October 25, 2005
TORONTO – BMO Financial Group today announced that Toronto playwright John Mighton was named the 2005 recipient of the Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, Canada’s largest annual theatre award. Mr. Mighton was chosen from a short list of seven finalists the jury selected from the 53 top Canadian playwrights who received nominations this year. The announcement was made during a ceremony this evening at University of Toronto’s historic Hart House Theatre.
According to the jury citation, “in selecting the recipient for the 2005 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, the jury was particularly impressed by the profound combination of intellect and heart embodied in Mr. Mighton’s work. His voice has grace, delicacy and a gentle humanity. Mr. Mighton also brings tremendous depth to his plays, taking complex, sophisticated ideas and making them playable in a truly theatrical manner.”
Mr. Mighton’s plays, including Scientific Americans, Possible Worlds, A Short History of Night,Body and Soul, The Little Years, and Half Life, have been performed across Canada, as well as in Europe, Japan and the United States. He has won several national awards including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. Possible Worlds has been adapted into a feature film by renowned director Robert Lepage. Half Life, currently on tour in Scotland, was placed last week on the short list for the 2005 Governor General’s Literary Award.
The Siminovitch Prize jury was chaired by Leonard McHardy, co-owner and co-founder of TheatreBooks in Toronto. Joining Mr. McHardy were Martha Henry, one of Canada’s most acclaimed theatre artists; designer Astrid Janson, whose work has been seen in North America and Europe; Maureen LaBonté, a translator, dramaturge and teacher who has worked in both English and French Canada; and Jerry Wasserman, a professor at University of British Columbia and one of the country’s foremost scholars of Canadian Theatre.
“The jury had an extraordinary field of playwrights to discuss this year with seven exceptional writers on the short list. All seven writers have clearly been inspired to use their voices as playwrights to speak to audiences in the theatre. Each speaks with eloquence and passion in his or her own unique way,” said Mr. McHardy. “We found Mr. Mighton’s work takes a new direction in Canadian theatre, not by formal experimentation, but by its constantly probing nature, keeping it on the edge. This playwright is a very gifted writer, whose voice we celebrate with the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre.”
In addition to playwriting, Mr. Mighton completed a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Toronto and has lectured in Philosophy at McMaster University. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto and, for the past seven years, has coordinated JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies), an innovative school program designed to tutor children who are having difficulties in math. Mr. Mighton has written an inspirational book based on his experiences with JUMP called The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child, published by House of Anansi Press.
“When you work with children, you immediately know if you are connecting with them and doing some good. With theatre, it is difficult to gauge the impact. In fact, there is very little certainty that you’re not wasting your time as a playwright,” said Mr. Mighton. “Receiving the Siminovitch Prize is a great encouragement for me to keep on going.”
Tony Comper, President and CEO of BMO Financial Group, the founding sponsor of the Siminovitch Prize, applauded the selection. “On behalf of BMO Financial Group, a long-time supporter of the arts in Canada, I am thrilled to congratulate Mr. Mighton on this outstanding achievement. The remarkable work he has done in the community with children and mathematics is truly commendable and it is fascinating to see how this work informs the way he structures very complex ideas into completely accessible plays. Mr. Mighton personifies the convergence of arts and sciences, which is at the heart of the Siminovitch Prize.”
Mr. Mighton was awarded a cheque for $75,000 and he chose fellow Toronto playwright, Anton Piatigorsky, as his protégé, who received $25,000. The prize founders have structured the Siminovitch Prize in this way to underscore the importance of mentorship in Canadian theatre.
Mr. Piatigorsky’s plays include Eternal Hydra, which premiered at the Stratford Festival’s Studio Theatre in 2002, The Kabbalistic Psychoanalysis of Adam R. Tzaddik, The Offering, Mysterium Tremendum, Easy Lenny Lazmon and the Great Western Ascension and the libretto for composer Brian Current’s Airline Icarus. Three of his plays were nominated for Dora Mavor Moore and Floyd Chalmers Canadian play awards. Easy Lenny Lazmon won four Dora awards in 1999. Mr. Piatigorsky is presently working on The Duke of Windsor, a play commissioned by the Stratford Festival, and a novel.
The other finalists placed on the short list for the 2005 Siminovitch Prize were: Daniel MacIvor (Toronto, ON); Joan MacLeod (Victoria, BC); Daniel David Moses (Kingston, ON); Wajdi Mouawad (Montreal, QC); Djanet Sears (Toronto, ON); and Vern Thiessen (Edmonton, AB).
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 Montreal playwright Carole Fréchette; the 2003 award to Montreal designer Louise Campeau and the 2004 award to St. John’s director Jillian Keiley.