When Jillian Keiley graduated from York University in 1994 with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre, she knew that directing was in her blood.
Now, some 18 years later, Keiley, an award-winning director from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the founder of the “Artistic Fraud” Theatre Company, will be the next artistic director of the National Arts Centre’s (NAC) English Theatre Department. The appointment follows on the heels of a string of accolades, including receiving the prestigious Siminovitch Prize for Directing in 2004; an honorary doctorate of letters from Memorial University; and winning the Canada Council’s John Hirsch Prize.
“Jillian Keiley is a brilliant theatrical artist who is rooted in Newfoundland, but also has a wonderful sense of the country,” said the NAC’s president & CEO Peter Herrndorf. “She’s worked with artists and theatre organizations in every part of Canada, and we’re thrilled she’s chosen our ‘national stage’ for the next chapter of her extraordinary career.”
“There are very few jobs in Canada which I would be prepared to leave home for,” Keiley said. “The position at the National Arts Centre is one of them, because I believe as the NAC’s artistic director of English theatre, I will have the opportunity to do work that will reverberate across the country.”
Keiley has directed and taught across Canada and has worked internationally. Her collaboration with playwright Robert Chafe in the creation of Tempting Providence resulted in a decade-long run of the beloved production across the country. The play was produced by Theatre Newfoundland Labrador and explores the courage and strength of a London-born nurse who was among the first British settlers in Newfoundland. Myra Bennet, an outport nurse, endured the region’s bleak weather to travel by foot, horse, dogsled and boat to deliver babies and care for people who lived along 320-kilometres of rugged coastline.
This week, Keiley is on her way to direct a play called Oil and Water at the Factory Theatre in Toronto. Oil and Water is another creative collaboration between Governor General Award-winning playwright Chafe and Keiley.
“The NAC offers the opportunity to bring together the most brilliant creative minds in our field. I am excited to build on the legacy of my predecessor Peter Hinton. Mr. Hinton revived the NAC’s resident English Theatre Company, which brings more than 25 actors from across Canada to perform at the NAC during the each performance season.”
“I would really love the opportunity to create a young company of actors at the NAC; it is certainly one of my goals during my tenure. To see new theatre and young careers take flight would be very exciting,” said Keiley.
She will be directing Metamorphoses, a play she directed at York University in 2008, during her first season at the NAC. The play, by Mary Zimmerman, re-imagines 10 classical myths. Set around a giant swimming pool, this splashy theatrical event lets the audience experience the consequences of humanity’s deepest desires.
Keiley joins the NAC Orchestra’s music director Maestro Pinchas Zukerman, dance producer Cathy Levy, the artistic director of French theatre Brigitte Haentjens, northern scene producer Heather Moore, and NAC Presents producer Simone Deneau in making up the artistic leadership team at the National Arts Centre.
Keiley begins her post this summer.