TORONTO, October 29, 2007
BMO Financial Group today announced that director, Brigitte Haentjens has been named the 2007 recipient of the Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, Canada’s largest annual theatre award. Ms. Haentjens was chosen from a short-list of four finalists the jury selected from 26 of Canada’s top professional directors who received nominations. The announcement was made during a ceremony this evening at First Canadian Place in Toronto.
“In choosing Brigitte Haentjens as the recipient of the 2007 Siminovitch Prize, the jury wanted to recognize the prodigious virtuosity of her “écriture scénique” [her work as a director/creator], as well as the profoundly human character of her mission,” explained Leonard McHardy, Jury Chair. “In Brigitte’s world, ideas bleed, bodies think, space throbs. This is écriture scénique that defies classification; that displays a breathtaking tension between meticulousness and brutality; and wherein people, even as they are excited and inspired by the show itself, will find themselves forced to question the very foundations of their existence, of their identity, without any possible escape.”
Ms. Haentjens studied theatre in Paris before moving to Ontario in 1977, serving as artistic director of the Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario for eight years. From 1991 to 1994 she was artistic director of Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale in Montréal, and from 1996 to 2006 she was artistic co-director for the Carrefour International de Théâtre de Québec. Ms. Haentjens has also run her own theatre company, Sibyllines, since 1997, intended as a vehicle to further explore her artistic approach with greater freedom. She is currently working at Sibyllines on a French production of Blasté by Sarah Kane, translated by Jean Marc Dalpé and starring Paul Ahmarani, Céline Bonnier and Roy Dupuis, scheduled to open in the spring of 2008.
“Theatre has the effect on me of a cut, of a burn, of a punch, of a lash. Theatre stimulates me, upsets me, and can even enrage me. Theatre has always given me the desire to live, to create, to stand up and fight. In short, theatre inspires every feeling in me except that of comfort,” stated Ms. Haentjens during her acceptance speech. “A prize like the Siminovitch Prize is a wonderful stimulant, a wonderful encouragement, both symbolic and material.”
“On behalf of BMO Financial Group, a long-time supporter of the arts in Canada, I am thrilled to congratulate Brigitte on this outstanding achievement,” said Gilles Ouellette, President and CEO, Private Client Group, BMO Financial Group. “The Siminovitch Prize acknowledges excellence already achieved, but it is designed with the future in mind. We hope it encourages her to have the freedom to move to a new stage in her career.
“Just as importantly, the prize is meant to encourage mentorship – something that is very important to Dr. Lou Siminovitch and BMO. We would also like to congratulate the protégés Brigitte has chosen. It is through the power of mentorship that people gain the opportunity to fulfill their potential.”
Ms. Haentjens was awarded a cheque for $75,000. As her protégés, she chose a young Quebec City director, Christian Lapointe, and the Montreal-based ensemble Théâtre de la Pire Espèce, who each received half of the remaining $25,000. The prize founders have structured the Siminovitch Prize in this way to underscore the importance of mentorship in Canadian theatre.
Christian Lapointe, protégé
Working in the French language, director, writer, actor, and musician Christian Lapointe has always staged plays that were often considered unstageable. At the age of 23, he took on Yeats’ plays for dancers. Later, he directed the black diamond of symbolist theatre, Villiers de l’Isle Adam’s Axël. He has also mounted plays by Claude Gauvreau, Sarah Kane, and Mark Ravenhill, as well as several theatrical explorations. His theatrical creations have been seen in Melbourne, Hanoi, Avignon, and elsewhere. He was recently invited by the International Theatre Institute (UNESCO) to participate in a workshop on new dramaturgies in Berlin in December 2007.
Théâtre de la Pire Espèce, protégé
La Pire Espèce is the workspace of artist-companions, exploring écriture scénique[devised work] that employs traditionally popular practices from the international stage: marionettes, objects, cabaret, story-telling, clown, etc. The passionate creators associated with this group venture into astonishing aesthetics, pose a frank gaze on our humanity, and comb the planet in search of all possible audiences and inspirations. Founded in 1999 by Olivier Ducas and Francis Monty, the company has developed a dozen shows, including Ubu sur la table and Persée, which have enjoyed remarkable success.
Mr. McHardy was joined on the jury by Geneviève Billette, author, translator and recipient of the 2002 Siminovitch Protégé Prize; Katrina Dunn, director and producer; Valerie Moore, director, choreographer and teacher; and Carlo Guillermo Proto, director, producer and writer.
The other finalists placed on the short list for the 2007 Siminovitch Prize were: Ron Jenkins, Director, Edmonton, AB; Alisa Palmer, Director, Toronto, ON, and Soheil Parsa, Director, Toronto, ON.
Full biographies, photos and video are available at www.siminovitchprize.com
The Siminovitch Prize in Theatre was introduced in 2001 and dedicated to renowned scientist Lou Siminovitch and his late wife Elinore, a playwright. Sponsored by BMO Financial Group, Canada’s largest annual theatre arts award recognizes direction, playwriting and design in three-year cycles, beginning with the 2001 award to Toronto director Daniel Brooks; the 2002 award to Montréal playwright Carole Fréchette; the 2003 award to Montréal designer Louise Campeau; the 2004 award to St. John’s director Jillian Keiley; the 2005 award to Toronto playwright John Mighton and the 2006 award to Toronto set and costume designer, Dany Lyne.
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