A brief history of Nakai

Nakai Players was founded in 1979 by Sheila Langston and Beth Mulloy. It served as a Yukon touring company, which placed an emphasis on nurturing First Nations theatre. In 1989, Nakai Players merged with Separate Reality theatre to form the Nakai Theatre Ensemble.

Under Artistic Director Dawn Davies (1989–1995), Nakai focused more of its activities in Whitehorse, and began providing developmental opportunities to Yukon theatre practitioners, particularly for youth and First Nation artists.

In 1986, Nakai created the 24 Hour Playwriting Competition, the first of its kind in Canada. A Toronto production of a Nakai premier, Sixty Below, received 7 Dora Mavor Moore Theatre Award nominations.

Under Artistic Director Philip Adams (1995–1998), during the New Theatre North Playwrights’ Festival, senior Canadian playwrights and dramaturges were brought in to work with local playwrights.

A more thorough history of the company from 1979-1999 can be read in Nakai: A Northern Theatre by Eve D'aeth in Theatre Research in Canada.

From 1999-2006, under Artistic Director Michael Clark, Nakai Theatre focused on the production of Canadian scripts, raising its production values and moving its main venue to the Yukon Arts Centre. During the spring of 2004, Nakai created the Homegrown Festival, a great opportunity for local theatre artists to present their work. Residencies for senior Canadian theatre artists were established for playwrights, designers, and composers.

Under Artistic Director David Skelton (2007-2017), Nakai emphasized the development of new Yukon playwriting through commissions, dramaturgy, readings, and workshop productions that led to productions. 

Introduced in 2009, Nakai holds the annual Pivot Festival – an annual coming together of theatre makers and audiences from the Yukon, across the country, and around the world.

Jacob Zimmer was hired in 2017 to continue and advance Nakai's work as a catalyst and producer of theatre making in the Yukon.