The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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50th Anniversary of the National Theatre School

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Rideau Hall, Wednesday, April 6, 2011


My wife, Sharon, and I are privileged to welcome you to Rideau Hall today, in celebration of a remarkable half century of the National Theatre School of Canada.

Let me begin by pointing out how appropriate it is for us to gather in the Ballroom for this occasion. In the early 1870s, Lord and Lady Dufferin started a theatrical tradition at Rideau Hall, when they began staging plays in this room—sometimes even taking starring roles.

I was delighted to learn that we will be treated to several student productions later this evening, not least because it gives me a good excuse to limit my performance to these remarks!

Tonight, we are here to shine a spotlight on the many creative and dedicated people who have made the National Theatre School one of Canada’s leading cultural institutions.

I want to acknowledge at the outset those who worked so hard to establish the School back in 1960 and who nurtured it through those early years. The vitality of Canadian theatre and its presence on the world stage today is thanks in no small part to their pioneering efforts.

Great achievements start small. Actor Sandra Oh said simply that her training at the National Theatre School was “the beginning of everything.”

Hundreds of actors, playwrights, directors, designers, producers and stage managers in this country can no doubt say the same.

For 50 years, the National Theatre School has maintained its commitment to excellence, diversity and creative freedom, while remaining open to change. Graduates have gone on to highly successful careers in the performing and visual arts, entertaining, inspiring and enlightening us, and reflecting our lives as Canadians and as citizens of the world.

In so many ways, this school is a model for all others—and indeed, for our society as a whole.

Allow me to focus on just one aspect of your success.

Theatre is by nature a collaborative art form, and the National Theatre School is one of the few in the world to combine all of the theatrical disciplines in one place of learning. Aspiring performers and theatre artists from across Canada enroll to study with some of the best teachers, mentors and arts professionals in the country.

Your creativity is enriched, not diminished, by this mixture of backgrounds, languages and perspectives. Under your roof, the exchange of views is encouraged, and diversity is critical to success.

And when I speak of creativity, I am reminded that sometimes we need some help from other quarters for suitable creativity.

And yet when the curtain rises, your performances remind us above all of how much we have in common as human beings—now and for all time.

I believe that art is a form of knowledge, and that the theatre arts play a special role in pointing the way to deeper understanding. Theatre has been an essential part of our lives for thousands of years, and your role is to renew the story, to describe, inspire and provoke us in the 21st century.

I am proud to follow in the footsteps of my predecessors as patron of this organization and as a supporter of the theatre arts in Canada.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to share your ideas as we approach another important milestone. In 2017, Canada will mark its 150th anniversary, and since my installation as governor general, I have been inviting Canadians to join me in imagining our country as it could be. And who better to help us imagine than our artists and storytellers?

Your creativity and passion are essential to the smarter, more caring nation we seek.

I want to thank the many talented and dedicated students, teachers and supporters of the National Theatre School over the past half century. And on behalf of all Canadians, please accept my sincerest congratulations on a wonderful 50-year run.

Bravo and encore to you all!