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Six Outstanding Canadian Designers Short-Listed for 2009 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre

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Designers from Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary in the Running for $100,000 Prize – the Largest in Canadian Theatre

TORONTO, October 1, 2009

BMO Financial Group, sponsor of the Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, announced the names of six Canadian designers who have made the 2009 short-list for the largest prize in Canadian theatre. The finalists are:

  • Jean Bard, Montreal, Quebec;
  • Ronnie Burkett, Calgary, Alberta and Toronto, Ontario;
  • Bretta Gerecke, Edmonton, Alberta;
  • Anick Labissonnière, Montreal, Quebec;
  • Richard Lacroix, Montreal, Quebec; and
  • Ken MacDonald, Vancouver, British Columbia and Toronto, Ontario.

The six finalists were selected from a list of 17 nominees, recognized for their work in professional lighting, costume, set, sound and mixed media design and for their inspiration to younger theatre designers.

“On behalf of BMO Financial Group, our congratulations go out to all nominees short-listed for the 2009 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre,” said Gilles Ouelette, President and CEO, Private Client Group, BMO Financial Group. “We would like to extend a sincere thank you to Jury Chair Maureen Labonté and the rest of this year’s jury for their commitment to recognizing such remarkable achievements in Canadian theatre.”

“The jury feels strongly that each of the nominees on this year’s short-list show incredible artistic talent and provide vision in Canadian theatre,” said Maureen Labonté, a Montreal-based translator and dramaturge who was selected as the new Jury Chair for this year’s Siminovitch Prize in Theatre.

“Whether it is set, costume or lighting design, the short-listed nominees demonstrate impressive skills which inspire creativity and exemplify excellence in the world of theatre,” Labonté said.

Other jury members include:

  • Mérédith Caron – Montreal, Quebec, one of Quebec’s foremost costume designers and a teacher at Montreal’s National Theatre School;
  • Rachel Ditor – Vancouver, British Columbia, a dramaturge who has freelanced around Canada and currently Literary Manager at the Arts Club Theatre (Vancouver) as well as adjunct professor in dramaturgy at the University of British Columbia;
  • Sue LePage – Toronto, Ontario, celebrated set and costume designer for more than 25 years; and
  • Mieko Ouchi – Edmonton, Alberta, playwright, actor, stage and film director as well as co-founder and Artistic co-director of the Concrete Theatre in Edmonton.

The recipient of the Siminovitch Prize will receive $100,000, of which $25,000 will be awarded to a protégé or organization of their choice. The Prize will be presented on November 2, 2009 at a ceremony in Toronto.

The Selection Process
The Jury reviewed nominations of professional Canadian designers who have advanced Canadian theatre through a body of work achieved in recent years while influencing and inspiring younger theatre artists. In the preceding 10 years, nominees were to have made a significant creative contribution to no fewer than three noteworthy theatre projects in Canada. The jurors assessed the nominees’ originality, sense of evolution, growing maturity, continuing experimentation, impact upon audiences, and/or influence upon younger artists. They also considered whether the artists were at a point in their professional career where the recognition and resources associated with the prize would make a significant difference, allowing and encouraging the artist to go further in the pursuit of his or her craft.

About the Siminovitch Prize
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 largest annual theatre arts award recognizes direction, playwriting and design in three-year cycles. Previous recipients include:

  • Toronto director, Daniel Brooks in 2001;
  • Montreal playwright, Carole Fréchette in 2002;
  • Montreal designer, Louise Campeau in 2003;
  • St. John’s director, Jillian Keiley in 2004;
  • Toronto playwright, John Mighton in 2005;
  • Toronto set and costume designer, Dany Lyne in 2006;
  • Montréal director, Brigitte Haentjens in 2007; and
  • Toronto playwright, Daniel McIvor in 2008.

Media Contacts:
Orli Namian, Toronto,, (416) 867-3996
Laurie Grant, Vancouver,, (604) 665-7596

Jean Bard
Born in Montreal, Jean Bard graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in 1989. Familiar with Montreal scenes, as well as Ontario’s landscapes (Ottawa and Sudbury), over the years, he has created more than 125 sets for the stage, for both creative and repertory theatre. After leaving school, he launched his career with Robert Gravel and Jean-Pierre Ronfard (Nouveau Theatre Experimental) and Sylvie Dufour (Theatre du Nouvel Ontario and then Theatre du Trillium), creating a dozen sets for each one. In his early years, creative theatre clearly stands out (Dominique Champagne, Carole Frechette, Larry Tremblay, etc.). Soon, however, he moved on to big stages and major repertory theatre companies, the Theatre du Nouveau Monde, Molière, Rideau-Vert, Dube, Espace Go, and more. He collaborates closely with prominent stage directors of all stripes: Lorraine Pintal, Robert Bellefeuille, Claude Poissant, Denise Filiatrault, Normand Chouinard, Martin Faucher, and so on and still works regularly with directors from “emerging” theatre, in particular Geoffrey Gaquerre and Le Bunker. Noteworthy are his sets for “La charge de l’orignal épormyable,” “La dame aux camellias”, “Ubu Roi” (Théatre du Nouveau Monde). Also memorable is “Jouliks” (Theatre D’Aujourd’hui) and the sophisticated “Femmes Savantes” (Theatre Denise Pelletier).

Ronnie Burkett
Ronnie has been captivated by puppetry since the age of seven when he opened the World Book Encyclopedia to “Puppets”. He began touring his puppet shows around Alberta at the age of fourteen and hasbeen on the road ever since. Recognized as one of Canada’s foremost theatre artists,Ronnie Burkett has been credited with creating some of the world’s most elaborate and provocative puppetry. His work has stimulated an unprecedented adult audience for puppet theatre, continuously playing to great critical and public acclaim on Canada’s major stages and at international theatre festivals. Ronnie has taught puppetry at universities and colleges in Canada, the UK and Australia, and presents masterclasses, workshops and keynote presentations at numerous festivals and conferences. His current production Billy Twinkle, Requiem For a Golden Boy follows the now-retired 10 Days on Earth, Provenance and the “Memory Dress Trilogy” of Tinka’s New Dress, Street of Blood and Happy. When not touring, Ronnie can be found surrounded by over 1200 books on puppetry, plasticene and woodworking tools in his Toronto studio where he is designing his next two productions.

Bretta Gerecke
Bretta grew up in Winnipeg and has resided in Edmonton for the past fifteen years. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Interior Design in 1992, and from the University of Alberta with a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Design in 1996. Bretta is the resident designer at Catalyst Theatre where she has designed world premieres that have toured internationally to Great Britain, Australia, and the U.S. and across Canada. Bretta also works at The Citadel Theatre, The Canadian Stage Company, Workshop West Theatre, Edmonton Opera, Calgary Opera, The River City Shakespeare Festival, Theatre Calgary and The Globe Theatre. She is the recipient of fifteen Elizabeth Sterling Hayes Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Set, Lighting and Costume Design. She was also honoured with The Enbridge Award for Best Emerging Artist, The Global Woman of Vision Prize and was short-listed for The Siminovitch Prize. Bretta designed a summer home on Devil’s Lake Alberta, and continues her work as an Archaeological Illustrator.

Anick La Bissonniere
Because her initial training at U de M and Lausanne was in architecture and she works in this field with agencies, participating in many projects over the years, Anick La Bissionnière sees the stage not as a host for a simple set, but rather as a space to be imbued and built, something that becomes highly meaningful in the piece. Since 1993, she has designed sets for over forty shows, working with such people as Anne-Marie Théroux (Tsuru, Carbone 14/Th. En l’air, 1999), André Brassard (“Les mains d’Edwidge au moment de la naissance”, Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, 1999), Gilles Maheu (“Silences et cris”, Carbone 14, 2001), Robert Dion (“Moi, moi, moi, DynamO, 2002) and Denise Guilbault, Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon (“La Tempête”, TNM/4dArt, 2004). She has also worked on numerous Omnibus shows, creating the sets for the “Précepteur” (1994) and the “Baronne et la Truie” (1998). Since 1999, she has, in conjunction with Brigitte Haentjens, been part of a creative team that stages performances that attest to an intense artistic complicity. She has put her incomparable stamp on such shows as “Marie Stuart” (TNM, 1999) and “Vivre” (Sibyllines, 2007) to the magnificent “Mademoiselle Julie” (GO, 2001), “Hamlet-machine” (Sibyllines, 2001), “Éden Cinéma” (Sibyllines, 2003), “Farces conjugales” (TRV, 2003), “Médée-Matériau” (Sibyllines, 2004), and “Cloche de verre” (Quat’Sous/Sibyllines 2004). For the texts that appeal to Haentjens, she creates set worlds with pure, stripped, immaculate lines that incorporate translucent surfaces, in which light, often cool, picks out and constructs the spaces the actors move through. She taught set design at UQAM and, since 2003, has been giving graduate courses in architecture at U de M. She was the honorary scenographer for the 40th Prague Quadrennial in 2007. (A text by Hélène Jacques, excerpted from the Dictionnaire des artistes québécois).

Richard Lacroix
Earning his diploma from Montréal’s National Theatre School of Canada in 1983, Richard Lacroix has created 53 sets, as well as designing many props and costumes. Renowned as a designer with a rich and surprising imagination, he places critical importance on artistic exchanges. “For me, a scenographer’s real challenge involves process and human relations. Sharing a vision with a team that is driven by a common goal, creating a living work to give spectators the memory of a unique and luminous moment.” In addition to creating for theatre and contemporary dance, Richard Lacroix designs for puppetry, film, and museum exhibitions. He also teaches scenography at various Québec theatre schools. For him, it is a privilege to pass on his vision of the craft and passion for theatre to up and coming scenographers.

Ken MacDonald
Ken was born in Vancouver and is a graduate of the University of British Columbia with a degree in Art Education. He taught secondary school for five years before .. out of the blue .. being asked to design a show for the Belfry Theatre in Victoria. That was in 1977. He quit teaching and fell into .. and in love with .. set design. He has absolutely no formal training in set design … learned it all on the fly. He is the recipient of several design awards including two Dora Mavor Moore Awards (Toronto), seventeen Jessie Richardson Awards (Vancouver), a Betty Mitchell Award (Calgary), and a Gemini for Production Design for the filmed version of The Overcoat. He is featured, along with six other Canadian designers, in the book entiltled Scenography in Canada .. (his set design for The Overcoat is on the cover.) He lives in Toronto and is married to his partner of 28 years, Morris Panych .. a celebrated playwright, director and actor. Ken is a member of ADC.