behind Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show (premiered at the NAC in October 2017), as director and co-artistic director.

Mani Soleymanlou’s ongoing involvement in the Francophone theatre community, coupled with his expertise and sensitivity, make him an exceptional candidate who is able to grasp the full depth and complexity of Quebec and Franco-Canadian theatre. The last few months saw him adapt to health and safety restrictions to imagine Prologue, a physically distanced theatre project performed at Montreal’s OFFTA festival in spring 2020.


Mani Soleymanlou’s appointment fits well with the NAC’s recently announced renewal plan for Canada’s performing arts sector. The plan reflects the NAC’s commitment to supporting artists and maintaining its efforts to reach out to all Canadian audiences.

“Engaging people in the performing arts is our passion. Artists tell stories that inspire and move us. We bring to light those powerful stories and make space for diversity of voices and perspectives on the national stage. Through the experience of the performing arts, we strive to inspire, challenge and entertain, and to create opportunities for dialogue and understanding that remind us of our shared humanity.”

—Excerpt from The Next Act, the National Arts Centre’s 2020–2023 strategic plan


NAC French Theatre presents theatre that is in step with the times, theatre that reflects and responds to emerging artistic trends both at home and abroad and actively contributes to advancing contemporary stage writing and directing. This artistic trajectory is expressed through national and international co-productions, new works and touring productions. French Theatre offers audiences shows that stand out for the diversity of the forms they present and the emotions they trigger. Its programming is rich in original writing and vision, in brilliant staging, and in the powerful words of artists who enchant, challenge or unsettle audiences, but never leave them indifferent. French Theatre audiences have come to expect an emotional and intellectual adventure that is profoundly and authentically human.


The National Arts Centre (NAC) is Canada’s bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for the performing arts. The NAC presents, creates, produces, and co-produces performing arts programming in various streams—the NAC Orchestra, Dance, English Theatre, French Theatre, Indigenous Theatre, and Popular Music and Variety—and nurtures the next generation of audiences and artists from across Canada. The NAC is located in the National Capital Region on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation.



Annabelle Cloutier
Executive Director
Communications and Public Affairs
National Arts Centre
(613) 301-2764

Carl Martin
Senior Communications Advisor
National Arts Centre
(613) 291-8880

Join our email list for the latest updates!