skip to Main Content

The Bra d’Or Award (BDA) recognizes an individual or team for his/her/their efforts in supporting and promoting the work of Canadian women playwrights. The award has been administered  by PGC’s Women’s Caucus annually since 2006.

All PGC members are invited to vote for the 2023 BDA recipient (but only PGC members may do so).

To do so, read the nomination descriptions found below, do extra research if so desired, and then cast your vote at the bottom of the page. Only one vote per person, please (additional and/or multiple votes will be disqualified)! 


Head shot of Catherine Banks.

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.

(Photo Credit: James MacLean)

Head shot of Norm Foster.

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.

(Photo Credit: Jacqueline Foster)

Lisa O'Connell head shot.

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 head shot

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.

(Photo Credit: Denise Grant)

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.


Back To Top