Canadian Filipino theatre director Nina Lee Aquino will lead Canada’s National Arts Centre (NAC) English Theatre as its artistic director beginning August 29, 2022.
Aquino is known in the Canadian theatre scene as director, dramaturg and mentor and recently served as artistic director of Toronto’s Factory Theatre for 10 years. Among her many works is Through the Bamboo which she directed in 2019 as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Aquino was also the founding artistic director of fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre Company and former artistic director of Cahoots Theatre, both based in Toronto. She is currently president of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres.
Aside from managing theatres, Aquino is a champion of Asian Canadian theatre, having edited the first two-volume Asian Canadian play anthology Love and Relasianships and co-edited the first book on Asian Canadian theatre.
As a drama teacher, Aquino has taught in a number of post-secondary institutions such as Humber College, University of Guelph, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University and the National Theatre School. She is also an honorary member of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research and adjunct professor at York University’s Department of Theatre.
Aquino has received a number of awards such as the Ken McDougall Award, Toronto Theatre Critics Award, the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Direction for School Girls and the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Margo Bindhart award in 2019.
Aquino was born and raised in the Philippines, graduating from the Miriam College’s high school in 1994.
In a media release, NAC president Christopher Deacon said, “We’re delighted to welcome Nina Lee Aquino, a leading figure in Canadian theatre who has pushed its boundaries through her career. The NAC is fortunate to be able to welcome this extraordinary artist and inspirer at the peak of her powers.”
In accepting her appointment, Aquino offered her thoughts on Canadian theatre, “The idea of this country – that is the Canadian experience, citizenship, identity – is continually evolving, perpetually being defined and re-defined through the lenses of our artistic work. The NAC that I dream of is a creative catalyst for change and transformation.” She continued, “It is the place where artists and audiences constantly interrogate and explore what Canada’s place is in the world and what the rest of the world’s place is in Canada.”
Globe and Mail’s theatre critic Kelly Nestruck said in her May 27, 2021 article about Aquino’s tenure at the Factory Theatre: “It’s hard to think of an artistic director who has done more to shepherd Toronto theatre into the present than the no-nonsense Aquino, one of the city’s finest stage directors who, for a decade, simply rolled up her sleeves and worked hard to bring audiences and artists into Factory who hadn’t been there before. She’s never oversold this or been big on jargon: she’s just made sure the home of Canadian plays lived up to its mission for all kinds of Canadians.”