You can feel the twitch of excitement in the theatre and dance community when it's Dora time.
That's Dora Mavor Moore Awards time, which begins in early June and ends when the awards are presented at a gala celebration and party at the end of the month. The awards are organized by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA).
This year marks the 28th Doras ceremony – it's June 25 at the Winter Garden Theatre – and features some new faces in key behind-the-scenes roles, notably producer Adele Sacks, director Vinetta Strombergs and writer Briane Nasimok. Rick Miller (Bigger Than Jesus) hosts the evening.
The anticipation of who's gonna get an award was sharp at the press conference announcing the nominees, held last Friday (June 8). TAPA executive director Jacoba Knaapen spoke about the "astonishing" performing-arts year, which has been the busiest in a long while. The Doras year runs from June through May, and for this award the juries in the five Doras divisions (general theatre, independent theatre,theatre for young audiences, dance and opera) saw 200 productions.
I can attest to the busy lives of the jurors, even though I wasn't on a jury. The first five months of 2007 were the most packed that I can remember in years. A quiet week meant seeing only five shows. Back in its first year, the Doras Awards numbered 11. This year that number has climbed to 35, with the addition of outstanding production and outstanding sound design/composition prizes in the dance category.
So who scored in the nominations? In the indie division, fu-GEN racked up seven nominations for its production of Catherine Hernandez's Singkil, including new play, production and director Nina Lee Aquino. The lively, eye-filling production of Four Horsemen Project (presented by Volcano in association with Crooked Figure Dances, Global Mechanic and Factory Theatre) picked up six nominations, including new play and production, while bluemouth inc.'s How Soon Is Now, presented by the Theatre Centre, got five, including production and direction.
Leading the nomination numbers for individual shows in the general theatre division were the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People: eight for Seussical (including production of a musical and director Allen MacInnis) and eight nominations for the Mirvish/Kimsa Group's Queen-inspired musical We Will Rock You.
In the same division, Canadian Stage got 17 nominations for five different shows and the Tarragon received eight nominations for four productions. The Canadian Opera Company picked up eight nominations for four shows, while Opera Atelier got three nominations. In the young audiences division, Lorraine Kimsa Theatre got two nominations for the charming Comet In Moominland, while two each went to Theatre Direct Canada/Eldritch Theatre (The Babysitter), Theaturtle/Tokai String Quartet (The Snow Queen) and Classical Theatre Project (Macbeth and Romeo And Juliet).
How satisfying it is to see The Snow Queen get the nods here. Performer Alon Nashman and the four members of the quartet offered a fine, moving piece of theatre that used simple design (Andrea Lundy's lighting was also award-worthy) and storytelling to recount the fairy tale with magic and elegance. The dance division's lead show was Toronto Dance Theatre's Timecode Break, which got four nominations, including production and Christopher House's choreography. DanceWorks got seven nods for various productions.
Every audience member has his or her own personal choices for nominations as well as winners. In fact, my theory is that if you change even a few of the jury members for any division – each division is comprised of eight or nine people – the nominations would be significantly different.
There are some disappointments for me. It's incredible that not one of the three women who played the central character in the Tarragon's production of Scorched was nominated; all three – Janick Hébert, Kelli Fox and Nicola Lipman – were superb. And I wish that actor Audrey Dwyer had gotten a nod for her work in The Babysitter.
Two other awards were announced at the press conference, entertainingly hosted by the Rumoli Brothers, aka Brandon and Kurt Firla (whose show SARsical picked up three nominations).
Karen Kain received the Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award, while Andy McKim, recently appointed artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille, was honoured with the George Luscombe Award for his decades of theatre mentoring. McKim received the award from Beatriz Pizano, whose heartfelt speech probably had something to do with the catch in McKim's voice when he accepted the award.
For the full list of Dora nominees, see www.tapa.ca/doras/nominees. And whether or not you go to the ceremony on June 25, you can have a hand in the evening's outcome. NOW is again sponsoring (along with Yonge-Dundas Square) the Audience Choice Award. As the title suggests, you get to vote on your favourite show from the list of outstanding-production nominees.
Cast your vote online at www.nowtoronto.com between Wednesday (June 13) and midnight on June 21. The winner will be announced at the Dora Awards evening.