My Theatre

02 February 2019

The 2018 Nominee Interview Series

By // Theatre

Welcome to the 2018 Nominee Interview Series.

Every year between nomination announcements and our awards party, we interview the artists nominated for MyEntWorld Critics’ Pick Awards. Click on the names below to read the interviews.

Frank Cox-O’Connell
Outstanding Direction
Romeo & Juliet
Frank is a multi-hyphenate artist who has done some of the most interesting work in the last decade of Toronto theatre. He’s been nominated for multiple Critics’ Pick Awards for both acting and directing, including this year’s nod for Romeo & Juliet, a visceral 90-minute production that unlocked the best in world’s most famous play.

Mattie Driscoll
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play
Dry Land
In Cue6’s teenage drama, Mattie’s Ester was a complex character trying her best to emotionally support Veronica Hortiguela’s mercurial Amy, while still harbouring her own self-debasing habits. Ester’s painfully eager efforts to cement their friendship, and find her footing in a new school and community, were vividly embodied by Mattie.

Tricia Black
Outstanding Sketch or Improv Production
She the People  Kinsey Fail
One of Toronto’s most consistently hilarious people, the great Tricia Black is the living embodiment of the Outstanding Sketch or Improv Production category, nominated as part of the ensemble of both a sketch show (She the People at Second City Toronto) and an improv troupe (Kinsey Fail as part of Bad Dog Theatre’s Proud + Funny Festival).

Sabryn Rock
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play
The Royale 
Sabryn Rock is one of the most consistent and versatile performers in Canada. Principally known for musicals, it was her impactful and complex performance in a modern play – boxing drama The Royale at Soulpepper- that earned her her Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play nomination this year.

Anne van Leeuwen
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play
Kill the Poor 
Anne is the Artistic Director of Leroy Street Theatre and co-founder of The Assembly Theatre, the young Parkdale venue that won an Honorary Critics’ Pick Award last year. She’s been nominated in the past as a director and an ensemble member but it was her Leading Performance in Kill the Poor that earned her a 2018 nod.

Amelia Sargisson
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play
Paradise Lost
Erin Shields’ Paradise Lost captured the audience’s imagination and forced us to reckon with a story we thought we understood. 2013 Best Actress winner Amelia Sargisson earned her 2018 nomination for her vulnerable, thoughtful, and fierce interpretation of the world’s first woman.

Leighton Alexander Williams
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play
Judas Noir
Though Leighton also wrote and directed BDB Productions’ Judas Noir, an adaptation of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, it was his mesmerizing performance as Satan that earned him his first nomination. Mixing just enough menace into his portrayal of the charismatic fallen angel, Leighton was a delight to watch.

Evan Buliung
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Musical 
Fun Home 
Nominated for his third Critics’ Pick Award, Evan’s the rare actor who is just as wonderful whether he’s doing Shakespeare, a modern play, or a musical. This year he’s nominated for his heartbreaking performance as Bruce Bechdel in Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel-turned-musical Fun Home with the Musical Stage Co.

Ellie Moon
Outstanding New Play
What I Call Her
Ellie’s work as a theatre creator to date has been located at the intersection of feminism and equity, and explored the ramifications of abuse, privilege, and trauma. What I Call Her- a searing living room drama addressing different emotional responses to childhood abuse- premiered at Crow’s Theatre last fall.

Janelle Hanna
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play 
Prairie Nurse
Janelle is well known to Toronto Fringe audiences, where she’s appeared in a half dozen shows. But her turn as Patsy, the bubbly candy striper in Marie Beath Badian’s Prairie Nurse at Factory Theatre last spring could be considered a breakout for her as a performer on “mainstream” Toronto theatre stages.

Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks
Outstanding Ensemble
Girls Like That
Cynthia had one of the most deceptively difficult challenges in Tarragon’s polarizing, empowering ensemble piece Girls Like That– how to portray the Queen Bee with both criticism and vulnerability in a play about the dangers of the hierarchy. She rose to the challenge and humanized the most intimidating girl in school.

Emmelia Gordon
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play
Fierce
Emmelia‘s stand-out portrayal of Jayne in the Criminal Girlfriends production of Fierce offered a deeply human portrait of both the feral and the vulnerable elements of George F Walker’s traumatized drug addict, blowing us away and earning her an Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play nomination.

Tess Benger
Outstanding Ensemble
Girls Like That
Shaw Festival (and Triple Sensation!) alum Tess played the quirkiest member of the Outstanding Ensemble-nominated group at the centre of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That at Tarragon Theatre. She based her character “Special” on Luna Lovegood and infused the role with a giant heart and carefully guarded colourful instincts.

Daren A Herbert
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Musical
Music Man
We poll the whole staff when deciding on nominations every year and sometimes more than one of us will be advocating for a particular performer. When it came to Daren’s nomination for Stratford’s Music Man, there were definitely multiple voices in the room all on the same page.

Lovell Adams-Gray
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Soulpepper had an incredible spring repertory season with three exceptional productions playing together. In a sea of excellent performances, Lovell Adams-Gray stood out with his turn as smooth talking trumpeter Levee in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I believe the word we used in our review was “supernova”.

Lucy Hill
Outstanding Ensemble
Girls Like That
In Tarragon Theatre’s evocative, close-to-home teenage ensemble piece Girls Like That, Lucy Hill’s dynamic energy stood out as her character balanced vulnerability and aggression as both a member of “the pack” and an individual struggling with her own complicated inner life.

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster
Best Direction
The Wolves
In the Toronto premiere of Sarah Delappe’s The Wolves, Courtney tapped into every subtle moment from the Pulitzer-nominated script, building a strong chemistry between the players whose energy bounced off one other. The production was fresh and witty yet also deeply moving.

Sarena Parmar
Outstanding New Play
The Orchard (After Chekhov)
Sarena wrote The Orchard based in part on her experience growing up on an orchard in British Columbia. The play had its world premiere at the Shaw Festival last summer and was a highlight of the season for its fresh voice and insightful inclusivity. Parmar’s story returns home to BC this month with a production at Vancouver’s Arts Club.

Rachel VanDuzer
Outstanding Ensemble
Girls Like That
2018 was the year of the young woman in Toronto theatre, including the fierce cast of Tarragon’s Girls Like That. In one of the best ensembles of the year, Rachel VanDuzer stood out as “the follower” with a performance that was complicated, thoughtful, and totally recognizable.

Kyah Green
Outstanding Sketch or Improv Production
Haunted Kinsey Fail
The first production out of Bad Dog Theatre’s improv academy to be nominated for a Critics’ Pick Award, Cardboard Sword Productions’ co-pro Haunted was a standout of Bad Dog’s 2018 Blockbuster Week. We caught up with Kyah (who is also nominated as part of the ensemble of Kinsey Fail) to talk about the origins of Haunted.

Georgia Bennett
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Musical
Rumspringa Break!
Georgia stole our hearts in Rumspringa Break!, the Next Stage Festival musical about Amish sisters finding themselves on a big city adventure. Written by some of the fastest rising stars in Canadian Musical Theatre, Rumspringa hasn’t left our heads in the year+ since we saw it.

Shawn Ahmed
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play
The Orchard (After Chekhov)
In Serena Parmar’s BC-set interpretation of The Cherry Orchard, which had its world premiere at The Shaw Festival last summer, Shawn took on the role of academic revolutionary Peter, railing against hypocrisy and corruption with rousing intellectual speeches without losing sight of the emotional core that gave the character his fight.

Esther Jun
Outstanding Direction
Girls Like That
Girls Like That was one of the most surprisingly polarizing pieces of theatre mounted in Toronto last year. It inspired an incredible online debate about authorship, criticism, and subjectivity. As written, the play is very fluid with no defined characters but Esther took Evan Placey’s gaggle of ideas and turned it into a tight, funny, deeply moving piece.

Wesley Berger
Outstanding Production
Kill the Poor
Wes had a hand in 4 nominations for this year’s Critics’ Pick Awards. As the director of Kill the Poor with Leroy St Theatre, he shepherded Outstanding Leading Performance contender Anne van Leeuwen and Supporting Performance nominee Ron Lea. And in Fierce, he directed Emmelia Gordon’s Leading Performance-nominated turn.

Jani Lauzon
Outstanding Direction Outstanding New Musical
The Monument/I Call myself Princess
Double nominee Jani Lauzon has for more than three decades cultivated a career in storytelling that utilizes myriad artistic practices and disciplines. She’s been an actor on stage and on screen; she’s a Gemini winning puppeteer, a Juno nominated singer-songwriter, and a filmmaker.

Nadine Bhabha
Outstanding Ensemble
Girls Like That 
Tarragon’s Girls Like That brought together a diverse group of fierce young women to tell a difficult story about high school and the traps we fall into when we should be staring down the patriarchy together. Nadine is an actress and poet who gave her character an inner life far more complex than her adjectival moniker would suggest.

Hugh Ritchie
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Musical
The Producers
Hugh Ritchie’s boisterous, dramatic and expressive Leo Bloom earned him his second nomination in 3 years. Hugh has always had his eye on this character, and was both petrified and excited by the chance to play him. He is a dreamer, like Leo, and is always ready to take on new challenges and adventures in life.

Aria Evans
Outstanding Dance Performance
Finding Wolastoq Voice
Having built her career amplifying underrepresented voices and telling marginalized stories, Aria Evans’ evocative work, created in collaboration with Playwright/composer Samaqani Cocahq, highlights the choreographer/dancer’s skill at exposing the hidden nerves of Canada’s colonial legacies.

Matthew Finlan & Landon Doak
Outstanding New Musical & Outstanding Leading Performance in a Musical
Life in a Box 
Finlan & Doak’s original episodic musical is one of the most inventive new ventures we’ve seen in theatre in a long time. Structured for endless serialization with a web series component that opens the door to markets beyond Toronto, Life In a Box has the potential to be really big. Which it deserves to be, because it’s really good.

Breanna Dillon
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play
What Happened Was….
Dora nominee Breanna Dillon is one of an incredible number of women in this year’s Critics’ Pick Awards who produced the show which garnered her nomination. Co-founder of Witchboy Theatre with her director Christopher Hayes, Breanna was both producer and star of Tom Noonan’s harrowing first date play What Happened Was….

Kinsey Fail’s Tom Hearn & Anders Yates
Outstanding Sketch or Improv Production
Bad Dog Theatre’s Proud + Funny Festival
Nominated for their set at Bad Dog Theatre’s Proud + Funny FestivalKinsey Fail is an all-LGBTQ+ group of all-star improvisers. Their work is hilarious, thoughtful, and often deeply moving, featuring a cast of some of the best improvisers in the city, including founders Tom Hearn & Anders Yates who joined us for a special podcast interview.

Owen Fawcett
Outstanding Solo Performance
Thom Pain (based on nothing)
Theatre by Committee’s solo show Thom Pain (based on nothing) starring Owen Fawcett was the indie-est of indie productions- an insanely short run in a grungy room down a side street somewhere- but it was Brilliant (capitalization intentional). It’s been years since we published a rave quite like the rave Kelly wrote for Thom Pain.

Brunch
Outstanding Sketch or Improv Production
Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival
Allie Entwistle and Kerri Donaldson are Vancouver-based comedians who together form the sketch duo Brunch. Their fresh, intelligent, and imaginative show at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival last year earned them this nomination and they’re back at this year’s festival Right Now so you should go get tickets.

Mark Paci
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play
The Late Henry Moss 
A go-to player of the most consistent indie company in town, Unit 102 Actors Co. We’ve seen him in six different roles with the company and this is his second nomination for his nuanced and emotional work in contemporary American drama. The role of Earl in Sam Shepard’s family tragedy may have been his best performance to date.

Lauren MacKinlay
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play
The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome  
Lauren not only gave a nomination-worthy performance as part of the Fringe’s site-specific programming, she was the driving force in making the play happen at all. As lead producer, she was the behind-the-scenes MVP of the project and in her nominated role of exhausted administrator Amy, she stole the show onstage as well.

Clare Blackwood
Outstanding Solo Performance
BikeFace
Previously nominated for Outstanding New Work alongside her comedy partner Ryan Hughes, Clare earned rave reviews at both the Toronto and Hamilton Fringe Festivals in 2018 for her nominated turn in Natalie Frijia’s one woman show about the playwright’s cross-country cycling adventures; her cyclist was chipper, dauntless, and indefatigable.

Eliza Martin
Outstanding Solo Performance
Harvey & The Extraordinary
Eliza graduated from Cardinal Carter with a Drama Specialist before attending the Theatre & Drama Studies program at U of T & Sheridan College. She is no stranger to a one-woman shows, starting in 2016 with an exploration of Hamlet’s Ophelia in OHarvey  debuted in 2017 with another run in 2018 for the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Sarah Thorpe
Outstanding Direction
A Christmas Carol
It’s hard to stage a production of a timeless classic that keeps what makes it great while still seeming completely original. Sarah Thorpe did that with A Christmas Carol, in a setting that provides unique opportunities and challenges. Fellow nominee Thomas Gough, described her as having “the essential characteristics of every good director”.

Cass Van Wyck
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play
Therac 25
Performer/Producer Cass Van Wyck had a breakout year in 2018 with two extremely different and totally indelible star turns in productions she played a huge role in ushering into existence. Her nomination is for the first of these two productions, in which she played a cancer patient with incredible honesty and total commitment.

Thomas Gough
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play
A Christmas Carol
Thomas is a staple of Toronto theatre, and a veteran of many shows at Campbell House, who has worked extensively with Outstanding Direction nominee Sarah Thorpe. In Soup Can Theatre/Three Ships Collective’s reimagining of A Christmas Carol, his Scrooge was a wonderfully complex portrait of a figure that can easily become a caricature.

Shalyn McFaul
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Musical
The Producers
Shalyn graduated from Trinity Western with a BA in Theatre in 2009. Her experience as a performer has mostly remained within musical theatre and Shakespeare. Most recently appearing in The Producers at the Lower Ossington Theatre, we are grateful to have Shalyn speak a little with us about her performance as Franz Liebkind.

Lauren Wolanski
Outstanding Solo Performance
Vitals
Lauren Wolanski elevated Theatre Born Between’s remount of Rosamund Small’s Vitals  with her grounded, nuanced performance of Anna, a paramedic recently off the job and suffering from accumulated PTSD. Collaborating with director Bryn Kennedy, their version of the solo show was intimate, simply staged, and devastating.

Elizabeth Saunders
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play
Midsummer Nights Dream
Elizabeth Saunders-Brown is a theatre director, teacher, writer and actor, known for her work on Slings and ArrowsOrphan Black, and Alias Grace, among others. She has been nominated for Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play for her nuanced, hilarious take on Puck in the Chekhov Collective’s Dream. 

Louis Laberge-Côté
Outstanding Dance Performance
The Art of Degeneration
The Art of Degeneration is an explosion of dancing, acting, singing and social commentary on an assortment of issues, nominated for its desire to rise above dance, at least in its current form, and its risky nature. Louis takes fragments from his mind and stitches it together on stage for an exquisite, yet unconventional, performance.

Martin Dockery
Outstanding New Play
Inescapable
Known for his lightning-fast dialogue and twisting narratives, Martin earned his second career nod for the text of a mind-boggling timeline-jumping two-hander he performed at the 2018 Fringe. As quick and clever as Martin’s solo work, Inescapable upped the ante to tell a heartfelt story shrouded in hilarious zany mythological hijinks.

Paula Wolfson
Outstanding Performance in a Musical
Judas Star Supersong
A veteran actor and singer for more than thirty-five years, Paula’s stage performances have become less frequent in Toronto in the last few years as she diversified into teaching, cantoral singing, and horticulture. But she came back in a big way at the 2018 Fringe Festival, where her show Judas Star Supersong received rave reviews.

Richard Young
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play
The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome
Richard Young is an actor/screenwriter known for his work in film and television (Taken, Kim’s Convenience, The Strain). In the strong ensemble of High Park Productions’ The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome, Richard shone as an art world outsider whose late-play entrance brings all the secrets to the surface.

Graham Isador
Outstanding Solo Performance
…And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next
As a writer, Graham brings creative structure and clarity to memorable, emotional stories. As a performer, he delivers said stories with calm charisma and relatable vulnerability. His piece about his time working at BuzzFeed ambitiously wove together multiple narratives to make a larger meta point about the stories we choose to tell.

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