Who Are We


Magnetic North is Canada’s only national theatre festival. We play an active role in creating transformative, community-building experiences and opportunities for theatre makers, producers, and audiences across the country.

Since 2003, Magnetic North has strengthened Canada’s theatre community both financially and artistically, by:

  • Promoting touring opportunities and networks across Canada and beyond
  • Increasing and improving artistic opportunities for theatre practitioners and audiences
  • Creating unique and meaningful professional development exchanges between theatre practitioners of all forms
  • Supporting Canadian theatre reach new audiences by driving interest in and demand for the work
  • Celebrating and developing Canadian theatre created by and accessible to communities across the country.

Magnetic North Theatre Festival has presented 136 productions to over 95,000 people, and we have travelled from Ottawa to 7 other Canadian cities: Edmonton (2004), St. John’s (2006), Vancouver (2008), Kitchener-Waterloo (2010), Calgary (2012), Halifax (2014), and Whitehorse (2016).

We are proud of our past. We are envisioning our future.

Magnetic North Theatre Festival is currently developing a new operational model; one that evolves to meet the needs of theatre creators across the country.

Where We Started

In 2001, the festival was championed by a passionate group of theatre professionals from across the country – people who believed an annual theatre festival showcasing Canadian productions would help foster audiences for emerging and contemporary theatre companies in Canada. This group included former Artistic Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre Marti Maraden, Taylor Raths, Raymond Chandler, Lucy White, Donna Spencer, Jamie Grant, Katherine Kaszas, Victoria Steele, and Allan McInnis.

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 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

What We’re Doing

On June 25, 2019 the Magnetic North Theatre Festival board of directors announced that after a two-year hiatus from presenting work, the Festival will re-emerge with renewed spirit and purpose in the Vancouver Region from June 6 – 16, 2019.

The festival will be held on Coast Salish Territory and will be a partnership between artists, presenters, academics, and audiences. The festival headquarters will be at The Cultch in East Vancouver and events will take place in the multiple communities across the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).

Changes at Magnetic North
Magnetic North will continue to focus on Canadian work and engage participants from across the country, including invited guests from abroad. It will no longer be strictly focused on theatre. As the lines blur between disciplines in the works that artists are creating, the festival will be focused on the live performing arts in whatever form that may take.

The Cultch has provided in-kind venue donations to the festival and acts as in-kind administrative homebase, but it is not funding or affiliated with the festival’s operations or programming. The festival will be held in Vancouver in June 2019, but it is not committed to being presented in particular cities each year. It will not be led by an Artistic Director, with a singular, curatorial vision. It will also not follow the format of traditional markets or industry events at festivals where the goal is to buy and sell product; those conferences and models already exist.

New Spirit, Purpose and Vision
The festival will now focus on finding ways of partnering and participating in work and/or its process by supporting learning, innovation in creation, and audience and community engagement. It will also focus on clearly communicating to the public their integral role as cohort and conspirator.

The board will act as the administrative and managerial team running the organization, each bringing their areas of expertise to make it happen. A Festival Producer will be hired to facilitate and oversee the logistics of the event, reporting directly to the board. The organization is intentionally structured this way to reflect and support the festival’s new spirit, purpose, and vision.

Organized by a Festival Producer and working in response to the needs of  the artistic community and the public, the festival is host to a “performing arts potluck” of professional arts projects proposed by independent artists and producing companies. The festival will bring the national community together by resourcing the festival and the participants; including but not limited to professional fees, commissions, micro investments, community and industry  development, conversations and matchmaking.  As such, Magnetic North now plays an active role in being our nation’s community test kitchen to explore new territory and engage audiences in making theatre, or other performing arts.

Past Leadership 

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 – 2017
Brendan Healy – Artistic Director, 2016 – 2017
Nancy Oakley – Managing Director, 2017