On March 21st, nearly 300 members of the Toronto theatre community gathered at The Great Hall to celebrate the sixth annual MyTheatre Awards. Last year’s winners, MyTheatre staff writers, and hilarious hosts Kat Letwin & Ryan G. Hinds presented 40 awards in three divisions to more than 35 different companies from the most independent upstarts to the heaviest national hitters.
Don’t miss our 2015 Nominee Interview Series, featuring more than 75 exclusive interviews with our nominees (including the MyTV Awards, MyCinema Awards and MyTheatre Awards in London, New York and Boston).
The winners are…
Outstanding Sketch/Improv Performance
Unbridled & Unstable (The Templeton Philharmonic/Next Stage Theatre Festival)
Briana Templeton and Gwynne Phillips are one of the most innovative and cerebral comedy teams in Canada. Their 2015 Next Stage show harnessed all the character-based storytelling power of their theatre work and channelled it into a zany sketch show full of atmosphere and absurdity.
Outstanding Ballet Performance
Jurgita Dronina in The Winter’s Tale (The National Ballet of Canada)
The National Ballet of Canada’s newest principal dancer won Outstanding Ballet Performance for her very first role with the company. As the wrongly accused Hermione in Christopher Wheeldon’s new interpretation of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, the beautiful Jurgita broke our hearts and made us believe in magic. When she accepted her award, host Ryan G. Hinds shushed the crowd with the words “a ballet dancer is Speaking! Do you know how rarely they get to speak?!”.
Outstanding Opera Performance
Quinn Kelsey in La Traviata (Canadian Opera Company)
La Traviata was our favourite opera of the season with dramatic and character demands far beyond the usual call of duty for the Canadian Opera Company’s capable stars. Quinn Kelsey’s beautiful turn as a conflicted overbearing father was unforgettable.
Outstanding New Work (Large)
M’dea Undone by Marjorie Chan & John Harris (Tapestry Opera)
After surviving having her name dropped as part of Kat Letwin and Ryan G. Hinds’ opening monologue that picked on a number of the event’s most prestigious attendees, lyricist Marjorie Chan nabbed the Outstanding New Work trophy on behalf of herself and John Harris for their bold and beautiful contemporary adaptation of the Medea myth, M’dea Undone which had its world premiere with Tapestry Opera at Evergreen Brickworks in May.
Outstanding New Work (Small)
In the small theatre category, the Outstanding New Work winner was AnOther Theatre Company’s Chloé Hung who is currently in New York finishing up her MFA in Creative Writing. Her trophy was accepted by Chiamaka Umeh, All Our Yesterdays‘ Outstanding Actress nominee who gave a beautiful speech about the importance of the play’s message and keeping Nigeria’s kidnapped girls in our hearts and minds.
Outstanding Ensemble (Large)
Peter & The Starcatcher (The Shaw Festival)
Cast members Patrick Galligan and Martin Happer were on hand to accept the trophy for Outstanding Ensemble on behalf of the large, diverse, creative and uproarious cast of The Shaw Festival’s wonderful production of Peter & the Starcatcher.
Outstanding Ensemble (Medium)
Banana Boys (Factory Theatre)
We chose the Banana Boys as our Outstanding Ensemble winners in the medium division largely because it was such an ensemble show. The Factory’s “Naked” Production was a balanced, five-person group effort that worked in large part because of the excellent cast chemistry between Simu Liu, Oliver Koomsatira, Philip Nozuka, Matthew Gin and Darrel Gamotin.
Outstanding Ensemble (Small)
Casimir & Caroline (The Howland Company)
There was a roar in the crowd when the winner of the ensemble award for indie theatre was announced as the cast of Holger Syme’s Casimir & Caroline workshop with The Howland Company. Sophia Fabiilli, Ruth Goodwin, Jesse Nerenberg, Kristen Zaza, Cameron Laurie and Hallie Seline rushed the stage to accept the award on behalf of the cast.
Outstanding Supporting Actor (Large)
Shaw Festival standout Gray Powell was in Niagara on the Lake rehearsing for the upcoming season when he won his award for playing volatile workhorse Vic in the incredible Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. Fellow company members made sure he got his trophy the following day.
Outstanding Supporting Actor (Medium)
Jeff Irving in Tom at the Farm (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre)
Jeff Irving’s beautiful supporting performance in Buddies in Bad Times’ glorious Tom at the Farm was a sad, brutal, sympathetic transformation for the usually wide-eyed musical man. A career-best piece of work that we’re still not over.
Outstanding Supporting Actor (Small)
Shakespeare is home base for Howland co-founder James Graham who sat out his company’s award-winning workshop production to take the role of Philip the Bastard in Shakespeare Bash’d’s punk rock King John, handily winning Outstanding Supporting Actor for his entrancing, audience-involving performance as the complex, disenchanted soldier.
Outstanding Supporting Actress (Large)
Sara Farb in The Last Wife (The Stratford Festival)
Kate Hennig‘s new play The Last Wife was our favourite production at Stratford in 2015, full of brilliant performances, especially from the cast’s kick-ass women. As a brooding teenage version of the future queen Bloody Mary, rising star Sara Farb was the picture of rising power and frustrated philosophy.
Outstanding Supporting Actress (Medium)
Decked out in Video Cabaret’s signature bold makeup and crazy costumes, the great Aurora Browne hit the perfect balance of zany caricature and human reality in the bizarrely matched duel role of Canadian legends Maggie Trudeau and Jean Chrétien.
Outstanding Supporting Actress (Small)
Claire Armstrong in Liver (The Slab Collective/Theatre Brouhaha/Red One Theatre Collective)
Storefront stalwart Claire Armstrong attended the awards the day before opening a new production of Judith Thompson’s Crackwalker at the Factory Theatre. She picked up her Supporting Actress trophy for her beautifully understated performance in Kat Sandler’s Liver amidst screams from the indie community she plays such a major part in.
Outstanding Actor (Large)
The Outstanding Actor categories this year contain some absolutely mind-blowing performances, the great Gord Rand’s astounding tour de force as Oedipus at the Stratford Festival most definitively included. On stage for almost the entire play with no real downtime (and no intermission), Gord’s powerful, vulnerable and brittle Oedipus was an insane achievement.
Outstanding Actor (Medium)
Paolo Santalucia has been on our radar for years, nominated in the past for acting and directing, but his brilliant Hamlet brought our understanding of him as an actor to a completely new level. Honest, emotional and thrillingly paced, it was the highlight Shakespearean performance of the year in our opinion.
Outstanding Actor (Small)
In the busy, swirling world of quickfire vignettes with a large cast of one-off characters, the wonderful Tim Walker’s chameleonic titular performance in Red One Theatre Collective’s pitch-black Edmond was an unmoveable force of deep-seated damage and aching humanity, harnessing everything we love about Walker as an actor and everything we never imagined from him.
Outstanding Actress (Large)
In one of the toughest categories of the year, Michelle Monteith took the Outstanding Actress prize for large-scale theatre for her small-scale performance as a mother dealing with monumental pain in the world premiere Tarragon production of Diane Flacks’ Waiting Room.
Outstanding Actress (Medium)
Chris Abraham’s star-studded production of The Seagull was a standout production in 2015, dominating the medium division with a ton of nominations but it was Christine Horne’s delicate, tortured and defiant performance as aspiring actress Nina that, for us, made the play really soar.
Outstanding Actress (Small)
Hannah Spear in Trout Stanley (Severely Jazzed Productions)
The beating heart of Severely Jazzed Productions’ affecting production of Trout Stanley at the Storefront Theatre last May, improviser Hannah Spear’s performance as shut-in Sugar was aspirational, romantic and absolutely gorgeous in its natural empathy, making her the standout in a really competitive category.
Outstanding Performance in a Musical (Large)
Alan Mingo Jr. in Kinky Boots (Mirvish Productions)
Alan Mingo Jr. couldn’t attend the MyTheatre Awards… because his indelible performance as Kinky Boots’ brave and hilarious drag queen Lola has carried him to Broadway! As well it should have. Beautifully sung and tenderly played, the heart of Alan’s Lola was every bit as strong as her wild sense of humour and grand glamour. Alan’s Toronto castmate Daniel Williston was on hand to accept the award on his behalf.
Outstanding Performance in a Musical (Medium)
Consistently one of our favourite performers in Canadian musical theatre, Daren A. Herbert’s brazen Burrs in Acting Up Stage Company and Obsidian Theatre Company’s co-produced reimagining of LaChiusa & Wolfe’s tricky Wild Party was one of the marquee performances of the year.
Outstanding Performance in a Musical (Small)
Indie musical theatre darling Danik McAfee’s heartbreaking turn as Cabaret‘s iconic Emcee was made all the more memorable by First Act’s intimate chamber staging which had him confronting his audience face to face. Danik celebrated his win and his birthday at the same time the night of the awards ceremony.
Outstanding Solo Performance
Northan insists that Blind Date is not a solo performance but we couldn’t resist giving this award to the woman who delivered one of the most touching and refreshing pieces of single-actor theatre we’ve seen in a really long time. She used her acceptance speech to honour all the men who have joined her onstage over the years as her plucked-from-the-audience “dates”.
Outstanding Set & Costume Design (Large)
The bleak and beautiful design Soulpepper’s resident director of design Lorenzo Savoini cooked up for the company’s quiet take on Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice was as technically impressive as it was artistically envisioned, earning him his second MyTheatre Award in a row.
Outstanding Set & Costume Design (Medium)
Combining the iconic Simpsons aesthetics with strange futuristic cult iconography in a post-apocalyptic, site-specific, immersive, totally sustainable design, the three-person team behind the look of Mr. Burns did amazing things with the arguably the hardest job all season. Costume designer Lindsay Junkin was on hand to accept the award for her team.
Outstanding Set & Costume Design (Small)
For his incredible use of space and intelligently useful set designs, Unit 102’s Adam Belanger was a clear winner; it was just a matter of which show he should win for. Bolstered by Ashleigh Kasaboski’s world-building costume work, the immersive and logistically complex Lakeboat won out.
Outstanding Lighting & Sound Design (Large)
Bonnie Beecher & John Gzowski for The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt (The Shaw Festival)
See photo to the left. Add subtle, evocative sound design. Argue at your own risk.
Outstanding Lighting & Sound Design (Medium)
Laird MacDonald & John Gzowski for Avaricious (Theatre Gargantua)
Ambitious projection work and creative use of colour made Avaricious‘ Laird MacDonald stand out in the smaller lighting category, aided by double-winner John Gzowski’s smart and stirring sound design.
Outstanding Direction (Large)
Jackie Maxwell for The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt (The Shaw Festival)
Shaw Festival company members brought the Outstanding Direction trophy back to their Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell who was busy in Niagara on the Lake preparing for her final season with the festival she has monumentally shaped. For her exceptional use of space and actor work in the world premiere production, Jackie’s direction of The Divine was the clear winner in this category (and she earned bonus points for her nearly perfectly programming of the 2015 season).
Outstanding Direction (Medium)
It’s telling that perennial favourite Eda Holmes won Outstanding Direction for one production while another show she directed took home Outstanding Production. Her superb balance of creativity and practicality is second to none and the performances she elicits from her actors are never less than wonderful. Buddies in Bad Times’ transformative Tom at the Farm was the quintessential example of Eda’s superpowers.
Outstanding Direction (Small)
Claren Grosz’s wolf pack howled mightily when their Macbeth director took home the indie direction prize. Bold ideas, intense pacing, great movement work, strong use of space, smart textual interpretation- Claren brought a full arsenal to the demanding Shakespeare text that introduced us to Wolf Manor Theatre Collective.
Outstanding Production (Large)
The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide… (The Shaw Festival)
Tackling Tony Kushner’s 4-hour domestic saga is no easy feat but The Shaw Festival absolutely killed it at every stage- the guts to program it, the choice of Eda Holmes to direct, the all-star casting, the tight execution. A massive feat of theatricality pulled off perfectly. This production needs to be picked up and played in Toronto.
Outstanding Production (Medium)
We Are Proud to Present… (The Theatre Centre/The November Ticket)
Bold and brave and uncomfortable, The November Ticket’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915 was one of those shows no one could stop talking about and everyone who missed it will never forgive themselves. No contest. The cast and director Ravi Jain were on hand to collect their award and speak to the importance of keeping the conversation of We Are Proud to Present going.
Outstanding Production (Small)
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Unit 102 Actor’s Company)
Unit 102 Actor’s Company may be in the small theatre division but their production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ purgatory-set masterpiece was one of the biggest things we saw all year with a sprawling (across-the-board excellent) ensemble and limitless ambition. Every indie production we saw after May 14th was measured against the bar set by Judas Iscariot.
The closest race of the year was not decided by the MyTheatre (Toronto) staff; it was decided by readers and fans and theatre insiders who voted over Facebook, Twitter and in the comments section all through awards season. Soup Can’s entrepreneurial artistic director is a tireless advocate for the theatre community so it didn’t surprise us at all when the theatre community came together to advocate for her.
As MyTheatre’s Toronto branch grows, more and more artists come onto our radar (often because they’ve just graduated or moved to town, more often because they didn’t have us on their press list before). 2015 was a big year for our new artist discoveries with the majority of awards going to first-time nominees. One such new discovery was prolific, delightful, outrageously talented multi-hyphenate Hilary McCormack who racked up three solo nominations for three different productions with Ale House Theatre and Kildare Company. As an actor (in Shakespeare and modern drama), a producer, and a playwright, Hilary never failed to deliver thoughtful, engaging work that not only made her our most-nominated individual of the year but elevated her collaborators as well (Ale House and Kildare combined for a total of seven MyTheatre Award nominations in 2015). We couldn’t be more excited to see what she comes up with in 2016.
Performer of the Year
Shaw Festival standout Ben Sanders was nominated in so many categories this year that his Objections to Sex & Violence collaborators from FeverGraph and Praxis Theatre proposed a drinking game in his honour and took to affectionately booing the mention of his name. Already a MyTheatre Award Best Actor winner for 2012’s French Without Tears, Ben added another Outstanding Actor nomination (for Shaw’s The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt) to his resume this year in addition to being part of two Outstanding Ensemble-nominated casts and a record three Outstanding Production-nominated shows (including the large division winner, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures). When it took us three hours to draft Nominee Interview Series questions that would cover all of his exceptional 2015, we knew we had our Performer of the Year.
The Anonymous Award for Outstanding Stage Management
It’s always bothered us how few accolades are publicly given to the behind-the-scenes MVPs who ensure the show always goes on. Thus, The Anonymous Award for Outstanding Stage Management. Since one of the marks of a great stage manager is that the audience doesn’t notice their work, we felt unqualified to distinguish the good from the godly and decided to hand the task of nominating this award to the in-the-room theatre makers who more directly witness award-worthy stage management. We considered all the 100-word nomination submissions that poured in from actors, directors, producers and (in the case of the National Ballet’s SM Jeff Morris) anonymous benefactors, but when two different companies (Ale House Theatre & the Storefront Theatre) submitted glowing recommendations on behalf of perpetual day-saver Lin-Mei Lay, the winner was clear. One of Lin’s nominators- Storefront production coordinator Claire Hill– joined us onstage to present this inaugural award
Brantwood: 1920-2020 (Sheridan College’s Canadian Music Theatre Project)
The Honorary Award is designed to honour a theatrical achievement that is too unique to fit into any of the other categories. Sheridan’s massive, immersive, site-specific original musical creation was definitely that and hopefully something we’ll be seeing again in Toronto proper very soon. Last year’s winner Nate Bitton (who won for his fight direction, because the Honorary Award is all over the place) presented this year’s trophy to cast member Andy Trithardt on behalf of one of the biggest cast and crews in Canadian theatre history, closing out the awards and kicking off a killer dance party led by our signature band Hand-Picked Favourites.