Thursday, 27 September 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Brendan McMurtry-Howlett

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Brendan McMurtry-Howlett begins training in artistic direction with Jillian Keiley at the National Arts Centre of Canada (NAC) in Ottawa

(September 19, 2018)

Hi there!

Brendan McMurtry-Howlett here, reporting on the preparations for my internship with Jillian Keiley at the NAC. I am a week away from heading to Ottawa to begin the internship in artistic direction. It has been a busy prep so far!

I have been in close communication with Jill and with Judi Pearl who is the Artistic Projects Coordinator for the English Theatre at the NAC and also some kind of half-human half-god when it comes to communication, organization and connecting all of the complicated dots of the NAC. We have gone over some of the scheduling and discussed some of the projects I’ll be taking on during my time with them. I get the sense I’m going to be VERY busy over the next four weeks. But I also get the sense it is going to be a rewarding relationship not only with Jill, but many of the team members who work closely with the Artistic Director making the whole organization fly. Jill and Judi have been very open and candid with me about the job. Jill refers often to the “Daily Dilemmas” of being an artistic leader—the responsibility to wrestle with the ethical and practical issues that come with the job.

The question of what I’m hoping to accomplish and learn with this time still feels very overwhelming when considering the time ahead and the scope of Jill’s job at the NAC. I hope to learn from Jill’s leadership style and the way she engages deeply with the larger questions of what it means to do theatre in Canada right now. I hope to learn how Jill approaches the balancing act between serving both the national community of theatre artists, and the local community of artists and audiences. I also hope to learn the practical details of daily operations for the AD—budgeting, marketing, programming, etc. and how those are executed within the context of a full staff.

I will be working closely with another intern during this time—Kate Smith. I believe we will be able to offer quite a bit in our short time with the NAC helping to tackle some of those “Daily Dilemmas” and hopefully contribute some lasting solutions to the work the NAC English Theatre does. I get the sense that each new day will bring many new adventures and I feel ready to roll with the punches as they come fast and furious.

Until next time!


The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2018.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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