In 2022, for the first time in its 64-year history, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre was proud to announce that all its top leadership positions were held by women.
Together, these women have combined their experience in the arts and administration to herald in a new era of female-led theatre. Royal MTC is led by Board Chair Laurie Speers Artistic Director Kelly Thornton and Executive Director Camilla Holland.
Left to right: Laurie Spears, Kelly Thornton & Camilla Holland
Established in 1958, Royal MTC’s first Artistic Director was John Hirsch. He was followed by a succession of men, ending with Steven Schipper who was the Artistic Director from 1989 to 2019. Then came Kelly Thornton. Despite having the first season she programmed interrupted by the pandemic, Thornton has filled the theatre with a mix of meaty dramas, riotously funny comedies and sing-along inducing musicals.
Thornton’s programming speaks to our times with thematic elements that carefully balance provocative concepts with entertainment. She says of her closest colleagues, “Previously having served for 18 years as the Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre, Canada’s foremost feminist theatre, I know the power of the collective effort of women. It gives me strength to work alongside these formidable women.”
And formidable they are. Executive Director Camilla Holland has not only been the executive director at Royal MTC since 2011, but has also served as a longtime board member for Manitoba for the Arts and was previously a board member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatre. Holland has woven herself into the fabric of Canadian theatre as a respected member of the community.
Holland speaks highly of the newest member of this leadership trifecta, “Laurie is not our first female Chair of the Board of Trustees. That honour goes to Susan Skinner in 1988 – but she is notably the first to assume the important work of that role alongside Kelly as our first female Artistic Director, and myself as the first female Executive Director. While it might be surprising to consider this milestone didn’t happen until our 65th season, what’s equally important to focus on is the legacy the Laurie inherits of extraordinary volunteers who stepped forward to lead the Board of Trustees, in step and in conversation with our wonderful past artistic directors, general managers and executive directors, for the benefit of the entire community.”
Laurie Speers is an arts lover who has been a member of Royal MTC’s Board since 2014. Her passion for the theatre and commitment to community led her to being elected board chair in 2022. Speers says of the position, “I am thrilled to be chairing the Manitoba Theatre Centre Board with two strong and passionate women by my side. We challenge and inspire one another as we work toward fulfilling our strategic goals: cultivating talent, fostering a deeper connection with community, captivating audiences and building the organizational foundation. Sharing our love of theatre and its ability to transform and entertain our audiences brings all three of us great joy!”
As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8, 2023, Royal MTC is proud to be led by these three formidable women. With them at the helm, Royal MTC will continue to bring art to life on stage with a deft hand and a new perspective.