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Daniel Brooks

Laureate, 2001

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2001 Laureate

A creator, director, writer and actor, by 2001 Daniel Brooks had emerged as a prolific and versatile artist, winning accolades and awards from around the country for his productions. He co-founded the Augusta Company, directed for Soulpepper Theatre, his productions with da da kamera toured the globe and he was the playwright in residence at the Tarragon Theatre. Most recently. he was Artistic Director of Necessary Angel Theatre.

In commenting on Brooks, the jury said it “recognizes and celebrates his depth of commitment, intellectual discipline and brilliant stagecraft. As he has grown from a co-creator to a director, his scope as an interpretive artist has become awesomely clear. With idealism and fearlessness, he has been eager to address complex issues in both contemporary and historical works. His theatrical rigour is infectious, challenging and inspiring the artists – notably actors and designers – whom he gathers into an investigative ensemble. Most remarkably, Brooks has been able to work on his own and establish a reputation outside the framework and opportunities provided by the larger companies. He is in every way an independent artist, consciously and proudly using the stage as an arena for moral debate and theatrical wonder.”

2001 Protégé

A Tribute to Daniel Brooks

“There’s so much that one can say about Daniel. This is what came to me this morning. 

Daniel could be a real asshole. I know that I’m among family here so I feel that I can say that. 

He really could. Or at least to me. Like, there was the time he took me out to lunch after seeing my production of Blasted and basically berated me for an hour for stealing everything he ever did. There was the time he told me that I would never in a million years get the job at Buddies. And then the time that he told me that he was the only reason that I got the job at buddies. There was the time he called me to tell me how much he disliked the way I behaved after a workshop of a show that he was developing. I had told him it was really great and then left to go eat.

Apart from being an asshole, Daniel was a great artist. In making Daniel the inaugural recipient of this prestigious award – the Siminovitch Prize set a high standard for theatre excellence in this country. In my mind, Daniel embodied all the characteristics of a capital A artist. He was inquisitive, endlessly curious. Cunningly critical. He was observant, tuned in and turned on. He had an impeccable aesthetic – although you wouldn’t know it from his fashion sense. He was a deep thinker and yet completely kinetic. Sensual even. My senses were always heightened in his shows. 

In his core, Daniel was kind but he was also messy. He wasn’t always in control of his ego which was considerable. He could be mercurial, moody. Overly sensitive. He could be distant – cold. He could be frustratingly indecisive. Other times, terribly demanding. He could lose sight of the fact that people were all just doing the best that they could. He would forget how much everyone around him just wanted to please him. 

Why am I saying these things about Daniel? This man I admired so much and came to truly love.

Daniel once told me that he wanted to be reckless with the line between art and life. I think this is the most beautiful thing that a person can do. To spend a life consumed by a task so imaginary, so impossible, so endless, so limitless, so impermanent, some might say pointless even. Could there be anything more beautiful? 

Daniel also once said to me that, inside a rehearsal hall, we have to be willing to emotionally hurt one another. That was harder for me to take in – I really need to be liked. But I think he was right. Because vulnerability is a necessary condition for our artform – and with vulnerability comes the risk of hurt. At times, he hurt me. I don’t think callously. But he did. I’m sure he was hurt by me. We do. Hurt each other. Sometimes.

I guess I am sharing this because I want to honor Daniel for being messy. I want to celebrate the messiness of our vocation. As artists, we are not saints. We are prophets. And poetry is born out of the complicated mess that is our humanity. And Daniel’s art and life were so exquisitely human.

Thank you to the Siminovitch Prize for recognizing Daniel’s brilliance and for continuing to celebrate the bravery and brilliance of all the phenomenal artists being honored this evening.”

– Brendan Healy, December 4, 2023

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