As artistic director of Toronto’s Factory Theatre, Nina Lee Aquino hopes to enrich the renowned theatre’s traditions.
“Factory Theatre is dedicated to the Canadian voice. When it was founded in 1970, nobody else was doing that,” she says. “As an artist of colour, I’m bringing a prismatic vision of the Canadian experience. It’s not white and homogenous — we can examine Canadian life in full colour.”
In her role, she chooses the plays and decides how to sell them to the audience. She says the plays you’ll see at Factory Theatre are thought provoking, rather than “plays you escape to.”
“They are challenging, often political, angry and messy,” she says. “They will make you think and question. And as a Philippine-Canadian, I want to highlight some of the invisible voices, those not widely heard.”
Aquino’s ideas and choices evolved as she was studying drama at U of G — she originally wanted to be an actor. She says Profs. Ric Knowles and Judith Thompson, School of English and Theatre Studies, became her mentors and impacted her future career path. “I had no interest in being a director until I took a course with Ric Knowles — it was a pivotal moment for me.”
After graduation, she completed her master’s degree at the University of Toronto with a thesis on Asian-Canadian theatre. She then founded fu-GEN, an Asian-Canadian theatre company, and later worked at Cahoots Theatre before moving to Factory Theatre.
Her connections to U of G remain strong. “Right now Ric Knowles is working as the production dramaturge on a play I’m directing,” she says. “This is the third or fourth time we’ve collaborated on a project. It’s coming full circle — from teacher and student to colleagues. It’s fantastic that we can work together in these ways.”