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End of an era: Theatre Orangeville’s artistic director to leave role at end of 2024-25 season

June 7, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

David Nairn has been sitting on the news for seven months, but on Monday morning this week, Theatre Orangeville sent an email blast that may have surprised patrons, supporters, fans, friends and others, here and in theatres across Canada: that this upcoming season 2024-25 will be his last.

“Theatre Orangeville is stepping into the sunshine of a new tomorrow and I know in my heart of hearts that it’s time for me to move on,” said Mr. Nairn.

There is first a matter to note immediately: it has taken seven months of Mr. Nairn working closely with the theatre’s Board of Directors and executive director Sharyn Ayliffe to ensure that as smooth a transition as possible is in place for the next person to take the leadership role with Theatre Orangeville.

A video was aired on Monday of Mr. Nairn in his beloved theatre talking about his “moving on,” the conditions under which the terms of his departure will take place and some plans for his immediate future.

For a start, he is slated to maintain his position as artistic director for the entire season of 2024-25, to direct such shows as are expected and keep the ship on an even keel with all that he usually does.

After all, David Nairn has truly been the well loved-face of Theatre Orangeville for 25 years, from its early Summer Theatre days to him transitioning the scheduling into a regional theatre playbill of full seasons, running from October of one year into May or June of the next.

Mr. Nairn had already performed here as an actor in two or three plays and had grasped the fact that, if the fledgeling Theatre Orangeville wanted to survive at all, it would have to give up its summer theatre role and take on the mantel of full theatre seasons.

He explained, “Before I was asked to apply, I had walked out on your stage with 16 people in the audience. At that time, Orangeville was not a destination during the summer. I came forward with a vision that changed how we created theatre. Leisa and I also made the commitment to live here.”

He emphasized that this decision is not a health-related matter for him. He is in great shape, he assured us and there has been no pressure for him to leave. “Change is always exciting,” he declared.

“We’ve been through some creative times,” he began as a review of the pandemic days. “We had to dig deep for new ways of expression; we had a carefully structured plan by which we decreased our deficit by half.”

By the end of the 2024-25 season, Mr. Nairn will assume the role of artistic director emeritus, ready to mentor the new person and assist in how the theatre will grow. One of his future projects will be to oversee the Creative Partners on Stage (CPOS) program’s further development and growth. Albeit that his current role in the theatre will come to an end, he plans to continue to work within the community and within other theatres, acting in shows, and directing them.

Sure as he is that Theatre Orangeville will flourish under new leadership, Mr. Nairn has no worries that his move will adversely affect the dedication the patrons, sponsors and partners have shown for many years. He believes that this wonderful theatre is bigger than just one person and that it has flourished thanks to the support of a caring community.

Openly, David Nairn opined, “A leader has a responsibility to lead and to know when to step down. What is important now is to prepare the chair for the next person. My job over the next months is to make sure that [the] next person has everything they need in order [to] succeed and to move the theatre’s vision, mandate and commitment to our community, forward.”

He admitted, “This is a Big Life Day for me personally. I do have mixed emotions. I’ve had the opportunity to reflect [on] how wonderful this journey has been and I’ve had many emails saying, ‘you are Theatre Orangeville.’

“That touches my heart deeply and one day, I know, they will say as much about the next AD [artistic director].”

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