NAC hires first managing director of Indigenous Theatre

Lori Marchand.

The National Arts Centre continues to fill the ranks of its new Indigenous Theatre department with the hiring of a managing director to work with artistic director Kevin Loring.

Filling that vital administrative job is Lori Marchand, who is leaving her post as the executive director of the Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, British Columbia. She starts work in Ottawa in April.

Marchand and Loring will now work together to flesh out the the new Indigenous Theatre which will open during the 2019-2020 season as part of the NAC’s 50th anniversary season.

“Lori Marchand’s … work across the country and particularly in Western Canada will be of great benefit to the NAC as she builds the team to make this groundbreaking theatre a reality,” said Peter Herrndorf, president and CEO of the National Arts Centre.

Marchand grew up in Ottawa and saw her first play at the NAC as a child. Her father was Len Marchand Sr., the first Indigenous MP to take a seat in the House of Commons. He was elected in 1968 in the riding of Kamloops-Cariboo. He would later serve in Liberal cabinets, including as Minister of the Environment. He was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. He died in 2016.

“Returning to Ottawa is like an artistic homecoming,” said Lori Marchand in a media release. “I am inspired by and hopeful for the future of Indigenous people in Canada. For the NAC to make the historic commitment to build a theatre for Indigenous voices and expression is a significant step towards this future. It’s an inspirational challenge and a daunting challenge, and I am honoured to take it on.

“My father visited the NAC when it first opened in 1969 to see the production of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, where he met and befriended one of the play’s lead actors, August Schellenberg. They were both trailblazers in their respective professions. Now, nearly 50 years later, Kevin Loring and I are following their trail and building a permanent home for Indigenous artists at the NAC. It is the most exciting professional challenge of my life.”

In 2009, the release says, Marchand worked with Schellenberg and Loring on a new production of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, a joint production between Western Canada Theatre and the NAC, to mark the NAC’s 40th anniversary. In many ways, the production began a new relationship between Marchand, Loring and the NAC, and it initiated the exploration and conversation that ultimately resulted in the Indigenous Theatre at the NAC.

Marchand is of the Syilx Nation and grew up in Algonquin and Secwepemc Territory, lived and worked in Ojibwa and Cree Territory and worked with leaders from the Six Nations, the Métis and the Mohawk. Her family environment brought her into contact with Indigenous leaders from Canada and around the world.

She has served as the executive director of Western Canada Theatre for 18 years. Marchand has also served as a member of the B.C. Arts Council and currently serves as its vice-chair.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.