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David Yee wins the 2023 Siminovitch Prize

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Toronto-based playwright, actor and co-founding Artistic Director of fu-GEN Theatre Company, David Yee, is this year’s winner of Canada’s most valuable theatre award in the category of playwriting. For over two decades, the Siminovitch Prize has celebrated groundbreaking theatre artists whose work has strengthened the Canadian theatre landscape and advanced the art form. David Yee, the 2023 Siminovitch Prize Laureate, has chosen Julie Phan as Siminovitch Prize Protégé.

“My practice as a playwright is inherently linked to my practice as an Artistic Director because it has been informed and cultivated by an overwhelming and essential need for community. fu-GEN became a space where Asian Canadian artists could cut our teeth, where our voices were valid and necessary. A place where we could gather, tell our stories and be seen. My work serves that community, whether it’s produced at fu-GEN or elsewhere, it will always be in service of something greater than myself.” – David Yee, 2023 Siminovitch Prize Laureate

David Yee is a Dora Mavor Moore Award-nominated actor and playwright, his work has been produced internationally and at home. He is a two-time Governor General’s Literary Award nominee for his plays lady in the red dress and carried away on the crest of a wave, which won the award in 2015 along with the Carol Bolt Award in 2013. Yee has been in residence at Tarragon Theatre, Factory Theatre, the Stratford Festival, Cahoots Theatre and often works with theatre training institutions (National Theatre School, University of Toronto, Toronto Metropolitan University) to create new works for graduating cohorts using his unique bespoke method of play creation. He currently teaches playwriting at the University of Toronto and has worked extensively in the Asian Canadian community as an artist and an advocate.

“Difficult to pin down, he moves deftly from the traditional stage to hybrid digital-theatre, from intimate performances for a single audience member in a moving vehicle to mainstage epics. He’s not afraid to tell the stories of communities, to mash genres, to press poetry up against the ridiculous and to put outrage in close conversation with magic. It’s never the same twice, and yet it’s immediately recognizable: that combination of swagger and sweetness, of the very funny and the pissed off, is the distinctive voice of David Yee, this year’s Siminovitch Prize Laureate.” Guillermo Verdecchia, 2023 Siminovitch Prize Jury Chair

The Siminovitch Prize is a celebration of Canadian theatre and represents the highest level of peer recognition in the profession. Awarded annually to one mid-career director, playwright, or designer with an outstanding body of work, the Siminovitch Prize propels artists’ careers through financial support and recognition. It helps artists deepen their practice and facilitates ongoing contributions; it represents an investment in the future.

The Siminovitch Prize was awarded this evening during a glitzy cocktail affair that celebrated excellence in Canadian theatre. Esteemed members of the theatre community, including artists, directors, producers and patrons, gathered in anticipation. The winner was announced following a documentary screening showcasing the artistry of the 2023 Siminovitch Prize finalists: d’bi.young anitafrika (Brampton, ON), Mishka Lavigne (Gatineau, QC), Berni Stapleton (St. John’s, NL), and David Yee (Toronto, ON). 

A total of $130,000 was awarded: $75,000 to the Siminovitch Prize Laureate, $25,000 to the Siminovitch Protégé, $5,000 to each of the shortlisted artists, and $5,000 each to three emerging artists selected by the finalists. Thanks to a partnership among the Siminovitch Theatre Foundation, the National Arts Centre, and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the 2023 Siminovitch Prize Laureate and Siminovitch Prize Protégés are also being given the opportunity to come together and collaborate at an artist residency at the Banff Centre’s Playwrights Lab in 2024.

Presented by the RBC Foundation, through RBC Emerging Artists

The Siminovitch Prize recognizes the importance of mentorship and developing talent; the Laureate receives $75,000 and selects an emerging artist to receive the $25,000 Siminovitch Protégé Prize.  David Yee has selected Julie Phan, a multi-award-winning writer-performer and arts leader, who is currently an artist in residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. 

“It is affirming in my practice to know that it is being seen, appreciated and valued. This community and the others I’ve been a part of have uplifted me through challenges I’ve faced as an artist and a person, starting first with longtime supporter and papa playwright David Yee.” Julie Phan, 2023 Siminovitch Prize Protégé

Toronto and Montreal-based Julie Phan is a writer, performer, and arts manager. Julie’s writing explores agency, relationality and power struggle as a Vietnamese-Hoklo woman; counterpointed by her intimate understanding of people and unique somatic insights from her experience in dance performance. She has been recognized as a writer by the Playwrights Guild of Canada (Robert Beardsley Award 2019), Major Matt Mason Collective (Wildfire National Playwriting Competition, 2021), the Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund (Young Canadian Playwright Award, 2022), and Tarragon Theatre (RBC Emerging Playwright Award, 2023). Julie is best known for her work with fu-GEN asian theatre company (double bill, fearless). She is currently an artist in residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

“The RBC Foundation, through RBC Emerging Artists supports arts organizations that provide impactful opportunities to advance an artist’s career,” said Mark Beckles, Vice President, Social Impact & Innovation, RBC. “The efforts of the Siminovitch Protégé Prize provide much needed opportunities for diverse emerging artists to be mentored, recognized, and exposed to new audiences. We’re proud to support this annual prize and want to congratulate both artists on this outstanding recognition.”


acts of faith, American Stage, St.Petersburg, FL (21 November 2023 – 17 December 2023)

among men, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Winnipeg, MB (24 January – 10 February 2024)

acts of faith, Local Theatre Company, Boulder, CO. (1 February – 18 February 2024)


The Siminovitch Prize celebrates and invests in groundbreaking theatre artists evolving the art form. As Canada’s largest theatre award, it champions the vital role of theatre in building more human connection and understanding. Over the past two decades, the Siminovitch Prize has transformed the lives of 23 mid-career artists, 28 emerging artists, and more than 70 finalists. Recipients have gone on to inspire peers, mentor the next generation, lead influential institutions and create unforgettable theatre. 

 Without the generous support of hundreds of donors and sponsors each year, there would be no Siminovitch Prize. 


Audiences can travel into the studios of the Siminovitch Prize finalists to explore their artistic practice and vision. The Siminovitch Showcase holds short documentaries about d’bi.young anitafrika, Mishka Lavigne, Berni Stapleton, and David Yee, as well as the 2022 and 2021 finalists. 

“The Siminovitch Theatre Foundation congratulates the four artists shortlisted for the 2023 Siminovitch Prize and the emerging artists they have chosen to mentor. Each exemplifies a commitment to experimentation and invention that are at the heart of the Siminovitch Prize. We look forward to witnessing and celebrating the significant contributions they will continue to make in theatre in Canada for years to come.” – Briony Glassco, Chair of the Siminovitch Theatre Foundation Board of Directors


Selected annually, the jury is composed of professional theatre artists from varied disciplines and backgrounds. The 2023 jury comprised Leanna Brodie, Jessica B. Hill, Rosa Laborde, Mani Soleymanlou, and Jury Chair Guillermo Verdecchia.

MEDIA CONTACT: Ashley Belmer, B-Rebel Communications, 416-617-8934