Theatre, existing in the rift between subjective time and historical time, is one of the last dwelling places of utopia."


—Heiner Müller

Brigitte Haentjens

2017 Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award (Theatre)

Theatre director and artistic director

Passionate about language and literature, keenly interested in issues of identity, sexuality and power, Brigitte Haentjens is known for her dazzlingly original, avant-garde productions and for her thoughtful and poetic approach to contemporary theatre practice. In a career spanning nearly 40 years, she has directed some 60 productions and garnered a host of awards and honours. Her remarkable achievements as a stage director stand alongside her outstanding work as a leader of major arts institutions. She is an iconic figure in the theatre community, and her contribution to Canada’s cultural profile is immense.
Ms. Haentjens was born in Versailles, France, in 1951, and studied theatre in Paris with the renowned Jacques Lecoq. Moving to Ontario in 1977, she played a pivotal role in the development of Franco-Ontarian theatre, particularly as artistic director (1982–90) of Sudbury’s Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario. She relocated to Montréal in 1991, where she founded her own company, Sibyllines, in 1997.
Her directing credits range from classics (Aristophanes, Sophocles, Racine, Shakespeare, Strindberg, Camus) to works by contemporary European and Franco-Canadian playwrights (Beckett, Müller, Koltès, Sarah Kane, Michel Marc Bouchard, Jean Marc Dalpé, Michel Tremblay) and stage adaptations of novels and other literary works (Louise Dupré, Marguerite Duras, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf). Her practice is highly collaborative: working closely with dramaturgs, designers and actors, she fosters a creative dialogue that generates new ideas and approaches.
Ms. Haentjens’ achievements also include her role as co-founder of the Association nationale des théâtres francophones hors Québec; her groundbreaking artistic direction of Montréal’s Nouvelle compagnie théâtrale in the 1990s; her artistic direction of the Carrefour international de théâtre in Québec, an annual festival that introduced an entire generation to outstanding international productions; and her current positions as the first female artistic director of French Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre in Ottawa and co-chair of the Conseil québécois du théâtre. She has published several books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, most recently Un regard qui te fracasse (2014), a reflection on the art of directing.
Awards and distinctions include the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre (directing), the Gascon-Thomas Award (National Theatre School of Canada), and three Critics’ Choice awards and five Masques from the Association québécoise des critiques de théâtre.