Stephen, Thank-you for letting me read a version of the speech you just gave. And thank-you so much for your words. I am honoured. Truly.

It is hard not to be there with all of you. I was training for the conference by watching Portlandia. I have wanted to visit Portland for some time, and while my reasons for not being there are exciting, I am sad not to be there for this very special meet-up.


It is amazing imagining Michael and Alison and Joel being at the conference with you all. And these words being read aloud.

Please know that all the bad grammar in the speech is theirs.

I met all three of them through my work as Associate Artistic Director for English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre. Without my colleague, and art boss, Jillian Keiley, having asked me to join her at the NAC none of this would be happening.

She knows this. But it is worth saying. One of the central tenets of our artistic framework for English Theatre at the NAC, is acknowledgement. And so, I acknowledge Jill for asking me to join her and pushing me to excel, and to never succumb to administrative thinking in the space where artistic expression needs to be.

I acknowledge the SpiderWebShow team who I love inventing things with, and each of whom are so f’in brilliant and in particular Michael who created the whole SpiderWebShow adventure with me. But also Alison who amid many things… partnered with me on the PerformanceWiki map that was birthed at The Study on Manitoulin Island. And Joel for working with us on #CdnStudio…an idea that came -  in large part - from a conversation I had with Inuit Artist Lakkuuluk Bathory about the real challenges of performance making in the north.

Connected though… as it all is…this award is not about any of us.

This award is really an acknowledgement of the work that lies ahead. Any of us who feel we have worked our fingers to the bone are lucky enough to know - with certainty - that we are just at the beginning of the journey. And so it is with this prize.

I wanted to win the Elliot Hayes award because I have consistently been inspired by the previous winners. To learn of the work that each of the previous winners has achieved, has spurred me on. I have been moved by the scope, the vision and the stick-to-it-iveness of so many dramaturgs before me, and hoped, that at some point in my career, I would be involved in a project that would be worthy of this award.

This is important to say because truly, there are few awards that I have sought or craved. This one though, I have.

To be acknowledged for doing work that I love, believe in, and am fully challenged to the centre of my citizen corps about…is a beautiful feeling.

To be acknowledged for work that could only have happened because of the trust of so many people for whom trust has been misplaced throughout the generations of “nation building” in Canada… is humbling

The First Nations, Inuit and Métis people of Canada were - and continue to be - silenced by a national imaginary called Canada.

And so it seems that our capacity - and by ‘our’ I mean Canada, our capacity to tell true stories about our fully nuanced selves has also been completely compromised.

The Cycle, has given us, many of us, an opportunity to realign ourselves to some deeper truths.

The findings and the process of our recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission has given us, many of us, an opportunity to understand that Canada was made strong through systemic acts of cultural genocide.

It has therefore given us, many of us, the opportunity to begin to tell a fuller shared story of inhabitants on land ringed by a border called Canada. Our Story.

The work of The Cycle happened alongside the work of a nation. It could not have had the impact it has had… were it not for the collaboration of several key people, and the good vibes of many, many more. Part of my pride in being recognized for this award is being able to share the amount of material that exists to speak to this ongoing work, the artists and the stories. I hope you will visit

There you will find a report on The Summit co-authored by Yvette Nolan, Corey Payette and me and a culminating document called Power Shift: The Story co-authored by Corey Payette and me. But you will also see videos from several of the participating artists and an archived live stream of significant scope chronicling the public Repast that ended the The Cycle at Debahjemujig Theatre, on Manitoulin island in May 2015.

The key people that must be acknowledged are Yvette Nolan, one of my dearest friends and one of Canada’s most fearless theatre leaders, Cole Alvis and the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance, who partnered with us right from the outset, The Banff Centre for their engagement with The Summit, Joseph Osawabine, AD and Ron Berti AP of Debajehmujig Storytellers for their teaching, hosting and caring throughout The Study and The Repast. To all of English Theatre and New Media at Canada’s National Arts Centre, and in particular Corey Payette who joined the project as a kid with a lot to give, and ended the project as a leader, who taught me much.

So…anyway… I got to do a little bit of that work. And I am still doing it. Doing more of it. Since the spring I have another job at the NAC, that of interim facilitator for Indigenous Theatre.  Until next June I am working with a bunch of people as we move towards the hiring of the first artistic director for Indigenous Theatre. This person will be instated in June of 2017 and preparation will then begin -  for realz - for the opening of the Indigenous Theatre at the NAC in the fall of 2019.

Peter Herrndorf, CEO of Canada’s National Arts Centre has taken to introducing me as someone who has developed a leadership style of working from behind. I think this is true. It came as a direct result of The Cycle. Working as we do with leaders of all kinds, dramaturgs know a thing or two about negotiating the various needs of high flyers. This training has been monumental in the extraordinary learning curve required to reframe collaboration for historically constructed non-equal partnerships. I could go on at length about the hidden privilege in collaborative models. But instead, I will say, that as a settler in Canada I have a lot to answer for and a lot to learn and now I also have access to an extraordinary body of work, and a series of cultures and nations ready to explode onto our National Stage at the NAC and onto many nation stages across the northern half of Turtle Island.

Thank-you so much for this terrific honour.

- Sarah Stanley

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