It is with a mix of both excitement and sadness that Nightwood Theatre’s Board of Directors announces the departure of Artistic Director Kelly Thornton.
Kelly will be stepping down from her position on April 30th in order to take on the role of Artistic Director of Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg!
Royal MTC is Canada’s oldest regional theatre, and produces 10 plays on two stages, a regional tour of Manitoba and Northwest Ontario, a wide range of youth programming and two annual festivals: the Master Playwright Festival,and North America’s second-largest Fringe, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. After 18 years, Kelly will celebrate her final day at Nightwood Theatre on April 30, 2019 and take up her new position at Royal MTC on June 1, 2019.
“Kelly will leave a legacy of which she can be deeply proud." - Susan Hodkinson, Chair of Nightwood Theatre’s Board of Directors
"Central to Nightwood’s purpose is to propel the careers of women in theatre, and Kelly has been a tireless advocate for hundreds of talented women over the years," continued Susan. "The fact that her experience with Nightwood has prepared her to take on the leadership of Royal MTC is a testament to the organization that Kelly herself has so lovingly nurtured for the past 18 years. I will miss Kelly personally; her energy, passion and commitment have been a constant source of inspiration to me during my time on the Nightwood Board.”
Kelly’s tenure at Nightwood began in 2001, and since that time she has successfully transitioned the organization from a small independent company to one of the largest non-venued theatres in Toronto. She has tripled the operations budget, developed a broad and loyal donor base, and significantly expanded Nightwood’s playbill, attracting a dedicated audience and garnering wide critical acclaim.
In speaking about her departure, Kelly said: “I am extremely proud of what I have been able to accomplish at Nightwood. The growth of this organization and the many relationships I have developed with the artists, audiences and donors have inspired and sustained me. I am grateful to my Managing Director, Beth Brown, my staff, our Board and the many stakeholders who have nurtured my development as an arts manager and prepared me well for the exciting challenge ahead. I am honoured to join Royal MTC and to build upon Steven Schipper’s powerful legacy, and I am very pleased to leave Nightwood both fiscally sound and artistically flourishing as a cultural institution in Canada."
There are many milestones in Kelly’s tenure at Nightwood, including spearheading Equity in Canadian Theatre: the Women’s Initiative alongside the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres to confront the disparity of women in leadership in Canadian Theatre. Further to this, she produced 4x4: A Festival of Women Directors, attracting inter/national delegates to Toronto to further the conversation around equity and the director’s practice. With PACT she launched the Canadian Women Director’s Catalogue in order to promote more women directors onto the national stage.
Kelly's work at Nightwood has been notable for its emphasis on artist development. She produced the premiere plays of numerous first-time playwrights, including Marjorie Chan’s China Doll and Lisa Codrington’s Cast Iron, which both garnered Governor General’s Award nominations and several international productions; as well as Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets, which has been translated into multiple languages and produced nationally and internationally. Most recently, Kelly saw success with Rose Napoli’s Lo (or Dear Mr. Wells), which is being produced at various theatres across Canada this season. Kelly has mentored countless women in the arts and made a home for them at Nightwood to gain practical training in their chosen field. For her commitment to the training and mentorship of women in the performing arts, Kelly was honored with a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (Arts & Letters).
As a director, Kelly’s work has been recognized with the Pauline McGibbon Award for Directors, multiple Dora Award nominations, and two nominations for the Siminovitch Prize. Notable directing credits at Nightwood include: Diane Flacks’ Unholy, Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Jennifer Tremblay’s The List, Sonja Mills’ The Danish Play, Veronique Olmi’s Mathilde, as well as China Doll and Between the Sheets, among many others. She has also been instrumental in bringing such landmark productions to Nightwood as the World Premiere of Djanet Sears’ The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, Yaël Farber’s Nirbhaya, and Quote Unquote Collective’s Mouthpiece.
As a community builder, and with an eye towards increasing capacity, Kelly launched the Lawyer Show at Nightwood, and over the last nine years has raised over $1,000,000 and engaged close to 200 legal professionals from across the GTA to raise vital funds for the company and its artists. Kelly’s legacy at Nightwood is one of significant growth and prosperity matched with bold, inclusive and socially impactful programming. As an arts manager, Kelly’s career is distinguished by her passionate vision, her collaborative style of leadership, a responsibility and commitment to advocacy, mentorship, social justice, and community engagement.
On Kelly’s contribution, Beth Brown, Nightwood’s Managing Director said: “It has truly been a joy and an inspiration to work beside Kelly Thornton as Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre. Kelly’s passion for the work and her commitment to bringing socially relevant plays to the stage is admirable. During Kelly’s tenure at Nightwood she has launched the careers of many artists, a tribute to her strong dedication and mentorship. I have deeply enjoyed my experience working with her and look forward to the path she forges at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre."
Before her departure in April 2019, Kelly will program Nightwood’s 2019/20 Season, marking the company’s 40th Anniversary celebration. An extensive search for Nightwood’s next Artistic Director will begin mid-Fall 2018.
A huge thank you, congratulations and all our love to Kelly from the whole Nightwood family!