The best offerings on T.O.'s stages proved inventive and quirkily unpredictable. In theatre, we got caught up in a heartbreaking preteen's monumental angst. On the dance scene, we marvelled at a stylish and sexy take on a Greek classic. We closed the year in a comedy club, laughing over the more-serious-than-ever subject of race.
They play out the full range of the human spirit, in laughter and tears, whether revelling in Shakespeare, Ionesco, contemporary Quebec pieces or their own sharp scripts. It's been a bumper year for T.O.'s theatre talents.
1 KRISTEN THOMSON I, Claudia; Uncle Vanya; The Bald Soprano and The Lesson; Passe Muraille's A Midsummer Night's Dream Passion and an unerring grasp of character infuse Thomson's work, whether she's playing a sensual wife in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya or contrasting maids in Ionesco's The Bald Soprano and The Lesson. In Passe Muraille's all-female A Midsummer Night's Dream she paired a comically wide-eyed Hermia with a Bottom that sent up pretentious Stratford actors. But her best work of the year -- which won her Doras for performance and writing and is due back at the Tarragon next month -- was I, Claudia, a sublimely funny and heart-wrenching show about the troubled life of a near-teen.
2 DAVID JANSEN Pains Of Youth; An Acre Of Time; History Play; The Tempest; You Are Here; Down Dangerous Passes Road Quantity as well as quality marks the work of Jansen, an actor with intelligence and a gripping sense of drama. He's created six characters this year, among them an outwardly sarcastic but inwardly pained gay brother in Down Dangerous Passes Road, the subtle villain Sebastian in Tempest, a lecher in Pains Of Youth and a distanced husband in You Are Here.
3 LEANNA BRODIE Measure For Measure; The Malaysia Hotel Another actor who brings smarts and a commanding personality to the stage, Brodie had a busy summer performing outdoors in the Bard's Measure For Measure as Isabella, a novice about to enter an order who must choose between saving her brother's life and giving herself to a lustful judge. She was put on trial in another sense in The Malaysia Hotel as a teacher forced into helping her young Asian student escape to Canada. Some days she ran across town to perform both demanding roles back to back.
4 DAMIEN ATKINS Our Country's Good; Good Mother; Real Live Girl This proved to be a stellar year for writer/performer Atkins. He became the youngest playwright to be produced by Stratford -- Good Mother gave Seana McKenna another powerful vehicle -- and he played a small role in the show. Earlier, he helped anchor Our Country's Good as both a convict deported to 18th-century Australia and one of the officers guarding him. Atkins capped the year with his one-man musical cabaret, Real Live Girl, a splendid vehicle for his singing and acting talents.
5 STEVE LUCAS Jump; Disco Goalie; Forgive Me For Saying This But; Time After Time: The Chet Baker Project; This Hotel; Peep Show; Passe Muraille's A Midsummer Night's Dream I've actually lost count of how many shows set and lighting creator Lucas worked on this year, but pride of place for this resident Theatre Passe Muraille designer goes to the renovation of the TPM stage for Jump, complete with faux brick and faux metal proscenium. He also set the multiple doors for This Hotel, the moody atmosphere for Time After Time and the magical decor for the Dream, and had time to moonlight at Buddies on Forgive Me For Saying This But and Peep Show.
6 RANDY HUGHSON Zadie's Shoes; Earshot; This Hotel; You Are Here; Soldier's Heart Randy Hughson is a chameleon. How else to explain his wide-ranging parts, from the boisterous, life-loving explosiveness of his characters in Zadie's Shoes and You Are Here to the quiet but just as human figures in Soldier's Heart and Earshot? Probably his most complex creation this year was the cuckolded husband in This Hotel, caught in the long, spiralling, Mobius-strip passages of his own imagination.
7 YANNA MCINTOSH Skylight; Danny, King Of The Basement Like Hughson, McIntosh has been on my year-end list before, and this time she's created two amazing parts. First up was a complex woman in Skylight who contemplates reuniting with her former lover even though the pair can't seem to reconcile their personal and large-scale politics. Then, in Danny, King Of The Basement, she leapt with relish into the role of a well-to-do girl, living with her chic single mother, who discovers the power of imagination and friendship.
8 PHILIPPA DOMVILLE Time After Time: The Chet Baker Project; The Triumph Of Love Elegant, cool and mesmerizing, Domville turned in a pair of performances that showed contrasting sides of women in love. In Time After Time: The Chet Baker Project, she played a series of women drawn to self-destructive jazz musician Baker's flame and scored most memorably as the angry, constantly drunken Ruth. She did a classical about-face in The Triumph Of love as a chilly spinster comically melting in the warmth of amour, seduced by a woman disguised as a man.
9 MATTHEW MACFADZEAN richardthesecond; Trick Or Treat Here's a young artist on the fast track to centre stage. MacFadzean wrote and performed richardthesecond -- the most ambitious SummerWorks show in years -- in which he played a Gen-Xer who agrees to a cloning experiment and can't figure out if he's the original or a copy. Later, in Trick Or Treat, he was dangerous and seductive as a mob punk who wants a bigger piece of the action.
10 VERONIKA HURNIK Paula And Karl; This Hotel; Flight 198 Hurnik brings laser-like intensity to her work, and she put it to superb use in the environmental piece Paula And Karl, playing the murderous accomplice Paula to the Svengali-like Karl, never breaking character even with audience members only inches away. She had more fun in This Hotel as two characters, a rejected woman who was both vamp and victim and a Florence Nightingale-style chambermaid who offered hope to the play's troubled central character.