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It took thirteen doctors in Doctor Who, but only 12 artistic directors at Royal MTC.

For the first time in its 60 year history, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s artistic director will be a woman.

Kelly Thornton takes over for Steven Schipper come next June.

Thornton says she brings a lot of experience in new play development, and that’s an area where she’d like to inject some focus and resources.

“So that’s commissioning-- and not just plays but potentially commissioning musicals-- and really developing Manitobans as playwrights.”

Thornton has spent more than 17 years as artistic director of Nightwood Theatre in Toronto, a feminist company Thornton says is nomadic. At Royal MTC, she’ll have two permanent venues, and a considerably bigger budget.

Schipper will stay on as Royal MTC artistic director right up to May 31, 2019. Thornton says that gives her time to land on the ground and get to know the audience.

“I really want to honour the audience base and deliver-- on the main stage especially-- great programming that is appealing to the public.”

Thornton says she also wants to honour equity, diversity, and inclusion.

“That’s bringing more diverse voices onto the stage, trying to reflect the Canadian population on our stages, trying to make a home for Indigenous stories on our stages – these are all things that I think the whole country is talking about in terms of the Canadian theatre practice, but it’s really important to bring it to Winnipeg and to the next chapter of Royal MTC’s history.”

Meanwhile, the city seems to have made a good impression on Thornton. She says she’s been here before, and in June during the hiring process, took a walk around and was amazed.

“It’s a very beautiful city, and I love the fact that it’s such a dedicated audience base and people are really engaged in the cultural institutions that exist in Winnipeg, so I’m thrilled.”

Yesterday’s snow, she says, showed her we really mean business here when it comes to winter. But she says the big, crisp, blue sky is beautiful, and there’s more “psychic space” here than in Toronto.

Thornton’s also looking forward to exploring Manitoba’s lake country.