Recognizing
Excellence and Innovation
in Canadian Theatre

Director Jillian Keiley on the Impact of Winning the 2004 Siminovitch Prize

I believe I’m here tonight as a good example of the the depth of impact this kind of award can have on one person.   I make for a good story – at the time that I won the prize, I was working full time out of my laundry room. All Temperature Cheer served as a paperweight for my scripts and dramaturgical research and I had to unplug my computer to use the iron. Now, through no small influence of this award,  I’ve got an office on the Rideau Canal and I’m one of that crowd who gets invited to galas. But I believe the Siminovitch Prize is greater than the good it does for one person.  It’s an acknowledgement from the Siminovitch Family, from the Founders and the Corporate donors, that the Theatre is an important discipline. We can’t empirically define and measure its impact, but we know, we feel that it has an important place in the world. To have scientists and financiers acknowledge the immeasurable weight of something people can only feel has a massive value.

This here – my gut – is how I make a living.  I watch hundreds of shows a year with my education, professional experience, eyes and ears backing up my analysis of a production.  But my most important tool is the one I cursed this morning trying to put on last fall’s jeans.

The three directors we are celebrating here tonight, are all in the business of making work that impacts your gut, the place where you feel.  It’s an alchemy with no formula, and its singular stimulant is the presence or lack of what I’ll call ‘beauty.’  These three directors’ visions couldn’t be more varied, but they’ve all made their mark in Canadian theatre by creating extraordinarily beautiful work. In my new job at the NAC a lot of my task is to try to determine or distill what is beautiful.   I think about it all the time.

I’ve got thousands of subscribers.  People from all walks of life, young people, very old people –  people of different religions, cultural backgrounds, races.  What they think is beautiful must be extremely varied and I know that simply by how they present themselves at the theatres, how they dress, the cars they drive or refuse to drive.   I make a giant assumption that if my gut is moved by the beauty of something, my audience will be too.  We recognize beauty because we feel it, down here.  And in the best theatre – I believe that beauty is a recognition of a deeper commonality – our shared experience, and our shared humanity.

Theatre Specializes in showing us the beauty of humanity itself.  The visual and aural aspects of a production demonstrate the limitless capacity of human invention and craftsmanship while actors and writers create mirror worlds for us to see ourselves in – to laugh at ourselves, to fall in love with ourselves and, to forgive ourselves.     I don’t know any great director who doesn’t see great humanity, especially in the least savory characters. They know the adage “Everyone is Lovable once you know their Story.”   If a director can delight the senses and guide the actors through to an audience’s recognition, I truly believe we have done a good thing for humanity.  While that can’t be empirically proven,  I feel it, and my feelings have served me well so far. I may even embrace them and move up a Jean size.

To the Founders, BMO who originally sponsored the Siminovitch Prize, the continuing support of the Siminovitch family and now the Royal Bank, I commend you for trusting your gut and the feeling that something beautiful will come out of this night too.

Jillian Keiley speaking at the 2013 Siminovitch Prize Awards. She received the Director Award in 2004. Jillian recently joined the Siminovitch Board of Directors.

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