Friday, March 4, 2011

The 2010 My Theatre Award Winners

Any theatrical production that one of our writers saw between Jan 1 and Dec 31 2010 qualified for our first annual My Theatre Awards. Between 4 to 7 nominees were announced in each of our 15 categories. Since the nominations were announced, 24 standout performers and directors from almost every category have participated in the My Theatre Nominee interview series.

Now we honour the best of the best from this exceptional group of 84 nominees.

Thank you so much to all those who participated in our interview series and congratulations to all the winners!


Best Actor
Geraint Wyn Davies in Do Not Go Gentle (Stratford Festival)
We at My Theatre loved My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding (MMLJWW), and writer/star/subject David Hein is the heart of the show. Tom McCamus and Christopher Plummer gave outstanding performances in Stratford's Dangerous Liaisons and The Tempest respectively, truly earning their (mind you, very different) stage icon statuses. Meanwhile, younger leading man Gareth Potter stepped up with his best performance in years as the slightly shady Proteus in Stratford's Two Gentlemen of Verona. But none of them held down their show with as detailed a character performance as this year's winner. Stratford vet Geraint Wyn Davies' one man show Do Not Go Gentle, about the poet Dylan Thomas, requires a true tour-de-force performance, something Wyn Davies delivered perfectly. 

Best Actress
Lucy Peacock in For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again (Stratford Festival)
Jackie Burns was the best Elphaba Wicked's had since Idina herself, Ma-Anne Dionisio single-handedly saved Dancap's Miss Saigon, Lisa Horner was pitch-perfect as the titular mother in MMLJWW and 2 of Stratford's best productions of the year were anchored by 2 brilliant actresses on either end of the experience spectrum- Andrea Runge as the upstart Rosalind (As You Like It) and Seana McKenna as the cynical Marquise de Merteuil (Dangerous Liaisons). But it was another Stratford vet, Lucy Peacock, who truly stole the season. As the eccentric Nana in Michel Tremblay's gorgeous two-person tribute to his mother, Lucy Peacock made us laugh, made us cry and made us wonder "how is she doing all that?"

Best Supporting Actor
Dion Johnstone in The Tempest (Stratford Festival)
In so-so musicals, DB Bonds (Legally Blonde) and Josh Young (Evita) charmed their way into audiences' hearts with the help of standout vocal performances. Some of Stratford's most reliable players- Ben Carlson (As You Like It), Tom Rooney (The Winter's Tale) and Geraint Wyn Davies (The Tempest)- elevated their productions with outstanding comic relief. But it was Dion Johnstone who topped them all with his brilliantly detailed portrayal of Caliban in Stratford's Tempest; the humanity he brought to the not-quite-human character was extraordinary, earning him this year's award.

Best Supporting Actress
Seana McKenna in The Winter’s Tale (Stratford Festival)
The Canadian Queen of Classical Theatre wins Best Supporting Actress this year. As much as we loved Jewelle Blackman's soulful performance in Jaques Brel, Rosemary Doyle's empathetic turn in MMLJWW, Trish Lindstrom's wild Miranda (The Tempest) and Sophia Walker's affecting Julia (Two Gentlemen of Verona), as Paulina in The Winter's Tale Seana McKenna proved yet again why she's long been considered the greatest actress in the country.

Best Director
Ethan McSweeny for Dangerous Liaisons (Stratford Festival)
Tim Carroll and Garry Griffin captivated audiences with their expansive takes on Peter Pan and Evita respectively. Des McAnuff played with contrast in his fascinating totalitarian/surrealist As You Like It and Dean Gabourie found a frame that actually works with the tricky Two Gentlemen of Verona, setting it in the fun and character-defining world of vaudeville. But it was Ethan McSweeney's captivating take on Dangerous Liaisons that really shone the brightest this year. McSweeny's anachronistic production struck the perfect balance between visual/auditory spectacle, emotional truth and social message.

Best Production Designer
Debra Hanson for As You Like It (Stratford Festival)
Robert Brill and Paul Tazewell's design for The Tempest was fundamentally simple with supernatural elements that called for great innovation. Santo Loquasto nailed the look of Dangerous Liaisons' anachronistic indulgence paired with fun metaphorical touches like a floor that resembled a chess board. John Pennoyer's Winter’s Tale design beautifully played up the contrast between the stark Sicilia and the warm Bohemia, while Carolyn M Smith created a lush and fantastical Never Never Land for Peter Pan. But As You Like It, with its two worlds designed by Debra Hanson, topped them all. Duke Frederick's court was a terrifying totalitarian regime filled with harsh colours and hard surfaces, but the Forest of Arden was a gorgeous surrealist dream filled with strange personified creatures and plants, thematic symbols hanging from the sky, season-changing trees and the most beautiful floor the festival theatre's ever housed.

Best Production
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again (Stratford Festival)
As You Like It was beautiful and brilliantly acted; Jaques Brel was the surprise hit of the season; Dangerous Liaisons was the most entertaining production of 2010; My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding was a sweet and touching experience and The Two Gentlemen of Verona struck a particularly strong chord here at My Theatre. But it was For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, Stratford's two person French Canadian play that went up in the small Tom Patterson theatre that made the biggest impact. It was truly moving- funny, smart, tragic-, perfectly acted and cleverly directed. And Michel Tremblay's text is impossible to beat. It truly stole the season.


Best Actor
Jesse Nerenberg in Equus (Hart House Theatre)
This category is full of My Theatre favourites like Michael David Blostein (Love is a Poverty You Can Sell), Adam Lauver (Romeo and Juliet), Risher Reddick (The Coveted Crown) and Ted Witzel (The Witch of Edmonton)- they were all superb this year in multiple productions (as was Keir Cutler, the one-man-showman who remains a recent discovery). This year's winner is yet another favourite, whose phenomenal performance as Alan Strang in Hart House Theatre's Equus was somehow both wonderfully surprising and exactly what we expected from the uber-professional young actor.

Best Actress
Adrianna Prosser in The Two Noble Kinsmen (Urban Bard)
The performances in this category range from leading ladies in title roles (like Megan Cooper in Romeo and Juliet and Sochi Fried in Hedda Gabler) to Shakespearean comic relief (like Jessica Moss and Paula Schultz in The Taming of the Shrew) to character parts without real names (like Eve Wylden as The Doctor in Woyzeck). This year's winner belongs in that last category, a fact that possibly makes her all the more deserving of the award. As the unnamed Jailer's Daughter in The Two Noble Kinsmen, Adrianna Prosser created the most detailed and engaging character in the play, name or no name.

Best Director
Ted Witzel for Woyzeck (The Red Light District)
Jane Carnwath's Hedda Gabler, Sarah Gazdowicz's Romeo and Juliet, Elenna Mosoff's Equus, Scott Moyle's Two Noble Kinsmen, Matthew Yipchuck's Glass Menagerie and Ted Witzel's Woyzeck have many things in common. None had huge budgets. None had big names. None had perfect casts or unlimited time or a guaranteed audience. Most made innovative use of space (particularly Moyle, who used a concrete courtyard in downtown Toronto). Most used props to great effect (Mosoff's swings, Gazdowicz's ladders). Some used sound perfectly (Yipchuck's silent film piano, Gazdowicz's punk soundtrack). They all created unmistakably memorable theatrical moments. The one that truly stands out is Witzel, who translated, adapted and directed Woyzeck with a uniquely artistic eye. It was at once mind-bending and completely comprehensible, empathetic yet terrifying, entertaining, guilt-inducing and thought-provoking. One of Toronto's most innovative directors, Witzel's quest isn't for innovation, it's to inspire the right questions in his audience, something he achieves over and over again, never more so than with Woyzeck.

Best Production
Romeo and Juliet (The Independent Drama Society)
Equus delivered some of the most interesting directorial choices and strongest performances of the year. The Glass Menagerie was the true arrival of the young Cawrk Theatrical Productions onto the Toronto independent theatre scene. The Two Noble Kinsmen was a unique and inspiring Shakespeare experience and Woyzeck won't be forgotten any time soon. But as a whole, it was Boston's Independent Drama Society and their production of Romeo and Juliet last fall that really impressed. A useful frame device, clever direction, innovative light design, an excellent soundtrack and a very strong 8-person ensemble (including two of our acting nominees!) came together to tell the most famous love story of all time with exactly the sort of energy the characters deserve. The youthful verve of the production did the story more justice than most productions can even dream of.


Best Actor
Matthew Lerner in Seussical (BU On Broadway)
This category presented a tough decision. Dan Stevens (Rabbit Hole) and Thomas Nadovich (Spring Awakening) gave excellent dramatic performances with just a handful of scenes each, while Jimmy Blackmon (Pterodactyls), Kurtis Whittle (Les Miserables) and Nicanor Campos (Richard III) were the stars of their shows. Ultimately, we went with Matthew Lerner in his final role with BU on Broadway. The consistently excellent tenor gave his best performance to date as Horton the empathetic elephant/heart and soul of Seussical.

Best Actress
Madeleine DiBiasi in Rabbit Hole (BU Stage Troupe)
This, on the other hand, was the easiest decision of the lot. There were many female highlights of student theatre last year (Sarah-Jill Bashien in Rent, Carolyn Byrne in The Pillowman, Sarah Dunne in As You Like It, Elizabeth Ramirez in Titus Andronicus, Kate Ryan in The Last Five Years and Hannah Ubl in Richard III- just to name a few), but Madeleine DiBiasi was hands down our favourite. In a role far beyond her years and experience, DiBiasi broke hearts and delivered a performance a hundred times better than the one Nicole Kidman earned her Oscar nod for this year. 

Best Director
Adam Lebowitz-Lockard for The Pillowman (BU Stage Troupe)
Agatha Babbitt and Chris Hamilton directed our Best Actress winner and Sarah-Jill Bashien led our Best Actor. Meanwhile, young Toronto director Emily Kassie took on one of the most complex pieces in the musical theatre canon (The Last Five Years) and nailed it. But this year's winner is Adam Lebowitz-Lockard for his intense, disturbing and remarkably potent production of The Pillowman that had audience members walking out partway through. He took a big risk with that show, and it nothing but paid off.

Best Production
The Pillowman (BU Stage Troupe)
And here is where we explain why our Best Director won Best Director. The Pillowman is an insanely complicated piece to mount, something this production sailed right through. The character direction was remarkable- finding humanity in even the darkest places. The set design was perfection- innovative, engaging to look at and simply useful. You left the theatre having had an experience, not just having seen a play. This year's other nominees all achieved similar results, whether it be through a contemporary exploration of grief (The Last Five Years, Rabbit Hole), an examination of the darkness in the human soul through classical texts (Richard III, Titus Andronicus) or a joyous ode to the strength of the human spirit (Seussical). But none were as meaningful an experience as The Pillowman, a truly haunting show.

Stay tuned for the announcement of our 2010 Performers of the Year and Honorary Award winner.

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