Canadian theatre and opera director, playwright and educator. Through his commitment to new play development, Indigenous theatre and revisionist productions of canonical works, Peter Hinton has significantly impacted the evolution of contemporary Canadian theatre. His exhaustively researched stagings are at once visually stunning and firmly rooted in the social, cultural and political context in which they are created.
A graduate of Ryerson University, Hinton began his career as an actor but quickly found his passion in directing. He gained attention early in his career for an unflinching production of Michi’s Blood, an avant-garde work by the German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz (Crow’s Theatre, 1982). This was followed by successive positions in new play development at Theatre Passe Muraille, Canadian Stage and Vancouver’s Playwright’s Theatre Centre. He then served as the dramaturg in residence at Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal and as an artistic associate at the Stratford Festival. This period saw him develop and direct a number of now canonical Canadian plays, including John Mighton’s Possible Worlds and Métis/Dene playwright Marie Clements’s Burning Vision. Hinton has also penned five original plays, including The Swanne trilogy, and written librettos for two operas by Peter Hannan.
In 2005, Hinton took over as the artistic director of English theatre at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, shaping how Canada conceptualizes its national theatre. Among Hinton’s innovations were reinstating the English-language acting company in 2009 and programming the company’s first season of all Canadian plays (2006-7). The former brought together a diverse group of artists from across Canada; the latter represented a bold move towards emancipating Canadian theatre from its enduring colonial ties to English and American drama and created space for Indigenous programming. This commitment to Indigenous theatre was evident in Hinton’s selection of (among others) Marie Clements (Métis/Dene), Kevin Loring (Nlaka’pamux), Daniel David Moses (Six Nations) and Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) as playwrights in residence. In 2008, he partnered on the first ever collaboration between a Canadian company and Britain’s the Royal Shakespeare Company, a stage adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad. Other contributions during his tenure at the NAC include instructing and mentoring students at the National Theatre School and founding The Ark; a three-week laboratory in which a diverse group of actors and actors-in-training come together to focus on a playwright’s oeuvre.
Hinton’s departure from the NAC in 2012 was born of a desire for further artistic growth through freelance directing. He gained significant praise for his visually compelling staging of Lady Windermere’s Fan at the Shaw Festival (2013). The production drew heavily on impressionist painting and contemporary music to venture beyond the superficial preoccupations of Victorian England and, ultimately, offered an engaged and feminist celebration of the heroine’s resilience. Hinton’s subsequent staging of Pygmalion (Shaw Festival, 2015) used bold visuals to transpose Shaw’s classic to present-day London, where Higgins, a bearded hipster devoted to startups, navigates an emerging class structure defined by cultural and social capital. Hinton returned to the festival in 2017, directing the Canadian premiere of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins groundbreaking play An Octoroon, and in 2018 to re-envision Joan Littlewood’s iconic Oh What a Lovely War, moving the setting to Niagara on the Lake during the Great War. This shift emphasized the racially-driven struggles faced by Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians during the period. In 2019 he directed the Canadian premiere of Sex, a play by Mae West to critical acclaim.
Important opera stagings include Riel, a 1967 opera with music by Harry Somers and libretto by Mavor Moore. Hinton’s direction of Riel (Canadian Opera Company, 2017) sought to free the piece from its colonial bearings, chiefly a preoccupation with the conflict between Canada’s English and French colonizers; instead, Hinton’s Riel focused on the theft of Indigenous land and other injustices inflicted on First Peoples by settlers. In 2017, Hinton brought his signature visuals to Missing, a chamber opera by Brian Current (music) and Marie Clements (libretto) dedicated to British Columbia’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In 2018 he directed the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s and Daniel MacIvor’s opera Hadrian, at the Canadian Opera Company, marking the company’s first work with explicit gay content and history.
Also, a leading educator Peter is a much sought-after instructor at Ryerson University, the National Theatre School of Canada, York University and the University of Alberta. In 2012, he was awarded the Gascon Thomas Award for outstanding contribution to Canadian theatre and in 2009 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his national contribution to the arts. In 2012 he was a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He is married to multi-disciplinary artist Howard J Davis.