York Fine Arts grads win big at Dora Awards

Christopher House photo

Known as Toronto’s “biggest opening night of the year”, the annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards show, organized by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), is a glittering affair celebrating the top theatre and dance productions of the previous season and the artists who make them happen.

This year’s edition of the Doras, held Monday, June 25, brought a capacity crowd to the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Elena Mosoff, associate producer, and Mitchell Marcus, artistic producer, Acting Up Stage CompanyLawrence Centre for the Arts, overflowing onto Front Street for the after party. As always, York talent from the Faculty of Fine Arts shared the spotlight.

Elena Mosoff, associate producer, and Mitchell Marcus, artistic producer, Acting Up Stage Company

Fine arts cultural studies alumnus Mitchell Marcus (BA’04), artistic producer of Acting Up Stage Company, walked across the stage twice, picking up the award for the best touring production for Ride the Cyclone, his co-production with Theatre Passe Muraille, and best musical theatre production for Caroline, or Change, which Acting Up produced in association with Obsidian Theatre Company. Caroline, the story of a black maid working for a Southern Jewish family, also took the prize for musical direction, plus two awards for outstanding performance. The play went into the Doras with a record 10 nominations, including one for choreography and a performance nod for York theatre alumna and veteran Shaw Festival actor Deborah Hay (BFA ’95).

Another artistic director with multiple awards is York dance alumna Yvonne Ng (BFA ‘87), whose company, princess productions, netted two of the four awards given in the dance division. Its show, Soupe du Jour, one of NOW magazine’s top 5 dance picks for 2011, won for both choreography and sound composition. Princess productions’ Excerpts from a Wet Summer was also nominated in the performance category. Ng herself has received eight Dora nominations as a photo of Christopher Houseperformer and choreographer over the years.

Christopher House

Dance alumnus Christopher House(BFA ’79),artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre and one of the country’s most respected dance artists, was presented with the Silver Ticket Award for his contributions to dance in Canada. The Silver Ticket is bestowed annually on an individual who has excelled in his or her own career while also nurturing the development of Canadian theatre. House, the first dance artist to be recognized in the award’s 32 year history, was selected by a committee of previous winners who include such luminaries of Toronto’s performing arts scene as David Mirvish, Sky Gilbert (BA ’77), George Luscombe and Marlene Smith. The award entitles House to a pair of tickets to any TAPA member company production for life.

Theatre alumni Heather Marie Annis (BFA ’05, MES ’07), Amy Lee (BA’05) and Byron Laviolette (BA ’04), the collective behind the clown act Morro and Jasp, are currently on tour and were therefore unavailable to caper across the stage to pick up their ensemble performance award for Morro and Jasp: Go Bake Yourself. Their madcap culinary comedy was also nominated for outstanding production and outstanding new play or musical in the indie theatre division.

Announced at the Dora Awards nominations press conference June 5, Richard Rose (BFA ’78), artistic director of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, was honoured with the Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award, given to a Canadian artist who demonstrates excellence in the performing arts and is an ambassador for the arts in Canada. With this award, Rose joins a distinguished group of recipients, including legendary Canadian artists William Hutt, Don Harron, Martha Burns and Karen Kain. It’s just the latest in a long list of distinctions for Rose, following on the prestigious Walter Carsen Prize he headshot of Richard Rosewas awarded last year (see YFile’s September 29, 2011 issue).

Richard Rose

Rose’s company was a multiple Dora nominee this year. York theatre Professor Teresa Przybylski was in the running for outstanding set design for Tarragon’s The Golden Dragon, which also got nods for production and direction. The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, directed by Weyni Mengesha (BFA ’05), picked up nods for performance, lighting design and sound design/composition.

The list of nominees was studded with a host of other York alumni. Playwright Ins Choi (BFA ’98) was up for best new play for his smash hit Kim’s Convenience (also directed by Mengehsa), which is currently enjoying an extended second run at Soulpepper Theatre. Alan Dilworth (BEd ’96, MFA ’09) was nominated for directing Crash, Christine Horne (BFA ’04) for her starring role in Andromache and Monica Dottor (BFA ’98) as choreographer for the critically-acclaimed Penelopiad, written by Margaret Atwood. Angelwalk Theatre, helmed byBrian Goldenberg (BFA ’04, MBA ’08), had shows vying for best new musical and outstanding general manager of princess productions Jennifer Bennett, Phillippe Noireault (music), Lina Cruz (choreography), and in front, Yvonne Ng, artistic director of princess productions, are Dora winners for princess productions’ Soupe du Jourproduction. Melee Hutton (MFA ’05), who teaches acting  in York’s Department of Theatre, got a nod for her performance in Brothers Karamazov, which also netted a nomination for set designer Andrea Mittler (BFA ’02).

From left at back, general manager of princess productions Jennifer Bennett, Phillippe Noireault (music), Lina Cruz (choreography), and in front, Yvonne Ng, artistic director of princess productions, are Dora winners for princess productions’ Soupe du Jour

Lighting designer Jason Hand (BFA ’05) was nominated for his work on The Ugly One, and Meegwun Fairbrother and Richard Lee for their performances in The Great Mountain and The Never Ending Story,respectively.

In the weeks leading up to the Dora Awards, the Toronto Theatre Critics’ Association revealed their picks for the best of 2011-12. Caroline, or Change took three awards in the musical category, including best supporting actress for Hay. Choi’s Kim’s Convenience won best Canadian play and best actor, and Tarragon Theatre’s Canadian premiere production of The Golden Dragon, whose cast included Anusree Roy (BA ’06), was named best international play.