Brigitte Haentjens appointed Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre French Theatre  

OTTAWA, Canada – Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of Canada’s National Arts Centre (NAC), today announced that Brigitte Haentjens will be the next artistic director of the NAC French Theatre, as of the 2012–13 season.

Brigitte Haentjens is the first woman to occupy this prestigious position since the NAC was established in 1969. Her predecessors include such renowned theatre artists as Jean Herbiet, André Brassard, Robert Lepage, Denis Marleau, and current artistic director Wajdi Mouawad, whose five-year term will end in August 2012.

Brigitte Haentjens will join the NAC artistic team in two stages. As of September 2011 she will be the NAC French Theatre’s Artistic Director Designate, working alongside Wajdi Mouawad during his final season (2011–12). In September 2012 she will officially take over the position for a four-year term, until 2016. The first season programmed by Ms. Haentjens will be 2012–13.

“The National Arts Centre is proud to welcome Brigitte Haentjens as the Artistic Director of French Theatre,” said Peter Herrndorf. “Ms. Haentjens is a longtime associate of the NAC whose work has been described by critics and audiences alike as essential, beautiful and unforgettable. As a prodigious director and creator she has sought to shine a light on the human condition and compelled audiences to question the very foundations of their identity. As Artistic Director of the NAC French Theatre, Ms. Haentjens will have an opportunity to pursue her unique vision in a place that plays a leadership role in supporting and developing French-language theatre across the country, and represents a touchstone of Canadian theatre for other nations and cultures.”

“I am extremely honoured to have been considered for this position, and to join the illustrious line of theatre artists who have headed the NAC French Theatre,” said Brigitte Haentjens. “I am proud and delighted at the prospect of working with a community I know so well, and I hope I am equal to the task!”

Wajdi Mouawad praised Brigitte Haentjens’ talent and her impressive credentials. “Though haunted by the labyrinthine twists of the female psyche confronted by a world of silence, Brigitte has always been open to all artistic concerns and to the work of other creators. She is a woman of extraordinary breadth whose vision ranges from the deeply personal to the universal. As an artist, she is wonderfully multidimensional and paradoxical: even as she plumbs the depths of her own suffering to inform her unique productions, she is joyful and enthusiastic in her support of other approaches and practices. She is an artist, a poet, an exceptional woman.”

Brigitte Haentjens’ productions at the NAC
NAC French Theatre audiences have known Brigitte Haentjens since the 1980s, when she directed several staged readings and productions for French Theatre, including two landmark creations coproduced by the Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario and NAC French Theatre: Nickel, co-written by Ms. Haentjens and Jean Marc Dalpé, in March 1984, and Jean Marc Dalpé’s Le Chien in April 1988. As well, she directed two NAC family presentations: Louise Painchaud’s Des yeux au bout des doigts (February 1987) and Louise Bombardier’s Hippopotamie (November 1992). In 2002–03, French Theatre under artistic director Denis Marleau offered her a “carte blanche” and featured three of her productions during the season: Bernard?Marie Koltès’ La Nuit juste avant les forêts (with James Hyndman) in October 2002, and Feydeau’s Farces conjugales (two short comedies) and Marguerite Duras’ L’Éden Cinéma in May 2003. Since then, French Theatre has presented virtually all of Ms. Haentjens’ productions, including her adaptation and staging of Sylvia Plath’s La Cloche de verre (The Bell Jar) in December 2004; the theatrical event Tout comme elle, with a cast of 50 actresses, in October 2006; Vivre, based on the life and work of Virginia Woolf, in April 2007; and Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck in February 2010. As well, in spring 2007 Brigitte Haentjens directed the sixth annual Laboratoire du Théâtre français (French Theatre lab), which she entitled L’Acteur vertical (“the vertical actor”).

Brigitte Haentjens was born in Versailles, France, and studied theatre in Paris with the renowned Jacques Lecoq. In 1977 she moved to Ontario (first to Ottawa, then to Sudbury), where she played a pivotal role in the evolution of Franco-Ontarian theatre. As artistic director of Sudbury’s Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario for eight years (1982–90), she revitalized the company with an artistic energy that attracted attention across Canada, Quebec and France (her production of Jean Marc Dalpé’s Le Chien was invited to the 1988 Limoges Festival in France and Festival TransAmériques in Montreal). Her long creative association with Franco-Ontarian playwright Jean Marc Dalpé produced a series of highly successful plays, including Hawkesbury Blues (1982), Nickel (1984), Le Chien (1988), and Cris et Blues (1988).

In 1991 she moved to Montreal, where she quickly established a reputation for her powerful, original and personal style. As artistic director (1991–94) of the Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale, she programmed brilliant seasons featuring memorable productions, including her own staging of Albert Camus’ Caligula (1993).

For ESPACE GO, Ms. Haentjens directed several remarkable shows including Samuel Beckett’s Oh les beaux jours! (1990), Racine’s Bérénice (1992), and Heiner Müller’s Quartett (1996), which won several awards from the Association québécoise des critiques de théâtre, including the Critics’ Choice award and Best Montreal Production, 1995–96 season.

Her recent productions of Bernard?Marie Koltès’ Combat de nègre et de chiens and Dacia Maraini’s Marie Stuart, both for Théâtre du Nouveau Monde; Sophocles’ Électre and Antigone for ESPACE GO and Théâtre du Trident, respectively; Strindberg’s Mademoiselle Julie for ESPACE GO (winner of several Masque awards including Best Montreal Production, 2000–01); and Georges Feydeau’s Farces conjugales for Théâtre du Rideau Vert were enthusiastically applauded by audiences and critics alike.

Besides her work as a director, she was co-artistic director of the Carrefour international de théâtre du Québec for a decade (1996–2006). In 1997, her craving for artistic freedom led her to found her own company, Sibyllines, where she continued her creative journey. For Sibyllines, since 1998 she has produced and directed works by Bernard?Marie Koltès and Heiner Müller, Louise Dupré and Sarah Kane, Ingeborg Bachmann and Georg Büchner. She has presented compelling stage portraits of important women writers: Sylvia Plath in La Cloche de verre, Ingeborg Bachmann in Malina, Marguerite Duras in L’Eden Cinéma, Virginia Woolf in Vivre. The common thread running through all of her productions is her commitment to the text, to the creative process, to the courage and determination it takes finally to be able to say “I” without compromise or concession.

Brigitte Haentjens has had a truly remarkable influence, not least because of her unwavering commitment to engagement and excellence. She has directed close to 50 productions which have garnered a host of awards and honours: seven awards from the Association québécoise des critiques de théâtre (AQCT), including two Critics’ Choice awards (for Quartett and Tout comme elle); five AQCT nominations for Best Direction and one award, for La Cloche de verre. Her latest production, Woyzeck, was shortlisted for the 2008–09 AQCT Critics’ Choice award.

In 2007, Brigitte Haentjens received two prestigious awards for her lifetime achievement and outstanding artistic contribution: the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre and the Gascon-Thomas Award (National Theatre School of Canada).

The National Arts Centre
The National Arts Centre raised its curtains for the first time in 1969. Created by the Parliament of Canada as a Centennial project during the 1960s, the NAC has become Canada's foremost showcase for the performing arts. Today, the NAC works with countless artists, both emerging and established, from across Canada and around the world, and collaborates with scores of other arts organizations across the country. The NAC is strongly committed to being a leader and innovator in each of the performing arts fields in which it works—classical music, English theatre, French theatre, dance, variety, and community programming. It is at the forefront of youth and educational activities, supporting programs for young and emerging artists and programs for young audiences, and producing resources and study materials for teachers. The NAC is the only multidisciplinary, bilingual performing arts centre in North America, and one of the largest in the world.

NAC French Theatre
From its very beginnings in 1969, the National Arts Centre French Theatre has maintained the highest artistic standards, thanks to an impressive succession of exceptional artistic directors: Jean?Guy Sabourin, Jean Herbiet, André Brassard, Robert Lepage, Jean?Claude Marcus (Artistic Advisor), Denis Marleau, and currently (since 2007) Wajdi Mouawad.

NAC French Theatre audiences have come to expect theatre that is in step with the times; theatre that reflects and responds to emerging artistic trends both at home and abroad; theatre that actively participates in advancing contemporary dramatic writing and directing. These principles form the foundation of our collaborations with national and international partners, of the touring productions mounted by other companies and presented by French Theatre, and of the shows we produce ourselves, in-house, that express French Theatre’s distinctive voice. We offer our audiences not only aesthetically challenging theatre, but an emotional and intellectual adventure that is profoundly and unabashedly human.

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 For more information, please contact: 

Carl Martin
Communication Advisor
Tel.: 613-947-7000, ext. 560
Cell.: 613-291-8880 

Aude Rahmani
Communications Officer, NAC French Theatre
Tel.: 613-947-7000, ext. 396