At the end of this month, the 34th annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards will honour the outstanding work of Toronto's theatre, dance and opera troupes.
At a press conference Monday (June 3) at the Four Seasons Centre, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts announced the slate of nominees for the awards, named for the theatre pioneer, teacher and director who helped establish Canadian professional theatre in the 30s and 40s.
This year there'll be 48 awards in six divisions: general theatre, independent theatre, musical theatre, opera, theatre for young audiences and dance. That's more awards than there have ever been, with 102 companies presenting 235 eligible productions. The number is up in part because, in the acting categories, people in the same production can be nominated both individually and as an ensemble.
Though everyone was waiting to hear the nominees, the press conference began with several other presentations. Ryan Wilson, head scenic carpenter at Young People's Theatre, received the Pauline McGibbon Award, presented to a theatre person in the early stage of their professional career. The Leonard McHardy and John Harvey Award, recognizing performing arts administrators, went to Paul Templin, director of events for Hart House, who was instrumental in revitalizing that theatre.
The most heartfelt presentation was the George Luscombe Award for Mentorship, which went to the Theatre Centre's general and artistic director Franco Boni. Clearly touched with the award and the standing ovation, Boni, who encourages young artists of all sorts, asked us to shout out the names of our own mentors. The room rang with callouts of talented, giving, nurturing people.
Beginning in 2013, the Barbara Hamilton Award for excellence in the performing arts will alternate every other year with the George Luscombe Award.
There was a welcome touch of comedy along with Councillor Gary Crawford's delivery of the municipal proclamation that June 24, the day of the awards presentation, is Dora Day. The pro-arts councilor joked about the ongoing nonsense at City Hall, noting that "though the script isn't finished, it's well on its way." He went through a Polonius-like list of genres that might emerge, including comedy, tragedy and possibly absurdist drama.
Actor/director David Ferry, who read the lengthy list of Dora nominees along with dancer and choreographer Peggy Baker, picked up on Crawford's imagery. "You left out one prize," Ferry said. "There's the dancing-as-fast-as-I-can award."
So, on to the nominations.
The leaders in the indie category were Modern Times Stage Company's presentation of The Lesson, Outside the March's Mr. Marmalade and VideoCabaret's The War of 1812: The History Of The Village of The Small Huts, 1812-15.
In musical theatre, the majority of nominations went to Young People's Theatre's Cinderella, Theatre 20's Bloodless: The Trial Of Burke And Hare and The Wizard Of Oz, presented by Ben Kenwright, The Really Useful Group, David Mirvish, Troika Entertainment and Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.
The Canadian Opera Company scored 25 nods, while Julie Sits Waiting, presented by Good Hair Day Productions, received five.
This year's awards make some distinctions in the categories for opera and musical theatre; sometimes the two divisions share nominations (outstanding direction, for instance), while in other categories (such as outstanding performances) they each have their own nominees.
In theatre for young audiences, Roseneath Theatre received eight nominations, for Wrecked and In This World.
In the dance division, DanceWorks took eight nominations for Akshongay, Lab Rats and Road Trip, while Stereophonic by Peggy Baker Dance Projects and Susuriwka - willow bridge by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, co-produced by Yokohama Noh Theatre and Harbourfront Centre's Planet IndigenUS Festival 2012, received five each.
That's lots of nominations and lots of talent, and the summary doesn't include those artists and productions who received only one or two nods.
But over the years I've realized that the list of nominations - and of course the list of winners - is at least partly dependent on the group of nominators. Change one or two of the jury of 10 or so members and you'll get at least a partially different list.
Is that wrong? No. Awards of this sort are always subjective.
Without losing any of the nominees, I'd have liked to see their number increased. Michael Healey's witty, well-written Proud, for instance, wouldn't be out of place in the outstanding new play category, and Healey's performance as a surprisingly sympathetic Canadian prime minister was also admirable. And how about acting nods to Tony Nappo for Sudden Death, Cara Rickets for Race, Stuart Hughes for The Crucible, Kawa Ada and Claire Calnan for Iceland and Bahareh Yaraghi for Bea?
Or an outstanding new play nod to Nicolas Billon for Iceland, a directing nomination to Alan Dilworth for La Ronde and an ensemble nomination for its cast? And another ensemble nomination for Theatre Smith-Gilmour's As I Lay Dying?
No need to go on. Any regular theatre-, opera- or dancegoer can make up her or his own list.
In fact, you can have your say at the Doras with the Audience Choice Award, presented by NOW and Yonge-Dundas Square. Beginning Thursday (June 6), log on to nowtoronto.com/doras to vote for your favourite show. The online voting ends at midnight on June 19, and the winner will be announced at the awards show.
This year Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus host the June 24 presentations at the Bluma Appel Theatre; a party outside the St. Lawrence Centre follows the ceremony. For tickets, call 416-366-7723.
For a full list of 2013 Dora nominees, see tapa.ca/doras.