Who Are We

Canada’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival is Canada’s only national theatre festival. We showcase the very best of contemporary Canadian theatre – theatre that moves us, shares our stories, and explores how we see the world as Canadians today.

What Do We Do?

Founding Artistic Director, Mary VingoeCanada’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival is unique among Canadian theatre festivals because of its traveling nature. We make our home base in Ottawa, ON, and host the festival in the nation’s capital every second year. But our one-of-a-kind mandate also sees us travel the festival to a new host community across Canada every other year.

Our annual festival features a range of programming, including Main Stage performances, co-presentations with partner companies, outdoor shows and guerrilla street theatre. There’s always something for everyone. Each festival also features our unique Magnetic Encounters, fun and free public events designed to get audiences interacting with the artists and producers that perform at the festival.

We’re also proud to provide a forum for Canada’s theatre industry to explore issues in theatre practice, and support the growth of touring and presenting networks across Canada. Our Industry Series helps launch touring Canadian theatre across the country and into the world, providing economic opportunities for Canadian theatre professionals to promote their wide range of talents.

Where Have We Been?

Staff of Canada's Magnetic North Theatre Festival, 2009

Since our first festival in 2003, Canada’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival has traveled from Ottawa to Edmonton(2004), St. Johns (2006), Vancouver(2008), Kitchener-Waterloo(2010), Calgary(2012) and Halifax (2014). In 2001, the festival was championed by a passionate group of theatre professionals from across the country, people who believed that an annual theatre festival showcasing Canadian productions would help foster audiences for emerging and contemporary theatre companies in Canada.

This group of dedicated practitioners included Taylor Raths, Raymond Chandler, Lucy White, Donna Spencer, Jamie Grant, Katherine Kaszas, Victoria Steele, Allan McInnis, and former Artistic Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, Marti Maraden. Their dedication, and the support of all those who have come since, are the reason the festival is still in operation today.

No country is a great country if it doesn’t also nourish its soul. It is by its soul that it is truly known in the world and endures in the memory of mankind. Those of us writing to you are the volunteers who comprise the advisory board of [Canada’s] Magnetic North Theatre Festival. This dynamic celebration of Canadian theatre is now in its fourth year of life […]. We hope that you will nurture Canada body and soul, and take pride in the diversity and creative brilliance of its people.’
Marti Maraden, in a letter written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Magnetic North has provided artistic and economic development for Canada’s theatre community by increasing touring activity, and providing greater access to Canadian theatre for audiences across the country. Since 2012 alone, over $3 million dollars in economic spinoff has been generated for theatre companies featured at our festival. We’re very proud of these successes, and thank everyone who had a part in making them possible.

What We Believe

Brenda Leadlay, current Artistic Executive DirectorSince 2003, the staff and supporters of Canada’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival have worked to create an economically beneficial and artistically innovative place for Canadian theatre artists to work, grow and collaborate. To do this, we continue to travel our festival to new communities every second year, because we believe all Canadians should experience the uplifting, moving, and excellent live theatre being created in our diverse country.

We hope you’ll join us, by seeing a show, attending a fundraiser, volunteering, or even just by making a donation. Whatever way you choose to Experience This, thank you for being a part of Canada’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival.

Artistic Directors

Mary Vingoe – Founding Artistic Director, 2002-2007
Barb Howatt – Founding Managing Director, 2002-2007
Ken Cameron – Artistic Director, 2007-2010
Ann Connors – Manging Director, 2007-2012
Ann Connors – Executive Director, 2011-2012
Brenda Leadlay – Artistic Executive Director, 2012-2016
Jennifer Fornelli – Managing Director, 2013 to 2017
Brendan Healy – Artistic Director, 2016 to Present
Nancy Oakley – Managing Director, 2017 – Present