Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC) announces the shortlisted nominees for the 2023 Tom Hendry Awards, recognizing excellence in new works for the stage.
Outside of the seven award categories that recognize outstanding writing, PGC also celebrates theatre artists who make important contributions. New in 2022, the John Palmer Award highlights playwrights who challenge the mainstream and foster intergenerational friendships. The Bra D’Or Award pays tribute to those who support and promote Canadian women playwrights. The complete list of awards and their shortlisted artists can be found on Playwrights Guild of Canada’s website.
The Nominee Gala program can be seen online on PGC’s YouTube channel. In addition to announcing the nominees in all the awards categories, the program features reading excerpts of RBC Emerging Playwright Award nominees. Recipients will be announced in a public program airing Sunday, Oct 29th, beginning at 7pm EDT, broadcasting from the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, hosted by Beau Dixon.
The Carol Bolt Award – 2023 Short List
This award, in memory of David and Carol Bolt, is given annually for outstanding work that has premiered in the past year. JURY: Judith Thompson (Chair), Reneltta Arluk, and Marcia Johnson.
1939 by Jani Lauzon & Kaitlyn Riordan (ON)
Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story by Natalie Meisner (AB)
Shark Bite by Meredith Taylor-Parry (AB)
The Playwrights Guild Drama Award – 2023 Short List
This award is given for an outstanding Drama, which was unpublished and had not had a professional premiere. JURY: Daniel MacIvor (Chair), Grace Chin, and Hope McIntyre.
Area 33 by Natalie Meisner (AB)
Kowloon Bay by Jovanni Sy (AB)
The Night from the 4th to the 5th by Rachel Graton, translated by Katherine Turnbull (QC)
The Playwrights Guild Comedy Award – 2023 Short List
This award is given for an outstanding comedy that has not yet had a premiere production. JURY: Marty Chan (Chair), Leahdawn Helena, and Jani Lauzon.
Lesser Demons by Dorothy Dittrich (BC)
Timepiece by Kico Gonzalez-Risso (BC)
Jessica’s Fine Adventure by Robert More (ON)
Dan School of Drama & Music (Musical) Award – 2023 Short List
This award is given for an outstanding musical that has not yet had a premiere production. JURY: Alexandra Kane (Chair), Dorothy Dittrich, and Arkady Spivak.
Captain Zuke by Landon Braverman & Anna Jastrzembski (BC)
Armchair Confidential by Aaron Jensen (ON)
Jook by Glenn Marais & Todd Phillips (ON)
The Dorothy Lees-Blakey Theatre for Young Audiences Award – 2023 Short List
This award is given for an outstanding new or recently premiered Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) play. JURY: Emil Sher (Chair), Sarah Flynn, and Gail Nyoka.
For Now by Scott Button (BC)
The Weight of Ants by Leanna Brodie (BC) & David Paquet (QC)
Luna by Danielle Roy (SK)
RBC Emerging Playwright Award – 2023 Short List
This award is given for an outstanding play by an emerging playwright. JURY: Jacob Zimmer (Chair), Jennifer Brewin, and Ashley King.
The Thin Place by Cole Hayley (NL)
Vial by David Sklar (AB)
One Perfect Day | Un día perfecto by Margarita Valderrama (ON)
Robert Beardsley Award
The Arts & Letters Club of Toronto Foundation’s 2023 Short List
This award is given for an outstanding one-act play by a student within the Greater Toronto Area. JURY: Sarena Parmar (Chair), Vishesh Abeyratne and Jade Silman.
Desert Lily by Cass Iacovelli (ON)
Iphigenia in Dreaming by Cassandra Marcus Davey (ON)
Greek Tragedy by Madeline Rossell (ON)
The Bra d’Or Award – 2023 Short List
Presented by PGC’s Women’s Caucus, the Bra d’Or Award recognizes an individual or individuals for efforts in supporting and promoting the work of Canadian women playwrights.
Catherine Banks (NS)– Playwright and Educator
Norm Foster (NB)– Playwright and Actor
Lisa O’Connell (ON)– Artistic Director of Pat the Dog Creation
Marianne Sawchuck (BC) – Creator and Producer of Women At Play(s)
Donna Spencer (BC) – Co-founder, and Artistic Producer of Firehall Arts Centre
The John Palmer Award – 2023 Short List
This award is given to a playwright who reflects John Palmer’s ideals of challenging the mainstream and fostering intergenerational friendships. JURY: Franco Boni (Chair), Jacoba Knaapen and Rahul Varma.
Justin Miller (AB), nominated by Karen Hines
Lili Robinson (BC), nominated by Heidi Taylor
Sangeeta Wylie (BC), nominated by Valerie Sing Turner
Shortlisted Play Synopses
1939 by Jani Lauzon & Kaitlyn Riordan – At a Residential School in northern Ontario, five students are ordered to gather in a classroom. Two of them, Joseph Summers and his sister, Beth, have been at the school for seven years, but its policy of separating siblings has largely kept them apart – until now. Susan Blackbird, an orphan who has been there since she was four, struggles to connect with her barely remembered Cree heritage, while newcomer Evelyne Rice tries to avoid punishment by repressing her Mohawk culture and language. Jean Delorme, as a Métis student, is a rarity at the school and struggles to fit in. English teacher Sian Ap Dafydd explains the reason for their summons: they have been chosen to entertain King George VI and his Queen on their forthcoming visit with a student performance of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. Firmly colonial in her notions and intentions, Ap Dafydd is as determined to get her young actors to deliver the “big round vowels” she considers essential to speaking Shakespeare as she is to show the royal couple how the students are learning to be “good little Canadians.” But as rehearsals proceed, the students’ agency erupts as they learn about each other and discover parallels between the play’s characters and their own experiences. Confronting individual and collective tragedy with humour and strength, the students undertake a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Their resilience evoking Helena’s line in All’s Well: “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.”
Born of both family legacy and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
1939 has been guided by Indigenous Elders, Survivors, and ceremony throughout.
Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story by Natalie Meisner – An uplifting play that celebrates queer love over generations while challenging us to remember and celebrate LGBTQ+ history. Aspiring historian Maxine is researching Canadian social policy when she discovers the story of Everett Klippert—the last Canadian man jailed simply for being gay. Maxine becomes fascinated with Everett’s case and with discovering the man beyond the headlines, a beloved Calgary bus driver on the downtown route who took care to brighten the day of his passengers, who played on the family baseball team, and was everyone’s favorite uncle, and who, when he was confronted by police about his sexuality, refused to lie.
Inspired and captivated, Maxine interviews people who knew Everett Klippert. She connects with a senior at a local assisted living facility she knows only as Handsome, one of Klippert’s lovers and perhaps the only person who can truly illuminate the past. At the same time, Maxine is navigating her own new relationship with Métis comedian Tonya.
This absorbing, heartwarming play weaves together past and present in a multi-generational exploration of queer love. It tells the near-forgotten story of one of Canada’s quiet heroes and reminds us all that the past must be remembered as we work together for a better future.
Shark Bite by Meredith Taylor-Parry – A troubled urban teenager arrives at her Grandfather’s
remote cabin for a visit and they quickly realize that the easy days of their relationship are far behind them. Ava has strong opinions about George’s hobby of trapping wild animals and her passionate arguments now seem like an attack rather than a misunderstanding. As she struggles to find the person she wants to become and he looks back at the person he has been they both long to find the connection they once had. When George tries to find some common ground between them through a nature hike, a dangerous turn of events leaves Ava in the position of trying to save them both.
Area 33 by Natalie Meisner – Chloe lost her mother to addiction and has since been raised by her uncle, who, recognizing her talent with numbers and computers, has involved her in increasingly dodgy aspects of his business as a buyer and seller of lobsters. This has made her something of a pariah in the village. Short on hope for the future and doubtful about the existence of intelligent life on earth, she steps into a local joke: The Shag Harbour UFO Museum. The curator, Evelyn, is like no other adult she knows. She does not tell Chloe what to do; rather, she encourages her to chart her own course and they become friends. But Evelyn herself has a secret: she is an undercover officer working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to investigate fraudulent seafood sales. Area 33 is inspired by real events and set in real places. The Shag Harbour UFO Museum is a real place. Chloe, Evelyn, and Sheldon are fictionalized characters inspired by real life.
Kowloon Bay by Jovanni Sy is a prequel to his award-winning play, Nine Dragons.
The Night from the 4th to the 5th by Rachel Graton, translated by Katherine Turnbull– The Night from the 4th to the 5th tells the story of a young woman’s sexual assault and her ensuing battle. There are questions, examinations, interrogations. But her memory is playing tricks on her. She can’t remember the face of her attacker. What happened? What happens next?
Follow this woman’s journey from the moment she’s attacked, through an emotional rollercoaster, to developing resilience, and regaining hope. An ensemble of characters—family members, witnesses, police officers, social workers, and “concerned” citizens—express their wildly differing views as they piece together the event.
Captain Zuke by Landon Braverman & Anna Jastrzembski – London, 1969. Zuke Jones is a pansexual femme frontman trying to escape his past and become the rock star he was born to be. Jack Lowe is a shy and closeted musical genius looking for connection. They meet one fateful night outside a record shop in Soho, changing the course of music history forever. Together, they form The Electric Jukes, the world’s first conceptual glam rock band. With their provocative music and shocking outfits, the Jukes become icons of their era. However, the glittering fantasy they share onstage, and the reality offstage implode when neither can admit their true feelings for the other. Amidst the tension, Zuke is offered a secret deal to go solo. Faced with the choice of betraying his friend or staying by his side, he chooses fame and becomes international superstar Captain Zuke. Meanwhile, Jack’s abandonment leaves him unable to write music and his life spins out of control. Zuke’s selfishness eventually leaves him bitter and alone, forcing him to confront the consequences of his actions. An epic tale of love found and lost, Captain Zuke is a glam rock fantasia about queer identity, the cost of fame, and the power of redemption.
Armchair Confidential by Aaron Jensen – Lucy, a neurotic 40-something accountant, uncovers a pattern in the serial murders that have plagued the neighboring small town of Barnabus Bay. She enlists the reluctant help of her childhood bestie, Aldo, and his tagalong baby. When a celebrity influencer is the latest victim, rubbernecking tourists descend, and the cash-strapped townsfolk must decide whether or not to capitalize on the situation. Meanwhile, Lucy closes in on the killer, but she must first confront her own inner demons if she hopes to save herself. Armchair Confidential is a buddy-comedy/mystery musical that playfully riffs on existential crises while exploring society’s morbid fascination with murder.
Jook by Glenn Marais and Todd Phillips – Jook is a story of the American Dream and the desire of a young black man, Isaiah Johnson, to make it in a world that doesn’t want a black man to succeed. In fact, he comes from a place of servitude, oppression and hatred of a level we can’t begin to fathom. Despite these incredible challenges and circumstances, Isaiah rises up and follows his path on the railway lines to Chicago, to the north, where the hopes and dreams of millions of blacks from the south resided and who followed that dream in the great migration. One of the greatest stories that has never been told.
Isaiah Johnson was a gifted blues musician, with the voice of an angel, and the fire of a demon inside his tormented soul that desired a life bigger than the southern cage of a sharecropping plantation in Mississippi. He dreamed of Chicago, the glittering jewel to the north that had enticed his father who had made the journey in 1919. His father had a dream too, of blues music and a life free from the tyranny of racism. Chicago and the race riot in the summer of 1919 broke his father’s spirit in more ways than the bats and bottles that broke his body. He came home a bitter man full of fear and a brooding soul that brought that fear onto his family and in particular his son, Isaiah. When he realized that Isaiah had even more talent and desire than him, it became his mission to break him of it and free him from the pain he knew waited for him to the north. It became an obsession. Isaiah’s mother, Abigail, and girlfriend, Lorelei, felt the dream burn in him and heard the destiny in his playing and his angelic voice. His spirit soared far over the cotton fields, and they knew this place was too small for him and that leaving was the only path for him. He joined thousands of other blacks riding the Illinois Central chasing a dream of freedom and opportunity in the promised land of the north making his way to Chicago in 1947 with a suitcase, a guitar, and eyes full of wonder. He was part of the Great Migration, one of the most incredible migrations of humanity in human history, that changed the American music landscape forever, giving birth to rock n roll, jazz, rhythm and blues, and soul, and it all came from the rusted strings of a plantation dobro, a tormented singer, the voice of the people, the land, and an entire race oppressed and shackled by the cruelty of racism. Blues gave birth to it all and Isaiah could play it like no-one before him.
The plantation owner, Jeb, was a cruel and viscous tyrant who terrorized Elijah’s family and friends, who struggled to make ends meet sharecropping, and his cruelty knew no bounds. There was no future in sharecropping and most times the workers ended up in debt to the landowners and their corrupt bookkeeping. There was no future, no hope, only a life of hardship and pain. After a horrific hanging of Isaiah’s beloved family friend, Boo, Isaiah knew it was time for him to go, and despite his father turning his back on him, he made his way north to make his mark and play his music that lived inside of him and enriched his soul. Chicago tested him in ways that would break a lesser man, and even a false accusation of murder, incarceration, and loss of everything he held dear, couldn’t stop Isaiah Johnson. When he returns home to the plantation of his childhood and is baptized again in the waters of the river on their land, he comes full circle and realizes that his greatest gift and strength, from which his music flows, is his family, and they live in him, around him, and through him.
Isaiah’s story is an American one, one of families, fathers, young men, and their dreams that resonates all over the world no matter where you’re from. It is a story for the ages, that speaks even louder now amidst the backdrop of racism in the 21st century, that ugly hydra that just doesn’t seem to die. It is a story of hope, of living your dream and never giving up no matter how many times they tell you that you can’t do it. It is the story of the blues, the most powerful music in the world, whose hallowed notes, ancient stories, and tortured laments shook the world and changed it forever. It is Isaiah Johnson’s story, and you will cheer for him, like he was your own son, best friend, and dreamer on that long highway of opportunity, that we all seek to travel in pursuit of opportunity and the promise of hope.
Lesser Demons by Dorothy Dittrich – Sylvia’s been demoted and spends her days working at a desk job, Morty’s career has lost its magic, David wants to play it safe, and Hannah is stuck. When Hannah agrees to a little weekend getaway to one of the Gulf Islands with her husband David, she has no idea what lies in wait. From past lives to deals with the devil, Lesser Demons takes a comic look at some serious subjects: family, love, work, creativity, forgiveness, spirituality, and a few demons like ambition and greed. This play delves into the importance of creativity – how it feeds and sustains our heart, mind, and body, and the consequences of ignoring the creative spirit. A Faustian tale told with a twist, Lesser Demons asks us to ponder – if we have a soul to sell, what are we doing to nurture it?
Timepiece by Kico Gonzalez-Risso – A family of four tries to settle their estate planning. The kids want what’s best for the parents; the parents want to keep the kids happy. It only takes a lack of cooperation from one family member to throw the proceedings into chaos.
Jessica’s Fine Adventure by Robert More – Meet Jessica Quartermaine. Seventy-one years old, elegant, conservative, always well presented. At nineteen she married her high school sweetheart, Harrison, who was a wonderful provider. Unfortunately, he also had little capacity for joie de vivre, and to make matters worse, Harrison died of a heart-attack at 53. At the play’s beginning, Jessica has been alone for nineteen years, and during this time she has felt more and more that life is passing her by. Finally, no longer willing to live with the “relentless predictability” and “sensual deprivation” of the past 51 years, she is determined to pursue a course of action that will take her life in a whole new direction. She is going to seek companionship of the male persuasion, and she is going to do this by posting an ad in the newspaper which reads: “Seeking Suitors Suitable for Amorous Possibilities.”
What follows is a hilarious and poignant journey of discovery as Jessica does meet three suitable suitors: a very experienced confident 65-year-old Italian fashion model; a completely inexperienced, very insecure 43-year-old librarian; and a 73-year-old Scots who has a joyous, larger than life personality. What follows is a journey of exploration full of twists and turns that leads Jessica to say at play’s end: “So, there it is. I have lived life to the fullest, known the delights of passion, the warmth of intimacy, and the sheer joy of being gloriously alive. For when all is said and done, my adventure truly was a fine one, and it taught me one very important thing. Always to remain open to – possibility.”
For Now by Scott Button – From the outside, best pals Jacob and Bex may seem like an odd pairing: Jacob is queer and comes from a wealthy family, while Bex is straight and working class – yet they’ve navigated the minefield of high school together, venting about annoying boys and being passionate advocates for LGBTQ+ causes around their school. On the first day of Grade 12, Bex shares their journey with their gender identity with Jacob – and the world. Will this change Bex and Jacob’s friendship forever? Or maybe just for now?
For Now is a touching and funny new play for youth that explores issues of gender, sexuality, and privilege among two best friends.
The Weight of Ants by David Paquet & Leanna Brodie – And the prize for the worst educational institution goes to: Joan and Olivier’s school! Wherever the students go, models with flawless skin, shiny hair, and perfect bodies are incessantly reminding them of their own shortcomings, even as the climate crisis, political corruption, and threats of nuclear Armageddon are nipping at their heels. When the headmaster proclaims a “Future Week” in a school with no future, both Olivier and Jeanne decide to run for the post of student president. But how do you keep fighting for everyone in a world where it seems that selfishness always comes out on top?
Luna by Danielle Roy – Twelve-year-old Luna has just built a time machine in her dad’s garage with the intention of going back in time and unfreezing her mother – who is trapped in the past. Much to Luna’s surprise, the machine has other plans for her, taking her on an epic adventure to meet dinosaurs, a robot, and ultimately, herself. This play deals with grief, loss, depression, and the strength it takes to move forward.
The Thin Place by Cole Hayley – The damage of resettlement to rural Newfoundland has been well documented, but the trauma felt within family units of those who had to go through the process, and the generational strain since, has not been as openly discussed. The Thin Place exists squarely in the latter, as Terra and her family are lost at sea in their saltbox house, where their one-hour trek across the bay has turned into a lazy river through purgatory.
Vial by David Sklar – Sara, a professor and soon-to-be-mom, finds herself caught between loyalty to her profession and allegiance to her tribe. The play focuses on the rabbit hole that Jewish identity is, and the tensions and conflicts inherent in deciding who can call themselves Jewish.
One Perfect Day | Un día perfecto by Margarita Valderrama – “One Perfect Day | Un día perfecto” is a play inspired by the soapy, drama-filled telenovelas of Central and South America. Alba and Evan think they’re getting the picture-perfect Colombian wedding but when the groom is swapped with an evil twin by a long-lost sister bent on revenge, the special day falls into chaos, testing the family’s strength. The play is full of humour and heart; it’s a joyous and mischievous marriage between Colombian wedding traditions, the telenovela genre, and the ceremony of attending the theatre.
Desert Lily by Cass Iacovelli – Desert Lily is a play about four women and their interactions within a sexual assault support group. Through the play, we see them hold each other and build unbreakable bonds through and despite their trauma. They heal together through caring for one another.
Iphigenia in Dreaming by Cassandra Marcus Davey – Tauris. The temple of Artemis. Iphigenia, displaced and freshly sacrificed, struggles to find a foothold as she shuttles between disparate times and places. Visions of her mother’s childhood, her aunt’s future, and the unraveling of her family weave through conversations with Artemis and life in Tauris. Iphigenia in Dreaming adapts the narrative of Iphigenia to reflect on family, memory, and the little kinds of love that are so deeply human.
Greek Tragedy by Madeline Rossell – Greek Tragedy is a short musical retelling of the myth of Perseus and Medusa from a feminist lense.
John Palmer Award Nominee Quotes
Nominated by Karen Hines: “It’s rare to write a letter like this wherein one can feel completely at ease speaking about both the promise of, and the evidence of, a talent. In his eight years as a professional, Justin has won significant awards and produced sold-out tours for his beloved and fiercely intelligent drag persona Pearle Harbour. Justin is compelled not just by the problems and possibilities of drag as a theatrical form, but by how drag itself intersects with literature; music; history; the outcast; the vulnerable….... Justin’s works transcend division. From Videofag to Stratford, Fredricton to Whitehorse, communities’ bond in Pearle’s refracted light. Justin collaborates with his elders, teaches young artists. It’s never been easy to be a drag artist in this world, and it certainly isn’t now. But beyond talent, Justin has demonstrated grace, resilience, courage. These aspects braid in the backbones of our most precious practitioners of the lively arts.
Nominated by Heidi Taylor: “I am pleased to nominate Lili Robinson for the John Palmer Award. Lili has worked with us on projects including the Fringe New Play Prize-winning Mx and the Vancouver Black Theatre Archival Initiative (VBTAI). As a spoken-word artist, actor, and playwright, they are a leader in the production of genre-breaking and community-generating work. As a producer and community leader, they are connecting the transformative power of theatre to folks who need it. They have established themselves as a critical partner in equity-building practices from the position of a working-class artist with no family or spousal resources to reduce the precarity of their economic reality. This award will have a practical impact on their ability to lead and develop their own work. …… Lili asks hard questions and sticks around to find answers. I hope this nomination brings national attention to their significant achievements, and practical support to further their goals. ”
Nominated by Valerie Sing Turner: “I met Sangeeta in 2011 at Canada’s National Voice Intensive, when I was an alumnus in the Advanced program, and she was training as an actor. Since 2015, I’ve come to know the writer beyond the actor, and the person beyond the artist. Like many of the amazing women of colour in our sector who came before her, I see in Sangeeta an exciting creative voice of the next generation, bringing strength, determination, and imagination in harnessing the power of theatre as a vehicle for positive social change and disruption, while personally overcoming multiple systemic challenges. …….. While we the same gave voice to the harrowing experiences of the Vietnamese “boat people” crisis of the ‘70s, Sangeeta’s latest play dissects intersections of mental illness, abuse, and justice. Her work has the hallmarks of the kind of radical inclusivity required to achieve meaningful change across multiple generations and communities. ”
Bra d’Or Award Nominee Bios & Descriptions
Catherine Banks (NS), playwright and educator – Nominated by the Sage Hill Playwrights Group, 2021:
“We would like to nominate Catherine Banks for the 2023 Bra d’Or Award. We were all Catherine’s students in Sage Hill Writing Experience’s playwriting group during the summer of 2021. But our nomination speaks not only to what Catherine gave us, but what Catherine has given to all women playwrights, and Canadian theatre as a whole.
First, our specific reason for recognizing Catherine: It would strike anyone that teaching via Zoom during the pandemic era has been more than stressful and challenging. During our Sage Hill Writing Retreat playwriting intensive in the summer of 2021, Catherine was warm and welcoming, creating an atmosphere of collegiality, throughout our time together. We were living in various places, so juggling time zones was a concern. A few of us were in the prairie provinces, while one was from Ontario. Catherine was as ever, ensconced in Sambro, Nova Scotia. Our days were full of conversation about great Canadian plays written by women, and we had a couple of lovely evening gatherings throughout our session.
As most emerging and established writers know, mentorship is key to encouraging all writers in moving forward in their field. Here are some of our thoughts about what Catherine has done for us, as women playwrights, through her work with us:
Kim Fahner writes: “Catherine gave me brilliant dramaturgy on my play, All the Things I Draw, which had a staged reading and workshop in May 2022 as part of Pat the Dog Theatre Creation’s PlaySmelter, New Work Theatre Festival at the Sudbury Theatre Centre. I’d been working on this play for a few years and felt stuck with it. Catherine helped me by asking questions about my intention as a playwright, teaching me to look more closely at pacing and at what power subtext could have in my work. I’m so grateful that I had the experience of working virtually with her at Sage Hill in that pandemic summer. We have all become great friends and supporters of one another’s work, too, so she helped us to create a supportive community of women playwrights.”
Carla Harris writes: “Catherine Banks has experience in helping writers to find safe ways to write about trauma. This knowledge was life changing for me, as I felt a need to tell and explore pieces of trauma, while doing so in a safe way. Catherine has written, in great depth, about how women have been oppressed. She has learned how to find and explore that truth in methods that equip the writer to maintain a safe and reasonable objective distance from their work, supporting the writer’s mental health. When I went to Sage Hill for my first time there as an emerging playwright, Catherine helped to show me a doorway into my own work, giving me a map to explore all the writing I have done—in my play and in my poetry. She has taught me how to care for my own mental health and well-being as I explore the complex stories that require the greatest care in how they are told.”
Natasha Urkow writes: “Catherine Banks acts sincerely when she mentors. During my time at Sage Hill, she worked intimately with each script, created time when there wasn’t any, held space and gave guidance when difficult decisions (seemingly impossible) needed to be made. It is especially arduous to dramaturge autobiographical work that encompasses lived tragedy and trauma, but Banks did so with grace and care for each of the participants. Having read and performed some of her work before meeting Banks, I never imagined she could be so humble, wise, and kind. I will continue to look for her wisdom and call on her professional opinion and mentorship at any opportunity that presents itself.
Siobhan Keely writes: I echo the sentiments of my fellow playwrights and add:
Because of Catherine’s mentorship, I completed my first full length play, The Weight of Shame. I have just come out of performing the premiere to three nights of sold-out crowds and rave reviews. Catherine helped me know my potential and talent amidst the raging self doubt. I am forever grateful for her guidance.
Veryl Coghill writes: “So, say we all!”
And second, to our argument that what Catherine did for our little microcosm is just an example of what she has given to the whole ecology of women playwrights.
Kelley Jo Burke writes: “I’ve known Catherine thirty years. While I hugely benefitted from her advice during the Sage Hill workshop sessions referenced (partly because it was good advice and partly because I respect her so much that I actually listened to it), I’d like to talk about how what Catherine brought to this particular writing group is representative of what Catherine brings to the entire playwriting community, and in particular the community of women playwrights. In her long and successful career, Catherine has been a steady example of how a woman can make a career in theatre, even living away from the heart of the business, through enormous talent, the steady building of supportive relationships through kindness and integrity, and the kind of faith in, and willingness to speak out for herself, that we know is unfortunately still less than common in the female playwriting community.
Catherine leads by quiet but steely example. She models assertiveness that is no less fierce because it is presented without aggression, passive or otherwise. She quite simply knows her stuff and any woman who has had the privilege to work with or around her in the last three decades has been shown how to speak for herself in a professional manner, thrive in our community, win respect and productions, and persevere in a life in theatre.
I would argue that Catherine merits the Bra D’Or not just for the help she offered our group, or the many other writing groups she has led over the years—but by being Catherine. For showing us a way forward in our chosen work.”
Learn more about Catherine Banks HERE.
Norm Foster (NB), playwright and actor – Nominated by Kristen Da Silva:
“Norm not only consistently writes stories featuring women and creates roles for women of all ages, he also devotes a great deal of time and energy to mentoring women playwrights and advocating for them. He has championed a number of emerging writers, providing writing and business advice and support, and helping them make key industry connections. He is an outstanding example of using personal influence to raise women up and is very deserving of being recognized with this award.”
Learn more about Norm Foster HERE.
Lisa O’Connell (ON), Artistic Director of Pat the Dog Theatre Creation – Nominated by Jessie Bergeron:
“In my eyes, no one deserves the Bra d’Or Award more than Lisa O’Connell. A writer herself, she has long since put her own artistic pursuits on the back burner to work tirelessly in support of women playwrights. Lisa is the founder and Artistic Director of Pat the Dog Theatre Centre, a catalyst for new play development. Although she works with playwrights of all genders, she dedicates an incredible amount of time and energy to supporting female-presenting and identifying artists. In 2013, she launched the PlaySmelter Festival, which has featured a number of notable women playwrights throughout the years. GG award-winning playwright Colleen Murphy has been a part of the festival, as has Kristin Shepherd, Michaela Jeffery, Taylor Marie Graham, Miriam Cusson, and Patti Flather to name just a few. In 2015, she was on the steering committee of the Equity in Theatre Initiative, which sought to address the underrepresentation of women in theatre. She created the Womxn’s Room in 2016 to give femme creators a space to share and develop their stories. This project led to a collaboration with the Lyth Arts Centre in North Scotland where they have created their own iteration of the Womxn’s Room. In 2018, she created Regional Women Lead: A Grassroots Approach to Gender Parity for Women in Theatre. Then, in 2019, she launched Femme Folks Fest, a new multidisciplinary festival dedicated to and in celebration of women-identified and presenting artists. On a personal level, she has supported me as an emerging playwright with a level of dedication that leaves me speechless. She deserves to be recognized for the work she has done and continues to do to in the name of women theatre artists.”
Learn more about Lisa O’Connell HERE.
Marianne Sawchuck (ON), Founder and Producer of Women at Play(s) – Nominated by Shannon Patte:
“Marianne Sawchuk is the creator and producer of Women at Play(s), a festival of short one-act plays written, directed, and acted by women identifying playwrights, directors, and actors. Marianne recognizes the need for women’s voices to be heard and not only seeks out those opportunities, but when she does not find them, creates them herself. Women at Play (s) has been performed in both Vancouver and Toronto and has just finished its 5th year of inspiring and supporting female identifying playwrights and artists and providing them an opportunity to tell their stories and allow their voices to be heard. She has created a rich, warm, and inspiring environment for artists, one that welcomes into the fold even the most inexperienced of writers. Marianne pushes boundaries, by encouraging varying types of theatre, including Traditional Indigenous Storytelling. She endeavors to include stories that would be meaningful for varied audiences of all ages and genders. Marianne Sawchuk encapsulates what the Bra d’Or Award celebrates.
Learn more about Marianne Sawchuk HERE.
Donna Spencer (BC), Co-Founder and Artistic Producer of The Firehall Arts Centre – Nominated by Lucia Frangione
“Donna Spencer is a long standing humble unsung hero in Vancouver. With the Firehall Arts Centre’s 40th year anniversary I think it would be fitting to acknowledge Donna’s specific dedication to female identifying playwrights during her long AD-ship. She has premiered many new plays by women, in the last three years alone: Sally Stubb’s Our Ghosts, Elaine Avila’s Fado, The Amaryllis by Michelle Riml, Talking Sex on Sunday by Sara Jean Hosie, and House and Home by Jen Griffin. Some of my favourite other productions she has done by female identifying playwrights have been Wawatay by Penny Gummerson, The Yoko Ono Project by Jean Yoon, The Unnatural and Accidental Women by Marie Clements and Je me Souviens by Lorena Gale.”
Learn more about Donna Spencer HERE.
Chair & Jury Bios
CHAIR – Judith Thompson is a playwright, director and actor and teacher. She was artistic director of R.A.R.E. theatre for ten years, creating theatre with communities who wanted to be seen and heard through the medium of theatre, including artists with Down Syndrome, spinal cord injuries, deafness, blindness, and brain injury. She has over a dozen published plays, all of which have had productions all over the world in many languages. She is the author of two feature films, and numerous radio plays. She has been a Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph for the last thirty years.
She is an officer of the Order of Canada, a member of the Royal Society, and the winner of many awards, including two Governor General Awards, a Dora, Toronto Arts Award, Epilepsy Ontario award, Walter Carsen Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award
Reneltta Arluk is an Inuvialuk, Dene and Cree mom from the Northwest Territories. She is founder of Akpik Theatre, a northern focussed professional Indigenous Theatre company. Raised by her grandparents on the trap-line until school age, this nomadic environment gave Reneltta the skills to become the multi-disciplined artist she is now. For nearly two decades, Reneltta has taken part in or initiated the creation of Indigenous Theatre across Canada and overseas. Under Akpik Theatre, Reneltta has written, produced, and performed various works creating space for Indigenous led voice. Current works include Pawâkan, a Plains Cree takeover of Macbeth written by Arluk on Treaty 6 territory. Pawâkan was inspired by working with youth and elders on the Frog Lake reserve. Reneltta is the first Inuk and first Indigenous woman to graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting program and Reneltta is the first Inuk and first Indigenous woman to direct at The Stratford Festival. There she was awarded the Tyrone Guthrie – Derek F. Mitchell Artistic Director’s Award for her direction of Colleen Murphy’s The Breathing Hole. Photo by Nahanni McKay
Marcia Johnson is the 2022 recipient of the Cayle Chernin Woman of the Year award and the 2021 Playwrights Guild of Canada Lifetime Member honoree. She has been a proud member since 2003.
Serving Elizabeth premiered at Western Canada Theatre in February 2022, co-produced by Thousand Islands Playhouse. The TIP production, in October 2021, was delayed by a full year due to the pandemic. That same year, the Stratford Festival and Belfry Theatre produced the play. In 2022, Serving Elizabeth had its US premiere at Peterborough Players in New Hampshire followed by a production at Theatre Aquarius.
Other plays include the Zoom play A Magical Place for the Stratford Festival and National Arts Centre. Among her stage plays are Binti’s Journey (based on ‘The Heaven Shop’ by Deborah Ellis) – Theatre Direct/Black Theatre Workshop, MTYP; Courting Johanna (adapted from ‘Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro) – Blyth Festival; Late – Obsidian Theatre.
Marcia has written short operas for Tapestry Opera including the Dora Award-nominated My Mother’s Ring with composer Stephen A. Taylor. They also created a full-length opera Paradises Lost, adapted from Ursula K. Le Guin’s novella of the same title at the University of Illinois in 2012. The next year, a concert performance of it was presented by Musical Works at the SummerWorks Festival.
Also an actor, Marcia recently performed in Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Sudbury Theatre Centre and the world premiere of Wesley Colford’s The Beloved at Highland Arts Theatre in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
CHAIR – Daniel MacIvor (he/him) is a playwright, performer, filmmaker and producer who divides his time between Toronto and Nova Scotia. He has been the recipient of a Governor General’s Literary Award, the Siminovitch Prize for Theatre, a New York Obie Award and a GLAAD Award. His plays include Never Swim Alone, In On It, His Greatness and A Beautiful View and have been translated into French, German, Czech, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese. He has worked on commissions for the Wexner Centre at the University of Ohio, the National Theatre School of Canada, the Stratford Festival and the Canadian Opera Company where he wrote the libretto for Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian. His most fruitful partnership has been with director Daniel Brooks with whom he has created seven solo performances for international touring. As a screenwriter he has written the films Marion Bridge, Wilby Wonderful, Trigger, and Weirdos for which he won a Canadian Screen Award for best original screenplay, and last year he directed his first documentary feature The Work. Most recently with Marcie Januska Daniel has been running Toronto-based reWork Productions developing new theatre and media.
Grace Chin Based in Vancouver, BC, Grace Chin writes, edits, produces, and acts. She co-founded the Pan-Asian Staged Reading Society; is General Manager, Ruby Slippers Theatre; is a board member, Vancouver Short Film Festival; and is Executive Director, Crazy8s Film Society. A member of the PGC and UBCP/ACTRA, she was commissioned to write and perform A Funny Thing Happened On My Way to Canada for SEACHS/Rumble Theatre, and subsequently workshopped it with vAct MSG Lab and Ruby Slippers Theatre’s Advance Theatre Festival. AFTH was part of the 2023 rEvolver Festival, and will be part of STAND Festival this fall. Her one-act play The Eulogy was workshopped in translation in Tokyo, Japan, resulting in a playwriting commission from ARC Works. A co-written feature screenplay, BollyCop, was optioned by Massey Productions. As a performer, Grace has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, E!, Showcase, Hallmark, Lifetime, Freeform, CBC, Netflix, and AppleTV+. Grace is googleable.
Hope McIntyre is an award winning playwright and director. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film. Her training includes a BFA in performance from the University of Saskatchewan and an MFA in directing from the University of Victoria. She was the founding Artistic Director of Sarasvàti Productions, a company dedicated to social change that she helmed for 22 years. During this tenure she developed multiple new theatrical works, produced an annual festival, worked as a dramaturg for emerging playwrights, and developed community-based play creation methods. Since leaving the company in 2020 she has focused on her own work as a playwright. She has received the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, the Bra D’Or, the Women Helping Women Award, and Mahatma Gandhi Social Change Award for her work supporting community. She is also a former President of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.
CHAIR – Alexandra Kane is a performing artist, music director, producer, equity transformation coach and activist. Alex holds a B.Mus A (Piano) from Western University, a graduate certificate in Corporate Communications and Public Relations from Fanshawe and a graduate certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University. Credits include music director YES! Theatre’s Ride the Cyclone, Hunchback of Norte Dame (AK Arts Academy), One Song Glory (Musical Stage Company), Comfort and Joy, Finding Black Joy and Home for the Holidays, Elf the Musical and Controlled Damage (Grand Theatre), music instructor for ROOM (Mirvish). Event production works include executive producer for the Forrest City London Music Awards. Television production and composition includes Fracture, Nova:Prime and Shelter and upcoming Black is Beautiful (Black London Network).
Dorothy Dittrich is an award-winning playwright, musical director, sound designer, and composer. She is the proud recipient of The Governor General’s Award for her play, The Piano Teacher. An Arts Club Theatre Silver Commission, The Piano Teacher also won a Jessie Richardson Award for Outstanding Original Script. Other of Dorothy’s plays include The Dissociates, Lesser Demons, Two Part Invention, If the Moon Falls and current work in progress Family Channel. Her musical When We Were Singing has been produced across Canada from The Belfry, Touchstone Theatre, to Buddies in Bad Times, The National Arts Centre, as well as in the U.S. It was workshopped and presented as a staged sing-through at Manhattan Theatre Club in New York.
Dorothy’s work – including sound design and musical direction – has garnered her a number of nominations and Jessie Awards, a Betty Mitchell Award, and nominations for the Dora Mavor Moore award. She is the recipient of the Sydney J. Risk Award for Emerging Playwright.
Originally a Vancouver resident, Dorothy has recently moved to Vancouver Island where she continues to write and play music.
Arkady Spivak was recently cited as a 2020 Canadian Arts Hero by the Globe and Mail. He founded Talk Is Free Theatre in 2003, which tackles the cross-section of repertoire, in traditional and immersive mediums. Since TIFT’s founding, Spivak produced 145 works in Barrie, Canada, and toured nationally and internationally. TIFT won prestigious Dora Awards for its productions of Sweeney Todd and Assassins. In the fall of 2018, Spivak produced the largest theatre experience in the world, entitled The Curious Voyage. It was the 3-day long journey, in which each patron became the protagonist of their own story, and was transported, quite literally, from Barrie and London, UK. Commissioned by the National Arts Centre, TIFT’s COVID artistic response was an imaginary wedding, Something Bubbled Something Blue, in which the party wore human size rideable balls over their formal attires. The work has been viewed on Facebook over 2,000,000 times.
Spivak has served, a number of times, as a Juror for the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts and for Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program. Spivak is a volunteer mentor for Business and the Arts, working with a number of emerging and small-scale organizations. He’s a recipient of the inaugural Barrie Arts Award and a Contribution to Tourism Award.
For the past 20 years, Spivak has mentored a number of emerging artistic leaders. He has also initiated a number of special initiatives with the goal of strengthening the theatre ecology, such as the recent Artist BIG. This first-of-its-kind initiative for independent artists in Canada, it has offered minimum Basic Income Guarantee to 40 artists for three years.
CHAIR- Marty Chan writes plays for adults, books for kids, and social media posts for fun. He’s best known for his hit comedy, Mom, Dad, I’m Living with a White Girl and his thriller The Bone House. Marty works and lives in Edmonton with his wife Michelle and their two cats.
Leahdawn Helena (she/they/nekm) Leahdawn was born and raised on the west coast of Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland). Trained as an actor, director, and dramaturge, their first love has always been writing, which they consider a form of magic – why else would it be called “spelling”? Their first full screenplay, Ruthless, was selected for a Newfoundland Arts and Letters prize in 2020, which explored family dynamics, substance abuse, and the limits of love. In 2021 they directed Petrina Bromley in Elizabeth Hicks’ one-woman short, Hearty at Eighty, and performed at the 2021 Stephenville Theatre Festival in Meghan Greeley’s To the Girls. Their most recent play, Stolen Sisters, premiered in 2022, is historically grounded in the colonial experiences of Beothuk and Mi’kmaw women and girls, and has toured across Ktaqmkuk. Most recently they performed Jude Benoit’s Not Worth Caring For as part of TODOS’ Confronting Unconscious Bias film series. They work as a freelance Indigenous Sociocultural Consultant for the St John’s and Avalon Arts
community, working with Artistic Fraud, St John’s Shorts, Persistence Theatre, and the Cupids Legacy Project, among others. L’nuit. Tleiawit Nujio’qonik. (They are L’nu. They have family origins in St George’s Bay.
Jani Lauzon – is a 10 time Dora Mavor Moore nominated actress/writer/director, a three time Juno nominated singer/songwriter and a Gemini Award winning puppeteer. Her company Paper Canoe Projects was created to support the production of her own work including: A Side of Dreams, I Call myself Princess, and Prophecy Fog (which will be presented at The Coal Mine Theatre in November). She has been a Playwright in Resident at Cahoots Theatre Projects, Factory Theatre, The Tracey Wright Global Archive at the Theatre Centre, Nightswimming, U of T’s Barker Fairly Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Fellowship and was the Senior Playwright in Residence at the Banff Playwright Colony in Banff, April 2015. Recently she co-wrote 1939 with Kaitlyn Riordan which premiered at the Stratford Festival in 2022.
CHAIR – Emil Sher’s stage work for the young and the once-were young include Mourning Dove, Sanctuary, Bluenose, Derailed, Beneath the Banyan Tree, The Book of Ashes and acclaimed adaptations of Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine and Ian Brown’s The Boy in the Moon. Emil wrote the book and co-wrote the lyrics (with composer Jonathan Monro) for the musical theatre adaptation of Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater, which played to full houses at the NAC. The Crow’s Theatre staging of The Boy in the Moon was selected as one of the top ten productions of 2017 by The Globe and Mail, nominated for a 2018 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play, and selected by Robert Cushman as one of his Personal Bests from a Decade of Theatre (2010-2019).
Sarah Flynn (she/her) is a performer and playwright born and raised in Winnipeg MB, Treaty 1 territory. She is currently the Artistic Associate at Manitoba Theatre for Young People. Sarah studied at the University of Winnipeg, is a self-taught puppeteer, became a Baby Clown at the Clown Farm, and has trained in Suzuki technique with SITI Company. Sarah has performed in theatres, schools and community centres across Winnipeg, the Manitoba Interlake, and Italy. Sarah won The Harry S. Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoba Play at the 2022 Winnipeg Fringe Festival with her play Whatever Happens After?. Sarah enjoys frolicking in forests, lighting things on fire, and playing with her food.
Gail Nyoka is a BC-based playwright and oral storyteller who enjoys writing and telling stories for both adult and young audiences.
Her plays have been performed in theatres in Ontario, Quebec and Ohio and she has taken her storytelling performances to Britain, the USA and Canada. She has recorded stories for Young Peoples’ Theatre Storyteller Series, and her audio play, Love and Ecstasy is streaming on Playwrights Local in Cleveland. Her TYA productions include, King of the Animals, and The Oba Asks for a Mountain, for Talespinner Children’s Theatre in Cleveland. Other works are Chalmers Award winner, Mella Mella, and plays written for adults, In Plain Sight, and The Waters. Gail is currently working on a theatrical/dance hybrid, Zep Tepi.
CHAIR – Jacob Zimmer creates uncommon performances and experiences. In 2017, he moved to Whitehorse as the Artistic Director of Nakai Theatre. As the founder of Small Wooden Shoe he has been independently producing and creating work through collaboration and improvisation for over 10 years. Highlights include Dedicated to the Revolutions (Toronto, Calgary, Halifax, Kitchener-Waterloo), Perhaps in a Hundred Years (Toronto, Montreal, Halifax), Life of Galileo (for Tracy Wright, Convocation Hall), Upper Toronto (Toronto Public Library, PARC etc…) and Antigone Dead People (Toronto, Tokyo). Jacob worked in dance as a dramaturge with Dancemakers and with choreographer Ame Henderson/Public Recordings. He also designs processes and facilitates learning and engagement in the arts and other fields. Jacob holds a BFA (Theatre) from Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts and received the 2008 Ken McDougall Award for emerging directors. He is currently enrolled in UBC’s MFA Theatre Directing (2024)
Jennifer Brewin joined Regina’s Globe Theatre as it’s 5th Artistic Director in 2020. Prior to the move to Saskatchewan she was the Co-Artistic Director of Toronto’s Common Boots Theatre and before that, Co-Artistic Director of B.C.’s Caravan Farm Theatre. She has staged large-scale works for outdoor stages across the country, including Ottawa’s National Arts Centre – English Theatre, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, the Caravan Farm Theatre, and six outdoor winter walking shows in Toronto at Evergreen Brick Works and Christie Pits Park. She has directed premiers of new plays by Marjorie Chan, George F. Walker, Natasha Greenblatt, Martha Ross, Michelle Riml, and Haley McGee. As a writer she co-authored a number of collective creations including, The Election, The Public Servant, and The Attic, the Pearls and 3 Fine Girls, all for Common Boots Theatre. She is the recipient of a Dora Mavor Moore Award, a Jessie Award, and The Armstrong Award of Excellence (with Estelle Shook).
Ashley King is a Mexican-Canadian, legally blind actor, playwright, and accessibility consultant based in Mohkinstsis. As an emerging artist, she is a graduate of Company of Rogues Actors’ Studio, having completed their Master Class actor training program. As the Artistic Associate at Inside Out Theatre, a leading Deaf and Disability theatre company, she works to improving accessibility and promoting inclusion in Canadian theatre. Ashley completed Chromatic Theatre’s IBPOC Playright’s Unit in 2023 and is programmed to debut her autobiographical performance “Static” in Fall 2024 (Chromatic Theatre & Inside Out Theatre).
CHAIR – Sarena Parmar is a playwright and actor. Originally from Kelowna BC, she is now based in Toronto.
Her first full-length play, The Orchard (After Chekhov) premiered at the Shaw Festival and went on to a second production at the Arts Club Theatre. Her plays have been developed by Cahoots Theatre, Soulpepper, and Diaspora Dialogues. Sarena was also a participant of the Stratford Playwright’s Retreat. Currently Sarena has plays in development with Tarragon Theatre and Theatre Northwest. Sarena was selected for the inaugural HotDoc’s Podcast Bootcamp. Now she is working on her first “Play Companion Podcast” for her newest play, Hunger.
As an actor, Sarena has performed with theatre companies across Canada, including the Shaw Festival, Stratford Festival, Canadian Stage, and Bard on the Beach. On TV, Sarena appears in Pretty Hard Cases (CBC) and the upcoming season of Skymed (Paramount +). Sarena is an acting graduate of the National Theatre School and Birmingham Conservatory of Classical Theatre (Stratford Festival)
Vishesh Abeyratne is a first-generation Sri Lankan-Canadian playwright, dramaturg, and storyteller who divides his time between Ottawa and Montreal. He recently served as playwright-in-residence at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, where he also works in the box office. He also works as Literary Manager for Teesri Duniya Theatre in Montreal, where he coordinates the Fireworks Playwrights’ Mentorship Program. His plays include The Agony Market, A Fabric of Destiny, Blood Offering, White Lion, Brown Tiger, and Exposure.
Jade Silman (she/her) is a theatre creator, director, and dramaturg who foregrounds collaboration, equity, and passion in all her work. She is currently the New Work Development Coordinator at Canadian Stage, and the Communication Manager and Write From the Hip Program Associate at Nightwood Theatre. Striving to be a well-rounded artistic leader, Jade is grateful to have trained through York University, Toronto Fringe Festival’s TENT program, Nightwood Innovators Program, and Theatre Gargantua’s Emerging Artists Roundtable. She is impassioned about helping emerging artists through her with with Next Generation Showcase and now the Robert Beardsley Award. Every congratulations to all of the Tom Hendry Award nominees and winners!
CHAIR – Franco Boni is a recognized cultural innovator, facilitator and community builder.
He is currently leading a 50M+ renovation of Regent Revival (formerly The Crest Theatre) on Mount Pleasant Road. For over ten years he served as Artistic Director of The Theatre Centre on Queen Street West, where he oversaw the restoration of a Carnegie Library into a performance facility.
Franco previously served as Artistic and Executive Director of the PuSh Festival, Festival Director of Rhubarb!, and Artistic Producer of the SummerWorks Festival. In 1999 he co-founded the Buddies In Bad Times Queer Youth Program, supporting intergenerational dialogue.
Directing credits include Sea Sick by Alanna Mitchell and Prophecy Fog by Jani Lauzon. These works have toured nationally and internationally.
He is the inaugural recipient of the Ken McDougall Award for emerging directors, and was awarded the Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award, recognizing his outstanding leadership in the development of arts and culture in the City of Toronto. Most recently, Franco received the George Luscombe Mentorship Award in Theatre.
Jacoba Knaapen is the Executive Director at the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), an arts service organization that represents 114 professional theatre, dance and opera companies in Toronto. As a champion for the performing arts, Jacoba has worked in Toronto’s cultural sector for over four decades. She is the founder of hipTIX and the citySPECIAL, two popular TAPA programs that help to reach youth, new Canadians and marginalized communities. At TAPA she is also the long-time Producer of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Canada’s largest and oldest theatre award show and recently led the DORAS to become the first professional theatre award show in Canada to present gender-neutral awards.
Deeply committed to the ongoing development of Canadian theatre, dance and opera since she became the Executive Director at TAPA in 2003 Jacoba has mobilized, advocated for, empowered, and supported artsworkers and companies throughout Toronto and is the founder Arts Day at the City, an annual advocacy event in Toronto. She serves as co-Chair of ArtsVote Toronto, and co-Chair of Arts & Culture Advisory Council for Destination Toronto. She sits on the Advocacy Advisory at the Toronto Arts Council, and sits on the Steering Committees for: Canadian Arts Coalition, Balancing Act, and ArtsBuild Ontario. She is an active member of the committee of Provincial Arts Service Organizations (PASO).
Jacoba has been recognized with the city of Toronto Margo Bindhart and Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award presented to an individual who has demonstrated creative cultural leadership in the development of arts and culture in Toronto, a Harold Award for her contribution and mentorship to the Independent Theatre community and a recipient of a Vital People Award from The Toronto Community Foundation and recently received the Equity Showcase Theatre Cayle Chernin Award for ‘Woman of The Year’.
Rahul Varma is a playwright, activist, and Artistic Director of Teesri Duniya Theatre www.teesriduniyatheatre.com, a company he co-founded in 1981. In 1998, he co-founded the journal alt.theatre: cultural diversity and the stage. Born in India, Rahul writes both in Hindi and English, a language he acquired as an adult. His recent plays include Counter Offence, Bhopal, Truth and Treason, and State of Denial and Dhara’s Revenge. His unproduced new works include Kali’s Dance, Merchant of God and Talaq. His plays have been translated into French, Italian, Hindi and Punjabi. He is honored to have worked with India’s pre-eminent artist, the late Dr. Habib Tanvir. He has received the Quebec Drama Federation’s Juror’s Award (1986), the Montreal English Critic’s Circle award for interculturalism (1999), META’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion award (2018), and a
Lifetime Honorary Membership Award (2020) from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research
Thank you to our major sponsor, The RBC Emerging Artists Project!