In July 2022, Sarah Garton Stanley (SGS) joined the NAC’s National Creation Fund as its new Artistic Producer. As an award-winning theatre maker, a change maker and a highly sought-after director and dramaturg, SGS seeks to forge connections between the performing arts and the questions of our times.
SGS shared her thoughts about her new role and the impact that your generous donations are having on new creations in the performing arts.
You’ve hit the six-month mark with the National Creation Fund. Any highlights? Surprises?
Part of leading is being able to think and dream above the noise. So… my biggest surprise was discovering how solid and seaworthy the good ship Creation Fund was when I arrived! Flanked by an incredible team at the Fund, I found myself in the enviable position of setting dreams for our future instead of needing to repair for the past. The greatest highlight is the certainty that the Creation Fund holds a unique and powerful place within this country and that we are beautifully positioned to make an enormous, game-changing difference in the performing arts in Canada.
What does forging connections between the performing arts and the questions of our times mean to you?
What does it mean to me? EVERYTHING! Every day I must ask, how does this work matter? To whom does it matter? How can the work we do respond to the urgent questions of our times? The Breathing Hole / Aglu ᐊᒡᓗ, one of our more recent shows, offers a great response to this question. This play forged all manner of cultural connections and is literally responsible for bringing an entire language back from the brink. Imagine! A play did this! This beautiful and urgent story about the life of a sweet little polar bear also revolutionized the syllabus and lives of young Inuit who are learning their own language in school. When I think about this, and this is just one example from over 70 works that we have invested in, I feel emboldened to push further, dig deeper and to believe that without the performing arts far more than light would dim. It is a sacred mission. It truly is.
What are some National Creation Fund projects that you are excited about?
Mahabharata is a Sanskrit epic of a divided family. Produced by Why Not Theatre, it opens at The Shaw Festival in March and will move to the Barbican in London, UK next. This is a two-play experience that on certain days will be joined together with a meal! Some of you may have visited Theatre du Soleil at La Cartoucherie, just outside of Paris. In my early years I experienced an event like Mahabharata there, and I have never forgotten it. I am also totally excited to see what Brigitte Haentjens is going to do with Rome! This monumental work charts the rise and fall of the Roman empire through the combining of five Shakespearean texts all wrestled into form by Jean-Marc Dalpé. This massive, six-hour experience is intended to envelop us in the ambition and the chaos of democracy, and I can’t wait!
The National Creation Fund is made possible with donor support. Is there anything you would like to say to NAC Foundation donors?
I often find myself dreaming about the moment Shakespeare first wrote Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech or Handel penned his Hallelujah (or Leonard Cohen his) or the eruption at Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, or the silence that followed the opening of Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman. I have spent my career dedicated to creating or supporting the creation of new work. Vital, vibrant, and risky, it is the very stuff of life and of moving the human story forward. Your support is what makes this possible. Without you, our dreams are diminished, our reach is limited. With you, we are enroute to the moon (and back in time for dinner!)