Fine arts faculty, students and alumni are simply aDORAble

Faculty, students and alumni from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts had a strong showing at the 30th annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards. The annual event, known in Toronto as the biggest opening night of the year, took place June 29. Outstanding productions in theatre, dance and opera from last season received their accolades at the awards. The star-studded evening was hosted by York alumnus Jian Ghomeshi (BA ’95) at the Winter Garden Theatre on Yonge Street.

Established in 1978 by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), the Doras are the equivalent of New York City’s Tony Awards. Each category, including general theatre, independent theatre, dance, opera and theatre for young audiences, is judged by a volunteer peer jury. This year, a record-breaking 218 productions were considered for Dora Awards.

York alumna Gillian Gallow (BFA Spec. Hons. ’04) took home two awards in the independent theatre category for her set and costume designs for Appetite. An award-winning dance theatre piece, Appetite featured clowns, song, text and dance.

Left: Gillian Gallow accepts her Dora Award

In her gracious acceptance speeches, she acknowledged two of her mentors, who were also contenders in the same category: York theatre Professors Shawn Kerwin and Teresa Przybylski, nominated respectively for costume and set design for Miss Julie: Sheh’mah.

Former theatre student John Thompson received the Dora for his lighting design in Eternal Hydra, a post-modern look at the making of a modernist masterpiece. The play focuses on a long-lost novel, whose pages spark an academic controversy that reaches as far back as the American Civil War. Thompson was also nominated for his set designs for the same show. Eternal Hydra won top honours in the independent theatre category, capturing four awards including outstanding production for Crow’s Theatre.

Each of the winners in the indie category took home $1000 along with their statuettes.

Right: Professor Shawn Kerwin with her husband Peter Tabuns, MPP for Toronto Danforth

In celebration of the award show’s 30th anniversary, TAPA produced a special commemorative publication, The Doras: 30 Years of Theatre, Dance and Opera in Toronto. The book features 29 short essays – one for every past year of the Dora Awards ceremony – written by one of the winners from that year. Among the contributors are Przybylski and several York theatre alumni – actress Rosemary Dunsmore (BA Spec. Hons. ’73); Sky Gilbert (BA ’77), the founding artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre; Richard Rose (BFA Spec. Hons. ’78), artistic director of Tarragon Theatre; Soheil Parsa (BA Spec. Hons. ’89), artistic director of Modern Times Stage Company; and actress and playwright Anusree Roy (BFA Spec. Hons. ’06), a double Dora winner last year for her play Pyaasa (see YFile, July 16, 2008).

More than 20 artists affiliated with York’s Faculty of Fine Arts were nominated for Doras this year.

Weyni Mengesha (BFA Spec. Hons. ’05), a recent Mayor’s Arts Award recipient (see YFile, Oct. 30, 2008), was nominated for directing A Raisin in the Sun. Principal actress Alison Sealy-Smith took home a statuette for her role in the production, and gave great kudos to Mengesha and her vision for the show in her acceptance speech.

Right: Toronto actor Charles Officer and Weyni Mengesha

Acting Up Stage Theatre Company, founded by artistic producer Mitchell Marcus (BA Hons. ’04), was nominated for best production of a musical for A New Brain. Taylor Graham (BA Spec. Hons. ’08) received a nod for co-writing the new opera The Virgin Charlie as part of the Opera to Go series.

Monica Dottor (BFA Hons. ’98) and Richard Lee (BFA Spec. Hons. ’00) were nominated for their principal roles in Scratch and The Forbidden Phoenix respectively. Charlotte Dean (BFA Spec. Hons. ’80), fresh from winning  the 2009 Virginia & Myrtle Cooper Award in Costume Design from the Ontario Arts Foundation, received a Dora nomination for her costume designs for Molière

Left: Richard Lee (left) and Monica Dotter

Christine Horne (BFA Spec. Hons. ’04) received a nod for her performance in Miss Julie: Sheh’mah, a dramatic adaptation of Miss Julie by Swedish playwright August Strindberg. 

Miss Julie: Sheh’mah was produced by her own company, KICK Theatre, and in total, the play received five nominations, a credit to Horne’s assembly of a top-notch creative team for the production.

Right: Christine Horne (left) with her sister Cheryl Horne

Lady in the red dress received a total of seven nominations, including recognition for numerous York theatre alumni. The show’s production nod gave credit to fu-GEN Asian-Canadian Theatre Company and its artistic director, former York theatre student Nina Lee Aquino (who also received a nomination for directing the work), and general manager Richard Lee. Ins Choi (BFA Spec. Hons. ’98) was nominated for performance and Michelle Ramsay (BFA Spec. Hons. ’97) for lighting design.

Alan Dilworth (BEd ’96, MFA ’09) was nominated as one of the directors of The Gladstone Variations, a show comprising four separate plays. 

In the dance category, Karen Kaeja (BFA Spec. Hons. ’84) received a nod for her performance in Long Live and Professor Holly Small (BFA ’77) was nominated for her choreography of Radiant (evanescence:made in canada) (see YFile, April 8).

Right: Alan Dilworth (left) and Marcia Johnson

Commissioned by princess productions, a company founded and led by York dance alumna Yvonne Ng (BFA Spec. Hons. ’87), Radiant also garnered nominations for sound design and composition by John Oswald (BFA ’77) as well as nominations for production and performance.