York alumnus Richard Rose wins $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize

For 30 years York theatre alumnus and Toronto theatre director Richard Rose (BFA Spec. Hons. ’78) has brought new and award-winning plays to life on stage.

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, the Canada Council for the Arts announced that Rose will receive the 2011 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts. The $50,000 annual prize, administered and presented by the Canada Council for the Arts, recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievement by Canadian artists who have spent the major part of their career in Canada in dance, theatre or music.

York alumnus Richard Rose, artistic director of Tarragon TheatreRight: York alumnus Richard Rose, artistic director of Tarragon Theatre, has won the $50,000 Walter Carsen prize. Photograph: Cylla von Tiedemann/Canada Council

“Richard Rose’s artistic vision and directorial strength continue to move audiences year after year,” said Robert Sirman, director and CEO of the Canada Council. “His intense passion for interpreting and presenting stories in new and creative ways aligns perfectly with what Walter Carsen intended for this prize.”

Nominator Peter Hinton, artistic director of the National Art Centre’s English Theatre, said, “Richard Rose encourages us to understand our own plays amidst the repertoire of contemporary works from the world stage. His work demonstrates an inherent understanding of the theatre’s power to speak to us and transform the way in which we see our world.”

For Rose, news of the prize was particularly wonderful. “The Walter Carsen Prize was awarded for a body of work and news that I had received the prize caused an instant reflection back in time about my work,” he said. “It is gratifying because this kind of recognition from the Canada Council for the Arts offers encouragement at a time when many working in the theatre in this city have been characterized as ‘gala-goers’. Those of us who work in the theatre do make an important contribution to society. It is an honour because Walter Carsen has done so much for the arts in Canada and this prize says there is value in my work.”

Rose said that he will use the proceeds from the award to see new and established plays in other parts of Canada, the United States and abroad.

He hopes the news of the prize will serve to inspire up-and-coming directors. “Stay true to yourself and your sense of humanity. Keep your vision through time. Keep evolving, working and don’t stop,” he said. “The journey of a director is one of continued learning.”

The peer assessment committee described Richard Rose as an innovator whose significant impact as director has helped shape the theatrical landscape in Canada and abroad.

Rose is the artistic director of Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. Prior to joining the Tarragon in 2002, he was founding artistic director at Necessary Angel for 24 years, where he directed more than 30 plays. He has also held directing positions with Canadian Stage, Stratford’s Young Company and was with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival for 10 seasons. Notable productions include Forests, Betrayal, Courageous, Another Home Invasion, Scorched, Léo, Humble Boy, No Great Mischief, simpl, Remnants, It’s All True, Inexpressible Island, Seven Lears, Glenn, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, Coriolanus, The Castle, Prague, Mein and Tamara.

Rose is well-known for developing new work, including four plays that won a Governor General’s Literary Award, as well as nine others that were finalists. He is a four-time Dora award-winner for direction and production. Rose has also directed productions for several opera companies and in 2001, he was appointed an adjunct professor in the York University Theatre Program. In 1998 he received a doctorate of sacred letters from Thorneloe University, Sudbury, Ontario.

The Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts was created through a donation of $1.1 million to the Canada Council by Toronto businessman and philanthropist Walter Carsen.

In 2005, Walter Carsen and his son, internationally renowned stage director Robert Carsen, were awarded honorary doctorates by York University at the spring convocation ceremony of the Faculty of Fine Arts. The honours were given in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to the arts