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For stage veteran and educator Quincy Armorer, theatre is life

‘When you see light bulbs go off for emerging actors who are finding themselves in their work and their art, it’s one of the most rewarding things’
March 5, 2024
By Samantha Rideout, GrDip 10

A man with short black hair and beard wears a green shirt and looks into the camera against in a brick background. Quincy Armorer, BFA 97, has worked for performance companies across Canada and is now based at one of the country’s most prestigious theatre schools.

For more than three decades, Quincy Armorer, BFA 97, has delighted in treading the boards. “I can’t not have theatre in my life,” says the co-director of the English-language acting program at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal.

Armorer already felt this way when he enrolled in Concordia’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance (now called Acting for the Theatre) at age 18, having “had a blast” in grade-school and high-school shows. His BFA was a coming-of-age experience, he says. “When you’re training as an actor, you and your body are the instrument. It’s vulnerable: you have to be open and brave. You learn a lot about yourself.”

As a result, Armorer bonded with many of his classmates. “The people I met at Concordia are essentially my second family,” he affirms. “I’m grateful for my time there, and thrilled to see that the theatre department is still going strong.”

A self-described “Shakespeare nerd,” Armorer has enthusiastically taken on many classical roles over the years. But he’s also interested in newer plays and served for 10 years as the artistic director of Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop (BTW). As Canada’s longest running Black theatre company, BTW champions the work of Black playwrights and stories that are relevant to Black cultures and experiences. During Armorer’s tenure, it expanded its audience to include a new generation of young theatregoers and made a name for itself beyond its home city.

For instance, in 2015, BTW collaborated with the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to produce The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, an epic-scale musical drama set in a historical Black community in Ontario. “That production won a bunch of awards and made the company into more of a household name,” says Armorer. “For me, it was a reminder of how important these stories [from minority communities] are, and how audiences really do want to hear them.”

Two people dressed in costumes pose for an image in a wooded area. Quincy Armorer as Oberon with Julie Tamiko Manning as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, Repercussion Theatre, Montreal, 2013 | Directed by Amanda Kellock, set design by Amy Keith, costume design by Marija Djordjevic.

A powerful profession

At around the same time, Armorer and his BTW colleagues launched an artist mentorship program open to Black writers, directors, performers and designers. Each year, the participants put on a showcase at the National Arts Centre. “We wanted something for theatre artists who just needed a bit of a leg up,” Armorer says. “The program is still running 10 years later, so I’m very proud of that.”

He values his current role at the National Theatre School for similar reasons. “I love watching young people learn,” he says. “When you see light bulbs go off for emerging actors who are finding themselves in their work and their art, it’s one of the most rewarding things.”

When he’s not on campus at the National Theatre School, Armorer can be found teaching acting and arts leadership at Queen’s University or up on stage himself. This spring, he’ll appear in a Vancouver production of Red Velvet, a play that combines his appreciation for Black narratives with his fondness for Shakespeare. It tells the true story of Ira Aldridge, the first Black man to play Othello on a major London stage.

Looking back, Armorer admits that building a career in his field isn’t easy, but he speaks passionately about what it brings to the lives of artists and audiences alike. “Theatre is life,” he states. “And it’s powerful, in so many ways: educationally, inspirationally, politically or aesthetically.

“Sometimes, people see a play and it changes their whole perspective on life,” he continues. “But there’s also value in just turning your brain off from all the crap that’s going on in the world and sitting down for two hours to laugh and have a good time. No matter what, humans are artistic beings. So, if you ask me, art in general — and theatre in particular — is just necessary.”


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