2021 CATR awards | Les Prix de l’ACRT 2021



Dear members of CATR,

It is my great pleasure as President of our organization to officially announce the winners of the 2021 CATR Awards. I would like to thank Keren Zaiontz and Kimberly Skye Richards for their leadership in gathering and spearheading the CATR awards team this year. 

Secondly, I would like to thank each member of every award committee for their hard work, dedication, time and attention to each submission they received, read and discussed. 

Finally, I would like to thank every contestant, artist, researcher, theatre critic, and thinker who submitted their work for this year’s competition. We all know how much labour, love and dedication goes into producing research and publishing; so I hail every writer who sent their work to us this year, and I encourage everybody else across the country and beyond to share their publications with the CATR.

The following is a set of citations prepared by the committees. 

Yana Meerzon 

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Chers et chères membres de l’ACRT,

J’ai le grand plaisir, en tant que présidente de notre organisation, d’annoncer officiellement les récipiendaires des prix de l’ACRT 2021. J’aimerais remercier Keren Zaiontz et Kimberly Skye Richards pour leur leadership dans le rassemblement et la direction de l’équipe des prix de l’ACRT cette année. 

Ensuite, je voudrais remercier chaque membre de chaque comité pour leur travail rigoureux, leur dévouement, le temps et l’attention qu’ils ont consacrés à chaque soumission qu’ils ont reçue, lue et discutée. 

Enfin, je voudrais remercier chaque artiste, chercheur et théoricien qui a soumis son travail pour le concours de cette année. Nous savons toutes et tous la quantité de travail, d’amour et de dévouement que nécessitent la recherche et la publication ; je salue donc tous les auteurs et autrices qui nous ont envoyé leur travail cette année, et j’encourage tous les autres à travers le pays et au-delà à partager leurs publications avec l’ACRT.

Vous trouverez ci-dessous un assortiment de citations préparées par les comités.

Yana Meerzon

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THE CATR 2021 Ann Saddlemyer award 

Committee: Ric Knowles (Chair), Kristin Moriah and VK Preston


“I would like to begin by thanking my fellow members of the Saddlemyer award committee, Kristin Moriah and VK Preston, for their diligence, intelligence, and congeniality. It’s been a great pleasure to work with them.  

One of the most difficult things to consider when writing about performance is reception, and among the most difficult things to do in writing about reception are to move beyond the visual to, in this case, the aural, and beyond the consideration of content to affect and structure. This year’s unanimous winner of the Ann Saddlemyer award does all of this and more, taking into account multiple, irreconcilable listening positionalities concerning, on the one hand, “inclusionary music,” in which Indigenous content is assimilated into Western musical and material structures as raw material, and on the other, “Indigenous+art music,” which foregrounds resistance to integration, the “+” marking the space of listening itself. Dylan Robinson’s Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Sound Studies offers field-changing scholarship that forges essential reckonings between Indigenous studies and performance theory. This beautifully written work is as timely as it is important for understanding the terms and depth of a colonization whose ongoing violence we continue to confront.  

Robinson coins the term “hungry listening” from Halq’emelem words designating the white settler as starving person to inform keen analyses of patterns of appropriation and consumption. Whether in the shapes of inherited disciplines (and institutions) or dominant modes of law, perception, and learning, Robinson situates this work alongside resurgent work by Indigenous musicians, artists, and theorists. Hungry Listening enacts a forceful critique of settler “apathy toward Indigenous structures of performance” and, incisively, the category of performance itself.  

Robinson also engages the form of the book and of scholarship, his “improvisations in structural refusal” addressing (at least) two readerships, including ten pages as “irreconcilable spaces of aboriginality” that non-Indigenous readers are asked not to read, while ceding similar space to non-Indigenous scholars for a dialogue into which he does not intervene. The book also includes several intermedial and generatively disruptive “event scores” consisting of structural alternatives to extractivist, colonialist modes of scholarly writing.  

From courts of law to theatres, orchestras, and museums, this work’s historiographical and theoretically nuanced rigour make it a key text across many practices and disciplines. Robinson studies an “epistemology of relationship” in which relations are not static but remain steeply asymmetrical. Hungry Listening‘s interventions in improvisation, sensation, positionality, and refusal shift sedimented political and disciplinary discourses while reading across practices with tremendous generosity, drawing, not only on a wealth of Indigenous scholarship but also on intersectional, queer, and Black feminist thought, making it clear that, while the concerns of writers and theorists such as Audre Lorde and Fred Moten are not specifically his, their work resonates with Indigenous musical and performance studies, contributing to the building of a lineage of cross-racial, intersectional solidarity. This is rich, “resonant,” and essential reading that comes at a critical time, reimagining decoloniality and movement towards possibilities of reparative listening. Congratulations Dylan Robinson!”

Again, congratulations Dylan. The book is hugely significant, timely, and a great joy to read.

Patrick O’Neill Award 2021

Committee Members: Yasmine Kandil (Chair); Kim Solga; Yvette Nolan; Nikki Cesare Schotzko; Michelle Macarthur

The Committee has unanimously decided to give the award this year to Boca del Lupo, an anthology of Plays2Perform@Home.  The Boca del Lupo play package is a time capsule of the present moment, not only capturing our society as it grapples with issues of race and identity, but the anthology is tailored to address the limitations of enacting and staging creative work during a pandemic.  It is made to be performed at home, with family or as you look over the fence of your backyard and read the roles out with a neighbour or two.  The collection of works is quirky, playful, creative and imaginative, which brilliantly crosses the line between theatre and play.  The contributions in this anthology are by a diverse group of playwrights, who offer a smart play on characters and unusual situations, some weaving in race relations in a clever but not too obvious way.  The topics explored are carefully shaped and framed, where each piece can be seen as an object, as well as a play, as well as a game, all created to address our moment of crisis.

The Committee wished to acknowledge Lighting the Way: an anthology of short plays about the climate crisis by Chantal Bilodeau and Thomas Peterson. Lighting the Way is an accessible, teachable body of work that is suited for a diverse range of ages and backgrounds.  The plays address the climate emergency in a way that is playful but also points to the urgency of enacting change through theatre.  There is a large and diverse group of contributors to this anthology, from all around the world; all looking at the climate emergency through the same medium, theatre, but from different vantage points.  Some contributions explore interesting and compelling subversions of role and power, which help create a shift in perspectives through performance.  It is a well-curated set of plays, created and put together by a group of people who share a common goal of seeing an end to the climate emergency.

CATR Richard Plant Award 2021 

This year, for the first time, the Richard Plant Award focused on short form articles, blog posts, and other substantial pieces of written criticism. In 2022, we will return to long form articles/ book chapters.  

Committee Members: Heather Fitzsimmons Frey (Chair), Colleen Kim Daniher, and Kathleen Irwin

The winner is Jenn Cole’s “Shanty Songs and Echoing Rocks: Upsurges of Memory along Fault Lines of Extraction.” Canadian Theatre Review 182 (Spring 2020): 9-15. 

Jenn Cole’s nuanced article is an exemplar of performative writing, drawing on archive, oral histories, autoethnographic research, family history, speculative history, and thoughtful engagement with the land as a performer.  Using Anishinaabemowin names and words, such as Kiji Sibi (Odenabe/Ontobee River) jiimaan (canoe) is one way Cole strategically demonstrates upsurging of Indigenous presence even as she acknowledges a complicated legacy of both extractive and relational practices.  Cole writes that she traces “layers of memories of relationships”, “witnessing historical forgetting and representational erasure,” and “re-presencing Indigenous histories and cosmologies” (14).  Song, dance, rock painting, and ritual, contribute to an exploration of the River, of human capacity to remember, and embodied performance histories. The depth and breadth of the research, the skillful critical writing in this form, and the style and poetry of this piece are powerful and much needed contributions to complex thinking today.    

Honourable Mentions go to Jill Carter’s “My! What Big Teeth You Have!”: On the Art of Being Seen and Not Eaten.” Canadian Theatre Review 182 (Spring 2020): 16-21.

“What do we [Indigenous peoples] have to do to be seen and not eaten?” (21). This is the crux of Carter’s incisive critical review essay, which pairs Cree artist Kent Monkman’s 2017 exhibition at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto with Chocolate Woman Collective’s 2018 production of Izzie M: The Alchemy of Enfreakment (Wychwood Barns, Toronto) by Kuna/Rappahannock playwright Monique Mojica. Moving beyond a straightforward review of cultural objects, Carter synthesizes an impressive range of critical-historical discourses on visuality, spectatorship, and the Indigenous performing body on view to lay out the Indigenous artist’s dilemma of producing Indigenous appearance— when this appearance continuously runs the risk of extractive consumption by the settler state. By focusing on the historicity of Indigenous performance as violent (as well as resistant), Carter makes an important intervention in our field that centers the experiences of Indigenous cultural producers as agentive makers.

Kimberley McLeod’s “‘Siri, Are you Female?’: Reinforcing and Resisting Gender Norms with Digital Assistants.” Critical Stages//Scènes critiques 21 (June 2020).

Kimberley McLeod’s article discusses home-based performance experiments with voiced digital assistants. The piece is committed to the emergent potential of a provocation, allowing the questions and responses to be iterative, and is absolutely focused in its dedication to asking questions in and through the everydayness of technology. It is impressive as a piece of scholarly, process-based writing, and makes strategic use of the potential afforded by online space by incorporating still images and meaning-rich audio clips from her own primary research.  With a focus on the techno-vocalic “body,” McLeod returns to paradigms of embodiment, and gestures towards issues regarding the performance of gender, labour, and emotional support. Flagging troubling anecdotes, uncomfortable re-inscriptions of misogynist dialogues, and audio clips that elicit an un-easy relationship with the apparently familiar, the article offers an activist’s exploration of timely and emerging questions through performance experiments. 

Prix Jean-Cléo Godin 2021 

Committee Members: Francine Chaîné (chair), Christine Bellerose, Hervé Guay

The winner of this year’s award is  « Beauté, chaleur et mort : dans la parole, au creux du fossile, la survivance de Fée ». L’interprétation du réel : théâtres documentaires au Québec (dir. H. Guay et S. Thibault), Montréal : Nota Bene (2019), 153-180 ; written by Catherine Cyr et Jennifer Bélanger.

Beauté, chaleur et mort : dans la parole, au creux du fossile, la survivance de Fée est un essai abordant la parole testimoniale dans le théâtre documentaire. Créée par Nini Bélanger et Pascal Brullemans du Projet MÛ, la pièce s’inscrit dans une dramaturgie du traumatisme à travers la fictionnalisation de soi née de l’expérience du gouffre, soit la mort d’une enfant du couple quelque temps après sa naissance. Catherine Cyr et Jennifer Bélanger ont dégagé de ce travail deux procédés qui semblent opposés. Ainsi, l’hyperréalisme autofictionnel et la transposition métonymique (159) leur permet de rendre compte de cette pièce documentaire dont les créateurs ont su conserver une retenue et une distance au regard d’une expérience personnelle et douloureuse. Selon elles, le théâtre leur a permis de transcender l’événement et de tenter de réparer l’irréparable en contribuant à une « mise au monde » (157). Le comité reconnait la très grande qualité des assises théoriques et de l’approche méthodologique de cet élégant essai à quatre mains, mais aussi la sobriété et la sensibilité de l’écriture qui montre de quelle manière la scène peut parvenir à « l’imagination de l’inimaginable » (177).

Mention spéciale 2021 

Honourable Mention goes to Diane Joly for her article « De la recherche-action à la conférence spectacle participative: la tradition chantée et dansée en Nouvelle-Acadie ». Rabaska, 18 (2020), 101-114. https://doi.org/10.7202/1072903a

Sur le thème de la conférence-spectacle participative traitant de danse et de chant en Nouvelle-Acadie (région de Lanaudière) et à partir d’une méthodologie ethnographique, Diane Joly décrit le parcours de deux artistes médiateurs, Philippe Jetté et Mélanie Boucher, qui se sont donné la mission de transmettre le patrimoine immatériel de leur territoire. Le projet auquel Joly s’attache s’intitule Chansons et réflexions intimes, dans un salon ouvert! L’autrice rend compte avec minutie et chaleur tant du procédé de la conférence-spectacle participative auquel les artistes recourent que des échanges que cela entraîne dans les familles que visite le couple. Ce texte magnifie la démarche de ces « porteurs de traditions » qui, en une sorte de spectacle total, mêlent théâtre, danse, musique, veillée traditionnelle pour transmettre le patrimoine parfois négligé de la chanson de tradition orale.

CATR honorary member awards 2021 (curated and prepared by Shauna Janssen) 

This year the CATR has the great pleasure of honouring four formidable Canadian Theatre Artists, whose artistic contributions, stories and visions, for more caring, collective, inclusive and diverse world-making, have indelibly marked the landscape of Canadian theatre. We are thrilled to honour and celebrate the following artists:

Playwright Carole Fréchette’s career in theatre has spanned over fifty years, beginning in the early 1970s as co-founder of the Theatre des Cuisines collective, which initially produced feminist plays to celebrate International Women’s Day. Since then, her plays have been produced around the world, translated into over twenty languages, and are published in French by Lémeac/Actes-Sud Papiers, and in English by Playwrights Canada Press. She has also won numerous awards for her dramatic texts, including a Governor General’s award (1995), and the prestigious Siminovitch Prize in playwrighting (2002).

In her plays, she often pits the ordinary human being against the great problems of our day. In her writing and through her characters Carole expresses unabated faith in humanity’s capacity to change the world. Her stories challenge us to look outside ourselves, to leave the comfort of our place as observer and shake off our apathy. And like her characters, invite us and the most ordinary parts of ourselves, to do extraordinary things.

As theatre director Micheline Chevrier has remarked about Carole’s plays – “she makes me believe that the smallest actions and gestures will make ours a better, kinder world. I am irresistibly drawn to her characters who, like me, like most of us, struggle to understand the world in which we live, to find our place in it and to hopefully find a way to contribute in a meaningful way. In Helen’s Necklace, one of the characters says to Helen, ‘We cannot go on living like this,’ a line that then becomes a refrain throughout the rest of the play. I believe Carole wishes to change the world by challenging our indifference and despair.”

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Kendra Fanconi is a theatre director, producer, writer, and performer of new theatrical works. She has received multiple awards for her innovative, community-based, and often site-specific productions which have been created for, and performed in locations as diverse as elevators, trees, and swimming pools. In 2010 she won the Vancouver’s Critic’s Choice Award for her production of NiX, Canada’s first theatre of snow and ice.

It is Kendra’s dedication to and vision for arts-based leadership in the climate movement that also makes her makes her an outstanding artist.  In 2005 she co-founded The Only Animal (with Eric Rhys Miller) a theatre company whose sole mandate is to bring awareness and solutions to the climate crisis through arts-led practices. She has devised countless community-engaged and site-specific performance works to address issues of climate change, and for which her company has received multiple awards. Her work and collaborations are always inventive and highly imaginative; whether by using the crafts of puppetry, or by recycling plastic for costumes, to staging a bicycle ballet, a kayak stampede, or a cruise ship conga line.

Her profound commitment to addressing climate change also involves her advocacy work with the David Suzuki Foundation, where she leads the Artist Brigade – an initiative that focuses on storytelling as a vehicle for climate action. She has also been a keynote speaker on issues of climate change for the 2019 Climate Narratives conference at Simon Fraser University, as well as the 2020 National Arts Centre’s Greenroom conversations.

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In 1984, Soheil Parsa arrived in Canada, having just fled the Islamic revolution, in his native Iran where he trained as a theatre director. He continued to pursue that training at Toronto’s York University, where he studied the intersection of Western modernist theatre with ancient and contemporary Persian performance. In 1989 he co-founded Modern Times Stage Company (with Peter Farbridge) where, for more than three decades, he remained the artistic director, directing and producing award winning productions. It is also through his artistic direction of Modern Times where Soheil has consistently invested his time and energy in making space for the mentoring of numerous emerging Canadian theatre artists.

Soheil has been twice shortlisted for the prestigious Siminovitch Prize for directing, has won countless Toronto Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a Chalmers Fellowship, and many other national and international distinctions for his outstanding direction and deeply intercultural productions with collaborators in countries such as Bosnia, Cuba, Colombia, Iran, among others.

Professor Emeritus and theatre scholar Ric Knowles, former editor of Theatre Journal, Modern Drama and Canadian Theatre Review, as well as long-time collaborator of Soheil’s, has described Soheil’s theatre practice and aesthetic as “profoundly intercultural in ways that transcend instrumentalist gestures to official multiculturalism as a way of currying favour or funds . . . . directly address[ing] difficult contemporary negotiations across cultures . . . . Every Soheil Parsa rehearsal room is a mini-United Nations, a gathering of extraordinary (often newly arrived or emerging) artists from a wide range of cultures within Canada, who bring with them different aesthetics, epistemologies, and performance disciplines.” 

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Metis/Ojibway playwright and author Ian Ross is a ground-breaking artist whose contribution to Canadian theatre has made visible the critical presence of Indigenous artists. A graduate of the Film and Theatre program at the University of Manitoba, for over three decades Ian has written for numerous Canadian media including theatre, film, television and radio. Ian endeared himself to a diverse national community through his character “Joe from Winnipeg,” which ran on CBC radio and television, and whose commentaries included everything from the stock market, Indigenous land claims, the federal budget, and Christmas cake.

In 1996 his play fareWel  – a dark comedy about First Nations life on a fictional reserve – garnered him national attention on the theatre scene, as well the 1997 Governor General’s Award for English Drama – making Ian the first Indigenous playwright to receive such an award. Since then, his numerous plays have been produced coast to coast at most Canadian regional theatres. He was is also the recipient of the 1996 John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer, and the 1999 James Buller Award.

Through his remarkable work as a writer, educator and media personality, Ian has become an important mentor and leader in the Manitoba theatre community through his work to encourage principles of reconciliation and resurgence, and lifting up the artistic and creative voices of its Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour.

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