2017 Festival

Festival Update – October 30, 2017

October 30, 2017


On September 15, 2017, the Magnetic North Theatre Festival board of directors appointed incoming executive board members Heather Redfern, Ken Gass, Amy Lynn Strilchuk, and Tammy Fox who stepped forward to oversee festival governance and operations in the hopes of reviving the 15 year-old festival currently on hiatus since March 22.

After a unanimous vote by the remaining Magnetic North board members to approve of these appointments, outgoing board chair, Mike Hawkes welcomed the new members who will be the primary force in shaping the future of the festival. Hawkes remarked, “The incoming board members (Redfern, Gass, Strilchuk, and Fox) have extensive experience in the arts. I appreciate their commitment to the Society, and wish them well in their efforts to reinvigorate and relaunch the Magnetic North Theatre Festival.” The meeting concluded with previous board members resigning, and the incoming board members acknowledged as the sole driving force in all Society governance and Festival activities as of that date.


The state of the festival from March 22 — present:

As part of the March 22 announcement of the festival cancellation, all festival operations were closed. Staff were released from their appointments and incoming private donations were no longer accepted. The plan was to declare bankruptcy by the festival’s end of fiscal year, September 30, 2017.


Why the new board stepped forward:

Meanwhile (from the March 22 festival announcement to the present), Redfern began exploring possibilities for renewing the festival after what was believed to be a hiatus year. After speaking with the 2017 festival’s producing partners, select public funding officers, and then board chair Mike Hawkes, Redfern saw the potential for the existing festival deficit to be addressed so that the festival would be in a position to continue operations. Fox, Gass, and Strilchuk connected with Redfern, individually, after hearing about her plans to pursue a festival revival. Each identified their areas of expertise to assist the festival’s operations support, including shared efforts in fundraising, as part of their board duties.

The festival board appointment hand-over:

Chair Mike Hawkes, outgoing board members, and past Managing Director, Nancy Oakley, were all instrumental in gaining a clear financial picture; including outstanding debts owed to artists, producers, and individuals who contributed work as part of the 2017 festival plans. After a thorough review of the financials, the new board is reaching out to those individuals owed money and will be activating a fundraising campaign to help the 2017 festival artists, employees, and contract workers receive payments owed.

The festival’s next steps:

In addition to fundraising efforts to help the festival create a clean financial slate to move forward, the board will be consulting theatre community members, producers, and funding partners to solicit feedback on the future direction and presenting model of the festival. Meetings will take place in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto by the end of 2017; though the board will also seek ways to actively engage key community stakeholders across Canada who cannot be physically present for these in-person meetings. Though Magnetic North’s mission, vision, and values currently remains the same, the board is pursuing the creation of a new model where the festival can better activate its mandate in a sustainable way that supports theatre in thriving across Canada. Meetings with these community members are being held for this express purpose, as the board will be actively shaping a direction based on input from these conversations.

The new executive board members will make these plans and updates known to the public throughout the 2017-18 season, in order to engage them in their feedback.


About the new Magnetic North board:

Heather Redfern, Chair (Vancouver)

Heather is the Executive Director of The Vancouver East Cultural Centre (The Cultch) where she curates a program of over 20 different presentations each season. Prior to The Cultch, she was the Executive Director of the Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture and the Artistic Producer for Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton. Heather has sat on numerous boards including The Koerner Foundation and The Edmonton Arts Council. She was the first Chair of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival, an organization she helped to found. Heather has been honoured with the City of Edmonton, Business and the Arts Award for Excellence in Arts Management and the Mallory Gilbert Leadership Award for sustained, inspired, and creative leadership in Canadian Theatre. She continues to work on innovative ways to promote Canadian artists at home and abroad. In East Vancouver, she has overseen $30 million of refurbishment and construction first at The Cultch and then as a driving force behind the restoration of the historic York Theatre. Over the past ten seasons she has built an international reputation for The Cultch through her innovative curation and impeccable leadership.

Ken Gass, Vice-Chair (Toronto)

Ken Gass is currently the artistic director of Canadian Rep Theatre, where he has directed several recent projects, including the Dora-nominated How Do I Love Thee? and Armstrong’s War. Ken’s recent projects include the founding of ENSEMBLE Canadian Youth Theatre/Théâtre Jeunesse Canadien with productions of Dreams (Rêves) by Wajdi Mouawad and an ensemble adaptation of Tough! by George F. Walker. Ken was also the founding artistic director of the Factory Theatre (1970–79; 1996–2012); a company that has been at the forefront of new playwriting in Canada. Winner of the highly prestigious Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in Ontario, Gass has also been awarded the Toronto Arts Award; the George Luscombe Award for Mentorship; and the Dora Silver Ticket Award for lifetime achievement.

Amy Lynn Strilchuk, Secretary (Vancouver)

Amy is an arts programmer, producer, and promoter who specializes in developing and marketing new Canadian theatre. Throughout her 10 year career in arts administration and management, Amy has proudly contributed to the artistic, audience, and/or financial growth of organizaitons like Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Club Theatre Company, Ballet BC, Electric Company Theatre, Gateway Theatre, and Green Thumb Theatre. She is also a board member of SpeakEasy Theatre and the Creative and Community Director for the Women and Words Foundation.

Tammy Fox, Treasurer (Burlington)

For over 20 years, Tammy has been involved in the professional arts presentation industry; from theatre administration and management to launching and acting as Agency Director for Canada’s premiere theatre-centric booking agency, Fox Entertainment. She is currently the Executive Director of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre and has represented a number of artists and artistic companies who showcased their work at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival over the past few years, and she volunteered on various touring and presentation panels for the Festival, as well as mentored new talent.

About the Magnetic North Theatre Festival

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. Since the 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), Halifax (2014), and Whitehorse (2016). 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.


For media inquires, please contact Amy Lynn Strilchuk at [email protected]. Board headshots for media use are available for download HERE.

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