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Call For Nominations Now Open for Canadian Playwrights

March 9, 2005

TORONTO – The Jury for the 2005 Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre was announced today. The $100,000 prize – the largest in Canadian theatre – will be presented this year to a playwright who has made a significant contribution to theatre in Canada. The jury will consider nominations received by May 11, 2005.

“On behalf of the Founders of the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, I am delighted to announce that Leonard McHardy will serve as Jury Chair for the third consecutive year,” said Tony Comper, President and Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group. “He has played a significant role in building awareness of this Prize across the country and has lead the charge of some remarkable juries who have selected outstanding artists as recipients.”

Mr. McHardy consulted with theatre professionals across Canada to select the distinguished members of the theatre community who will serve as jurors.

“We are honoured to have an illustrious jury for the fifth annual Siminovitch Prize,” said McHardy. “Each jury member has a deep understanding of the important place of the playwright in the creation of Canadian theatre. Each has, in their own career, been inspired by the playwright’s voice to make remarkable contributions to theatre across the country.”

The Jury will accept nominations of Canadian playwrights who advance Canadian theatre through a body of work achieved in recent years while influencing and inspiring younger theatre artists. In the preceding 10 years, nominees will have made a significant creative contribution to no fewer than two noteworthy theatre projects in Canada. The jurors will assess the nominees’ originality, sense of evolution, growing maturity, continuing experimentation, impact upon audiences, and influence upon younger artists. They will also consider whether the artist is at a point in his or her professional career where the recognition and resources associated with the prize will make a significant difference, allowing and encouraging the artist to go further in the pursuit of his or her craft.

2005 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre Jury:

Leonard McHardy – A co-owner and co-founder of TheatreBooks in Toronto, a leading source of books on the performing arts in Canada for more than 25 years. An actor and director in Canada and the U.K., Mr. McHardy has also worked as the Director of Press and Public Relations for the Stratford Festival. He has served as a juror for the Dora Mavor Moore Awards and the Chalmers Playwriting Awards and is the current board President for Necessary Angel Theatre Company. Mr. McHardy was also a board member and President of the Theatre Museum, and volunteers his time to numerous organizations, including PEN International.

Martha Henry – As one of the first graduates of the National Theatre School, Ms. Henry’s career has taken her to many theatres across Britain, in the United States and in all major theatres across Canada, including 30 seasons at the Stratford Festival. In her first of many appearances with the National Arts Centre, Ms. Henry played Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by John Hirsch. She was the Artistic Director of The Grand Theatre, London, from 1988-1994 and has directed many productions since, including The Royal Family at the Shaw Festival in 2003. At the 2005 Shaw Festival, Ms. Henry directs Lillian Hellman’s The Autumn Garden. She also has a multitude of film and television credits included in her impressive career. She served six years on the Board of the Canada Council and is an honourary co-chair of the Theatre Renewal Campaign. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Astrid Janson – A production / set and costume designer, Ms. Janson’s work has been seen on most stages across Canada as well as in the U.S. and in Europe. She is an Assistant Professor in the University College Drama Program at the University of Toronto where she has taught for twelve years. Ms. Janson has designed theatre, opera, dance and film projects for companies such as Soulpepper Theatre, The Shaw and Stratford Festivals, Canadian Stage, The National Arts Centre, Videocabaret and CBC Television. Recently she was the designer for the Mirvish / Obsidian production of The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God and for the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Dido and Aeneas. She won a Gemini Award in 2004 for her production design of Shadow Pleasures, a dance film written by Michael Ondaatje and directed by Veronica Tennant. Ms. Janson’s work has also been recognized with 11 Dora Mavor Moore Awards and the 2001 Silver Ticket Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

Maureen LaBonte – A dramaturge, teacher and translator of more than 25 Quebec plays, Mme. LaBonte is programme dramaturge at the Banff playRites Colony. She was also Literary Manager overseeing play development at The Shaw Festival from 2002-2004. From 1993-2002, Mme. LaBonte worked at the National Theatre School of Canada where she developed and ran a pilot Directing Program. Graduates of the program include previous Siminovitch protégés Chris Abraham and Danielle Irvine. She also coordinated the NTSC Playwriting Program and Playwrights’ Residency from 1997-2002. Mme. LaBonte is presently working on two new translations and an interactive history website for the National Film Board of Canada (Pacific Office). She lives in Montreal.

Jerry Wasserman – A professor of English and Theatre at the University of British Columbia, Prof. Wasserman won the Killam Teaching Prize in 1998 and has been cited as a “Most Popular Teacher” by Maclean’s Magazine in each of the last four years. He has written and lectured extensively on Canadian theatre. His anthology Modern Canadian Plays, now in its 4th edition, is the standard textbook in the field. A long time theatre critic for CBC radio, he currently reviews for the Vancouver Province and for his website, Prof. Wasserman is President of the board of Playwrights Theatre Centre in Vancouver. A member of Canadian Actors Equity Association for nearly 30 years and ACTRA for 20, he counts over 200 professional stage, television and film credits.

“The art of playwriting is at the centre of theatrical creation, and it is so seldom that Canada’s playwrights are recognized in such a generous way,” said Amela Simic, Executive Director of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. “I am grateful to BMO Financial Group and the founders of the Siminovitch Prize for both supporting and celebrating the exceptional talent of our nation’s playwrights.”

“Directors, designers and actors are all inspired by the playwright’s voice and this kind of support and recognition through the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre can only encourage further creation and innovation,” said Diane Miljours, Executive Director of Centre des auteurs dramatiques (CEAD). “Having an award that recognizes outstanding playwriting is a testament to the incredible talent that is thriving in Canada today.”

Anyone can submit a nomination for the prize. Nomination forms are available online at The deadline for nominations is May 11, the short list will be announced at the end of September and the prize will be awarded on October 25 at a gala ceremony at University of Toronto’s historic Hart House Theatre.

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 richest annual theatre arts award honours professional directors, playwrights and designers by acknowledging excellence and encouraging further exploration in Canadian theatre. The winner receives $100,000, of which $25,000 is awarded to a protégé or organization of the winner’s choice.

JoAnne Hayes, Toronto,, (416) 867-3996
Lucie Gosselin, Montreal,, (514) 877-1101


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