When I was asked to speak to you tonight I was asked to talk about how transformative the Siminovitch Prize has been to my life and about how important this Prize is in this country at this time, about how crucial it is to keep this Prize going, and it was suggested that I might refer to us almost having lost the Prize and what a terrible thing that would have been. And then it was mentioned that it wouldn’t hurt if I could be funny.
So in thinking about how truly transformative the Prize has been for me by allowing me to be a mentor, and thinking about how important the Prize is nationally by bringing together theatre practitioners and supporters and patrons, and in thinking about how crucial it is that theatre keep a place at the media curated table of cultural relevance and how essential the Prize has been in manifesting that – in thinking about all those things about the Prize there was a word that stood out to me. Prize.
And I got to thinking about the difference between a Prize and an Award, so between mulling, meditating and google-ing on it I’ve found a very simple difference perceived by many people who mull, meditate and google on such notions: an Award is for a thing and a Prize is for a person. Certainly this is true of this Siminovitch Prize. It is not given for a play or a production or even for an idea, it given to a person. For a person. Now in the case of an award, like a Dora Award or a Sterling Award or a Governor General’s Award – the sort of thing you might get for a play – the writing of play, the direction of a play, the design of a play – there is always the sneaking suspicion in the receiving of such an award that maybe you were just lucky. Maybe it was just the right team or the right subject or the right cultural moment. Maybe I was just lucky.
When I won the Siminovitch Prize in 2008 I didn’t feel lucky. I didn’t feel like there was that one good show with the right team in the right cultural moment. It was something different. I felt honoured. And I realized that was a feeling I hadn’t felt very much before. I am a little saddened to say that we live in a country that does not honour its artists. And in that there is always this niggling feeling that perhaps to our compatriots the work we do is not seen as being important. Now I know, in my DNA, that this work is important, as a service to the culture of this country, as a service to the human spirit, but sometimes when all the messages one is getting is to the reverse of that, it’s only human to question our place in our land. To be hounoured is to be told that what you do is important. To be reminded, to have confirmation of that fact. That your work matters. And that’s another reason why Colleen or Hannah or Michel Marc or Olivier shouldn’t feel lucky tonight, because this houour is based on work. It is earned. Luck isn’t earned. This Prize is earned. And maybe that feeling of earning has something to do with the money, perhaps it has more to do with being able to give money away. We’ve earned that honour through a life of work. And at least that’s one thing that we value in this country, hard work. And making theatre is very hard work. So tonight I will not say to the nominees, Good Luck. I will say congratulations on this amazing, important, necessary, crucial honour. Well earned. Well deserved.