Playwright and CASA Instigator Beverley Cooper Wins National Award from PGC
National – The winners of the Tom Hendry Awards were announced at a digital awards ceremony on Sunday October 30th, hosted by the Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC). The annual Tom Hendry Awards celebrate and recognize playwrights and theatre-creators across the country for excellence in new work and career achievement. The event was hosted by the magnificent Sharron Matthews, award-winning Canadian artist, actor, singer, comedian, writer, and producer. The ceremony involved nine award presentations, one of which was for The Bra d’Or Award, PGC’s longest standing award, introduced in 2006.
PGC congratulates playwright and CASA Award founder, Beverley Cooper, as the recipient of the 2022 Bra d’Or Award. This accolade is bestowed upon an individual who has helped amplify, celebrate, and support the work of women playwrights in Canada. Candidates are nominated by PGC Women’s Caucus members, and the entirety of PGC’s membership votes for the award’s recipient.
Beverley Cooper is an award-winning theatre artist who has worked as an actor, director, dramaturge, educator, mentor, and playwright in Canadian theatre for the past forty years. She is a longstanding member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, and she served on PGC’s Women’s Caucus Steering Committee throughout the pandemic. Ms. Cooper is also an active participant in Women Playwrights International (WPI), attending and presenting at their triennial conferences for over a decade. Her involvement in WPI instigated and led to the founding of the CASA Award, which supports a mid-career woman or nonbinary playwright in South Africa. A partnership of the Playwrights Guild of Canada’s Women’s Caucus and the African Women Playwrights Network, the CASA Award provides a $5000 prize to allow time for writing, as well as a Canadian dramaturge mentor, and a South African director mentor of the award-winner’s choice. Currently in its fifth and final year, CASA has assisted seven South African playwrights, and a documentary film has been commissioned to commemorate the extraordinary work, none of which would have been possible without Beverley Cooper.
Ms. Cooper was co-nominated for the Bra d’Or Award by PGC members Marcia Johnson and Sally Stubbs, who wrote: “At the WPI Conference in Cape Town, we were dismayed to learn that our South African counterparts had little support. […] We talked about how we might be able to help. When we got home, it was, of course, Bev who followed through. We followed her lead, and others gravitated to the project. For five years, Bev has been our CASA leader, establishing partnerships with South African organizations and individuals, and bringing practical assistance to our South African colleagues. In turn, we have all benefitted. Playwrights have grown and achieved successes, strong international relationships have been built, and hearts have opened. We could write a 6-act play about all that Bev has accomplished with her writing and her advocacy. For starters, she single-handedly secured a private donor for CASA. She also works as a dramaturg and juror for Ergo Pink Fest, which ‘supports and develops the works of women and playwrights of marginalized gender identities … to help them take their work to the next level.’ As well, Bev served as a key member of PGC’s Women’s Caucus Committee for five years (she stepped down this year, which makes this award nomination timely) and she tirelessly worked throughout the pandemic to help get one of our Zimbabwean playwriting sisters to Canada. Bev does all of this as a volunteer. She cares. She acts. We benefit.”
Ms. Cooper was thrilled to accept the Bra d’Or Award bestowed upon her by her peers. In her acceptance speech, she cited the historical underrepresentation of women playwrights on our stages, and most especially that of Indigenous playwrights, women of colour, and other marginalized genders, noting, “their stories, as well as the stories of our male counterparts, have equal value. It is not an either/or situation. It is an inclusion situation.” Ms. Cooper named her co-nominees and thanked them for getting “exciting and vital work” out into the world, and she further referenced WPI, its conferences, and attendees: “their diverse stories, the variety of theatrical voices, the various political viewpoints” from which she has “learned so much,” lessons that she has applied to life, her politics, and her writing. The CASA Award came about as a direct result of these experiences, and Ms. Cooper reminds us that, “We gain so much when we support each other.” She wrapped up her speech by quoting American playwright Paula Vogel: “Theatre is perhaps one of the few places left where we are in dialogue with now. Everything has become so partisan and the rhetoric so heated that conversation is almost impossible.” From there, Ms. Cooper concluded, “we need all of our voices to be part of that theatrical conversation.”
PGC congratulates Beverley Cooper on her Bra d’Or Award, and all the 2022 award recipients. The 2022 Tom Hendry Awards virtual ceremony is available to watch on PGC’s YouTube Channel where host, Sharron Matthews, chats with the shortlisted playwrights and award recipients. To read some of the shortlisted plays from the Tom Hendry Awards, purchase a digital collection of plays on the Canadian Play Outlet’s website. To read more about the 2022 award winners, visit PGC’s website.
Bra d’Or Award Winner – Beverley Cooper
The Bra d’Or Award (BDA) recognizes an individual for his/her/their efforts in supporting and promoting the work of Canadian women playwrights. The Women’s Caucus of the Playwrights Guild of Canada instigated the BDA in 2006. The recipient must be nominated by a Women’s Caucus member and is voted upon by PGC’s membership. PGC is pleased to announce that the winner of this year’s Bra d’Or Award is Beverley Cooper, actor, director, dramaturge, and playwright residing in Toronto. She will receive a small collection of Canadian plays, generously donated by Playwrights Canada Press and Scirocco Drama, as well as a supporting PGC membership with PGC that she has decided to pay forward.
Playwrights Guild of Canada is a registered charity mandated to advance the creative rights and interests of professional Canadian playwrights; promote Canadian plays nationally and internationally; and foster an active, evolving community of writers for the stage.
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