The Bluma Appel Theatre was packed Monday night (June 25) for the 33rd annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a celebration of the city's theatre, dance and opera and named for a Toronto theatre pioneer.
Presented by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), the show got off to a lively start with a kickline headed by top-hatted host Thom Allison, who spent most of the past year on Broadway performing in Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert. Backed by a talented group of students from area arts schools, he jokingly never let us forget his New York stint over the course of the evening as he changed jackets again and again. His final appearance was in a gold lamé gown; he'd gone, he said, through all his other costumes.
Jurors voted on 212 productions in 35 categories, with Theatre Passe Muraille, Acting Up Stage and Obsidian Theatre getting the most nods.
In the general theatre division, Passe Muraille was the night's big winner, taking home four awards for its production of Pamela Mala Sinha's solo show Crash (new play, performance by a female in a principal role, Kimberly Purtell's lighting and Debashis Sinha's sound design).
Sinha's moving acceptance speeches acknowledged that a solo show is never a one-person creation as she thanked others who contributed to the production's success.
Passe Muraille's other Dora was for the touring production of B.C.'s wildly inventive Ride The Cyclone, an award shared with co-presenter Acting Up Stage. The latter company's four other wins were in the musical theatre division for the excellent Caroline, Or Change, co-produced with Obsidian Theatre. The Caroline winners included outstanding musical theatre production, Arlene Duncan's turn in the title role and Sterling Jarvis in a pair of unusual and powerful roles (a clothes dryer and a bus) and musical director Reza Jacobs.
Obsidian was also honoured for its production of Topdog/Underdog, staged in association with the Shaw Festival. The winners were director Philip Akin and actor Nigel Shawn Williams - who, ignoring the "you've-spoken-as-long-as-you're-allowed" musical reminder, wouldn't go offstage without sharing the credit for the production's success with co-actor and fellow nominee Kevin Hanchard.
This wealth of awards demonstrates the links within the theatre community, the connections and associations that join artists and lead to the creation of powerful work that touches viewers on a number of levels.
Sadly not honoured at the ceremony was Kim's Convenience, which had a number of nominations but picked up no awards. Wish that writer Ins Choi and actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee had gotten some recognition.
I was expecting that Ken Gass's unceremonious firing by the Factory Theatre board to get a number of mentions, but only Andre du Toit, picking up the indie lighting award for The Double, talked about having the welcome mat pulled out from under him when he'd heard the news.
(There's an online campaign and petition to have Gass reinstated. So far over 2,000 people have signed. The not-for-profit theatre company board's treatment of the man who's been a driving force at Factory for decades - artistically, emotionally, financially - is nothing but shabby.)
In the indie theatre division, The Ugly One picked up awards for outstanding production and Camellia Koo's set design. Other division awards included Jules Lewis's Tomasso's Party for new play, Jennifer Brewin's direction of The Story, Astrid Janson's costume design for The Life And Times Of Mackenzie King and Gaishi Ishizaka's sound design for A Fool's Life. Principal performance awards went to Richard Donat (His Greatness) and Astrid Van Wieren (This Wide Night), with Morro And Jasp: Go Bake Yourself getting the featured performance role/ensemble nod.
In addition to the trio of awards received by Caroline in the musical theatre division, Ana Sokolic's SVADBA - Wedding won for new musical/opera. In the opera division, Iphigenia In Tauris picked up both awards, for production and Susan Graham's performance.
Soupe Du Jour won two of the four prizes in the dance division, for Lina Cruz's choreography and Philippe Noireaut's composition. The production award went to Dark Matters and the ensemble performance to Klorofyl.
Outstanding production in the theatre for young audiences category was Baobab, while Xin Wang won for her performance in Sanctuary Song.
In the general theatre division, War Horse picked up two juried awards (costume design and choreography) and the publicly voted Audience Choice Award. The powerful Penelopiad ensemble of women took the featured role/ensemble prize, with Wilson Chin's set design for A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi getting the nod.
The exuberant Ravi Jain received the Pauline McGibbon Award and, acknowledging all who had helped him, filled the auditorium with a call-and-response of "joy."
Dancer, choreographer and teacher Christopher House, associated with Toronto Dance Theatre for 35 years, was given the Silver Ticket Award by another Canadian dance legend, Peggy Baker. Among his thanks were to every dancer with whom he'd ever worked.
For complete results, see tapa.ca.