Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre-Media Centre
Artistic Director Kelly Thornton. Photo by Jerry Grajewski.




Kelly Thornton began her tenure at Royal MTC on June 3, 2019. She was the Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre in Toronto from 2001-2019. Kelly’s work has received wide acclaim and toured nationally and internationally. As an award-winning director and dramaturg, her work has been recognized for artistic excellence, advocacy and the mentorship of emerging talent. As a senior arts manager, her vision, outstanding leadership and forward-thinking artistic voice continues to make an impact on Canadian theatre and beyond.

Kelly has directed on stages across Canada including the National Arts Centre, Canadian Stage, Yukon Arts Centre, Globe Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Buddies in Bad Times, Grand Theatre, as well as the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. As a director, she has been honoured with a Pauline McGibbon Award, was twice nominated for the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, has received multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations as well as a Harold Award. In recognizing her commitment to the training and mentorship of young women in the performing arts, Kelly was awarded a YWCA Women of Distinction (Arts & Letters).

Her directing credits at Nightwood Theatre include: Unholy, Refuge, Free Outgoing, The Penelopiad, Between the Sheets, The Happy Woman; as well as The List, That Face and Wild Dogs (all in association with Canadian Stage); The Danish Play (Aveny-Teatret, Copenhagen; Magnetic North Theatre Festival; National Arts Centre), Bear With Me (Magnetic North), Finding Regina, Mathilde and China Doll. Other select credits include Vigil (TIFT), The Comedy of Errors (Canadian Stage), This Hotel (Theatre Passe Muraille) and nine seasons of Nightwood’s Lawyer Show, staging Shakespeare’s comedies and Broadway musicals.

Kelly’s legacy is one of significant growth and prosperity matched with bold, inclusive and socially impactful programming. She has been a tireless advocate for gender equity in the arts, partnering with the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres to launch significant initiatives designed to promote more women into leadership roles in the arts.


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