Montreal’s renowned theatre for young audiences sets the stage for new artistic leadership
August 31, 2021: Geordie Theatre is thrilled to announce that Jimmy Blais will take on the role of its fourth Artistic Director, effective October 1.
An actor, writer, and director of Plains Cree and French settler heritage, Blais is a seasoned stage and film storyteller. He has worked as a professional theatre artist for more than 10 years with companies such as the Stratford Festival, Centaur Theatre, Porte Parole, Imago, La Licorne, the National Arts Centre, Crows Theatre, and Geordie Productions. Audiences will also recognize him from his role as “Watio” on APTN’s hit television series, Mohawk Girls.
Born and raised in Montreal, Blais is a graduate of Concordia University’s Theatre Performance Program. In 2019, he completed the Indigenous Artist in Residence program at the National Theatre School of Canada, where he developed his play, Sonny’s Way. Blais is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6 Territory.
“The search committee was unanimous in their choice of Jimmy,” says Kathryn Westoll, Managing Director of Geordie Theatre. “We are excited by his energy, passion, and artistry, as well as his fierce commitment to theatre and community.” Over the fall, Blais will collaborate with Westoll on Geordie’s 41st season, alongside outgoing Artistic and Executive Director Mike Payette, who will take the artistic reins of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in September 2021.
“I’m excited, I’m eager, I’m curious, and I can’t wait to get working,” Blais says. “I’m also really grateful for this well-planned transition period.”
He also looks forward to building upon the strong foundation developed at Geordie Theatre over the past four decades.
“I do see an opportunity for extending Geordie’s reach, including and not limited to Indigenous communities,” says Blais. “One of the great things about theatre for young audiences is we have the advantage — and also the responsibility — of responding quickly to what’s happening in the world.”
Blais notes he got his first break as a professional actor at Geordie Theatre. He went on to contribute to the company in many capacities, from administration and fundraising to acting and teaching.
“My artistic career has been infused with experiences at Geordie,” says Blais.
An extensive search was conducted for the position, overseen by a committee of nationally recognized theatre professionals. A wealth of applications was received from across Canada as well as internationally.
Brett Hooton, President of the Geordie Theatre Board of Directors, chaired the search process.
“Jimmy presented a compelling, cogent, and deeply moving vision for what the company can and should become in its fifth decade,” says Hooton, who commends Blais’ deep understanding of Geordie’s role in the community and in the Canadian theatre scene at large.
“It is a great honour to welcome Jimmy into the Geordie family,” says Carol-Ann Hoyte, Geordie’s Vice-President and a member of the selection committee. “We are inspired by his vision and excited about the path he will forge for the company.”
The Geordie Artistic Director Search Committee was comprised of:
- Brett Hooton – Committee Chair and Board President
- Carol-Ann Hoyte – Board Vice-President
- Sébastien Boyer – Board Treasurer
- Patrick Lloyd Brennan – Artistic Community Representative
- Eda Holmes – Artistic Community Representative
- Andrea Lundy – Artistic Community Representative
- Julie Tamiko Manning – Artistic Community Representative
- Kathryn Westoll – Geordie Managing Director
During its 40th season (and in the midst of a pandemic) Geordie Theatre successfully kept its flagship “2Play Tour” alive — increasing its geographic reach by shifting to a live-streaming platform, which reached 25,000 young people and their communities.
The company offered more Geordie Theatre School workshops virtually, launched its first telethon, and collaborated with numerous partners, including DESTA Black Youth Network, the National Theatre School’s Playwriting Department, and Slingsby Theatre in Adelaide, Australia.
Geordie Theatre also launched a studio space (Espace Geordie), premiered an adaptation of the Governor General Award-winning children’s book Virginia Wolf into a full production (offered digitally), and continued the workshop and development processes of two new works that will premiere this coming season.
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Geordie Theatre is Montreal’s leading English-language professional theatre for audiences of all ages, entertaining and engaging the imaginations of children and their families since 1980. It is a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (P.A.C.T.), the Quebec Drama Federation, La Maison Théâtre, the International Association of Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY), the Conseil québécois du théâtre (CQT), and ASSITEJ Canada.