October 28, 2002
TORONTO – Montreal playwright Carole Fréchette was today named the 2002 winner of theElinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, the biggest annual prize of its kind in Canada. The announcement was made at a gala ceremony at University of Toronto’s historic Hart House Theatre. More than 400 people – members of Canada’s theatre community, and government and business leaders – were on hand for the event, which was sponsored by BMO Financial Group.
As the winner of the prestigious award, Ms. Fréchette was presented a cheque for $75,000, while her protégé, fellow Montreal playwright Geneviève Billette, received $25,000. The prize founders have structured the prize in this way to underscore their profound belief in the importance of mentorship.
Ms. Fréchette, 53, is the author of more than eight plays – most published within the past five years. She was chosen by the jury from a list of 35 playwrights, nominated from every region of Canada.
The jury was chaired by director Bill Glassco. The other jury members were Halifax actor Nicola Lipman; Leonard McHardy, co-owner and co-founder of TheatreBooks in Toronto; Alberta playwright John Murrell, and Montreal dramaturge and literary translator Maryse Warda, currently the Associate Director General of the National Theatre School of Canada.
In announcing their choice, the jury described Ms. Fréchette as an artist “at the height of her powers, with the wind full in her sails” and expressed the desire that Canadians come “to know and to cherish” this writer.
“In an especially fresh and startling way she uses the mysteries of theatre to explore the mysteries of our daily lives,” said the jury citation. “Her plays negotiate that delicate balance of the known and the unknown, the forever accessible and the forever exotic, which is the property of all great art.”
During the award ceremony, Toronto actor Tanya Jacobs read an excerpt from the role she played in Ms. Fréchette’s work, The Four Lives of Marie (Les Quatre Morts de Marie), which won the Governor General’s Award in 1995 and the Chalmers Prize in 1998. Two other plays, Elisa’s Skin (La Peau d’Élisa) and Seven Days in the Life of Simon Labrosse (Les Sept Jours de Simon Labrosse), were also short-listed for the Governor General’s Award, as is her recent play, Jean et Béatrice.
In 2002 alone, three of Ms. Fréchette’s new plays have been staged, of which, Le Collier d’Hélène is receiving a total of five productions worldwide. Two of her plays are being adapted for television, and a book of her three best known plays has just been published.
BMO Financial Group CEO and Chairman Tony Comper expressed the sentiment echoed by many who attended the gala event when he said, “How can one not be struck by the breadth and the depth of exceptional playwrights we have gracing the cultural life of the country?” Master of Ceremonies Brent Carver noted that Canada’s playwriting community has “matured and developed into one of the most exciting writing communities in the world,” with Canadian plays currently being staged in Glasgow, London, Ireland, Australia, the United States, Mexico and Continental Europe.
Ms. Fréchette’s plays are among those that have enjoyed success around the world. Her plays have been translated and staged in Belgium, France, Germany, Lebanon, Luxemburg, Mexico, Romania, Switzerland and Syria, in addition to their successful performances in Canadian theatres.
Ms. Fréchette’s protégé, Geneviève Billette, has already seen three of her plays produced, and her first play, Crime Against Humanity (Crime contre l’humanité), was short-listed both for the Governor General’s Award and a Masque at Montreal’s annual theatre awards. Her latest play,Le Pays des genoux, will be staged next season with the support of a grant from Le Fonds Gratien Gélinas. Her play, Le Goûteur, was produced at this year’s International Festival of Francophone Theatre (Festival International des Théatres Francophones) in Limoges, France. A graduate of Université de Montréal, Ms. Billette spent three years studying dramatic writing at the National Theatre School of Canada.
On hand for the ceremony was Dr. Lou Siminovitch, one of Canada’s outstanding scientists. The prize is named after Dr. Siminovitch and his late playwright wife, Elinore, whose determination, dedication to excellence and belief in mentorship are embodied in the award.
The prize is awarded in alternate years to playwrights, designers and directors in mid-career who, through a body of work, have made a significant contribution to theatre in Canada. The winner receives $100,000, of which $25,000 is awarded to a protégé or organization of the winner’s choice. Last year, the inaugural year for the award, the prize was presented to a director, Daniel Brooks, and to Mr. Brooks’ protégé, Chris Abraham.