If the content you are seeing is presented as unstyled HTML your browser is an older version that cannot support cascading style sheets. If you wish to upgrade your browser you may download Mozilla or Internet Explorer for Windows.

Magnetic North Theatre Festival

An annual national theatre festival of contemporary Canadian plays in English, produced by the Canadian Theatre Festival Society and co-presented by the National Arts Centre English Theatre. Founded in 2002, the Festival took place every other year in Ottawa in June, and in cities across Canada on alternating years: Ottawa (2003); Edmonton (2004); St. John’s Newfoundland (2006), Vancouver (2008); Kitchener Waterloo (2010), Calgary(2012), Halifax (2014), Whitehorse (2016). In March 2017, the Ottawa festival was cancelled due to financial exigencies, and Magnetic North discontinued. However, in June 2019, the Festival was resurrected in Vancouver as Magnetic North Festival, focusing on innovative creations from across Canada -- a "performing arts potluck" (website). Although there was no official Artistic Director, Heather Redfern, Executive Director of Vancouver East Cultural Centre (The Cultch), was instrumental in organizing and hosting the Festival. Over a dozen companies and solo artists participated, including Hive Performance Collective, Full Circle: First Nations Performance, Touchstone Theatre, and Playwrights Theatre Centre.

The founding Artistic Director of Magnetic North Theatre Festival was Mary Vingoe, followed by Ken Cameron (2007-2010), and Brenda Leadlay. The last A.D. was Brendan Healy.

The mandate of Magnetic North was to present a diversity of Canadian plays from across the country, of high artistic standards; to promote the dissemination of Canadian work that increases the awareness of Canadian theatre amongst artists, audiences, producers and presenters, nationally and internationally (website). Magnetic North productions were often picked up by theatres across the country for future seasons.

Productions have included Burning Vision (Ottawa 2003) and Copper Thunderbird (Ottawa 2007) by Marie Clements; Ernestine Sushwap Gets Her Trout (Edmonton 2004) by Tomson Highway; and The Adventures of Ali and Ali & the Axes of Evil (Edmonton 2004) by Guillermo Verdecchia, Marcus Youssef and Camyar Chai.

The 2008 Vancouver performances included Boxhead, an ontological farce by Darren O’Donnell of Crow's Theatre; Hive2, a collective of 11 Vancouver indie theatre groups performing in a warehouse; An Evening With Uncle Val, a comic monologue written and performed by Andy Jones; Loft, a multi-media circus show devised by Les 7 doigts de la main from Montreal; April 14, 1912, a hallucinatory account of the sinking of the Titanic, directed and conceived by Allyson McMackon, and performed by Theatre Rusticle from Toronto; Goodness, an investigation of modern morality by Michael Redhill, performed by Toronto-based Volcano Theatre; So Many Doors by Celia McBride, performed by Sour Brides Theatre of Whitehorse, a play about the effects of the deaths of their infant children on two couples; Where the Blood Mixes by Kevin Loring, performed by Playhouse Theatre Company and The Savage Society of Vancouver, with actors Ben Cardinal, Margo Kane, Billy Merasty, and dramaturgy by Sharon Pollock; Blood.claat, a one womban story of growing up in Jamaica by d’bi young.anitafrika; and Townsville, by the Chop/Studio 58 ensemble and Anita Rochon from Langara College.

The 2009 Ottawa Festival included: Eternal Hydra (Crow's Theatre); Fear of Flight (cross>Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland); Jake's Gift by Julia Mackey; Letters to My Grandmother and Pyaasa by Anusree Roy; Nevermore (Catalyst Theatre); Skydive by Kevin Kerr (Realwheels); and The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan (Old Trout Puppet Workshop.

In 2010, the Kitchener-Waterloo Festival included: Mump and Smoot in Cracked; Joan Macleod's Another Home Invasion; and The Last 15 Seconds by MT Space.

The 2011 Festival in Ottawa featured: This is What Happens Next by the ubiquitous Daniel MacIvor; Yichud (Seclusion) by Julie Tepperman (Theatre Passe Muraille production); 5 Easy Steps (to the end of the world (Zuppa Theatre Company); Kawasaki Exit by Blake Brooker (One Yellow Rabbit); The Silicon Diaries by Nina Arsenault (Buddies in Bad Times); and Kismet (The Chop Theatre, Vancouver).

The 2012 Festival in Calgary included: Oil and Water by Robert Chafe (Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland production); Blue Box by Carmen Aguirre; White Rabbit, Red Rabbit (Volcano Theatre and Necessary Angel); and Paper Series by David Yee (Cahoots Theatre Projects).

The 2013 Festival in Ottawa included: A Brimful of Asha by Ravi Jain, The War of 1812 by Michael Hollingsworth, and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again by Michel Tremblay (dir. Glynis Leyshon), with Lorne Cardinal and Margo Kane, which provided an appropriate national range: a BC theatre company producing a Quebec play in English with an Indigenous cast.

In 2014, the Festival in Halifax and Dartmouth included: Who Killed Spalding Gray? by Daniel MacIvor (Necessary Angel, dir. Daniel Brooks); Iceland by Nicholas Billon (Why Not Theatre, dir. Ravi Jain); Pop-Up Love Party (Zuppa Theatre Company); Stella, Queen of the Snow (Mermaid Theatre); The National Elevator Project (Theatre Yes); When It Rains (2b Theatre Company); Wag (One Yellow Rabbit, written and performed by Denise Clarke).

The 2016 Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon included: 2b Theatre Company's We Are Not Alone, with Damien Atkins; Theatre Replacement's Town Crier, Nakai Theatre's Dogtown, the Musical; and Gwaandak Theatre's Map of the Land, Map of the Stars.

The Festival also featured symposia called “Magnetic Vibrations” which explore such issues as developing a performance tour, funding, modes of creation, and contemporary criticism; “Magnetic Encounters,” including “Celebrity Speakers” such as Gordon Pinsent, Sandra Oh, Mieko Ouchi, Sharon Pollock, Tantoo Cardinal, and Anosh Irani; “Tea with the Artists” -- open forums for conversations with the playwrights, directors and actors; and “Lunchtime Encounters,” with debates by theatre artists on hot topics such as “Be it resolved that theatre is better than sex.” The “Industry Series” hosted a series of discussions, workshops, and talks on marketing, planning, environmental responsibility, closing the deal, theatre spaces, multidisciplinary collaboration, and pitching a performance.

Website: www.magneticnorthfestival.ca

Profile by Anne Nothof, Athabasca University

Last updated 2020-06-12