The first recipient of Canada's single largest arts prize is Toronto theatre director Daniel Brooks, it was announced last night at a ceremony at the University of Toronto.
Brooks, 43, was named the inaugural recipient of the Elinore and Lou Siminovitch Prize in Canadian Theatre, worth $100,000. The award, to be handed out annually, was created in January of this year to recognize an artist in mid-career "who has contributed significantly to the fabric of theatrical life through a total body of work."
Directors, playwrights and designers (set, costume, lighting, sound) are to be considered in repeating three-year cycles, with each winner receiving $75,000 in cash and designating the remaining $25,000 to a protégé or institution (theatrical or educational) of their choice.
A five-person jury, headed by Canadian writer and Toronto theatre director Urjo Kareda, chose Brooks because of "his depth of commitment, intellectual discipline and brilliant stagecraft . . . He is, in every way, an independent artist, consciously and proudly using the stage as an arena for moral debate and theatrical wonder."
Brooks has worked in many aspects of the theatre. As a playwright, with Guillermo Verdecchia, he was shortlisted for the 1992 Governor-General's Award for English-language drama for The Noam Chomsky Lectures. He's been an actor and a producer.
But it's as a director that he has enjoyed the most recognition. He's been nominated for eight Doras -- the professional-theatre awards given out annually in Toronto -- and won three times.
Among his more recent successes as a director are The Drowsy Chaperone by Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison, Don McKellar and Bob Martin; Betrayal by Harold Pinter; Endgame by Samuel Beckett; John Mighton's Possible Worlds;Wallace Shawn's The Designated Mourner;and The Soldier Dreams by Daniel MacIvor.
Brooks has also written with MacIvor on at least two other occasions, including Monster,another work nominated for a G-G, and Here Lies Henry.
At the Siminovitch ceremony at U of T's Hart House Theatre, Brooks announced that he would be giving the $25,000 protégé prize to fellow Toronto director Chris Abraham.
Abraham's acclaimed directing credits include The Kabbalistic Psychoanalysis of Adam R. Tzaddik; After the Dance;and, most recently, The Vindication of Senyora Clito Mestres.
The Siminovitch prize is named after Lou Siminovitch, one of Canada's major research scientists in the field of cancer, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy; and his wife, Elinore, who wrote an estimated 30 plays in her time, 12 of which were produced. She died in 1995.
Twelve institutions and families created the prize in the Siminovitches' name. Among them: Sandra and Joseph Rotman, Judy and Larry Tanenbaum, Elizabeth and Tony Comper, the Bank of Montreal, the University of Toronto Foundation and the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation.
Deadline for nominations for the 2002 prize is May 4. Nominees must be playwrights.