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Chris Abraham, shown in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2012, is artistic director of Crow's Theatre. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Chris Abraham, shown in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2012, is artistic director of Crow's Theatre. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Director Chris Abraham wins $100,000 Siminovitch theatre prize Add to ...

Theatre director Chris Abraham was already having a very good 2013, but it just got $100,000 better.

On Monday, Mr. Abraham, artistic director of Crow’s Theatre in Toronto, was revealed as this year’s winner of the Siminovitch Prize – the richest award in Canadian theatre.

The honour comes in a year where Mr. Abraham racked up four-star reviews for large-scale productions (Othello at the Stratford Festival) and smaller-scale ones (Winners and Losers in Vancouver and Montreal) – and which began in January with his announcement of ambitious plans to build an $8-million home for Crow’s in Toronto’s east-end Leslieville neighbourhood.

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“It’s a kind of validation for the work that I’ve been doing,” said Mr. Abraham, 38, who won a Dora Award for best director in June. He added: “And the attention is certainly useful in the context of a multimillion-dollar capital campaign.”

A quarter of the money from the Siminovitch Prize – given out in a three-year cycle to mid-career directors, playwrights and designers – is earmarked for a protégé, and Mr. Abraham has selected Mitchell Cushman as his. Mr. Cushman, co-artistic director of Toronto’s Outside the March company, had a notable success last season when his SummerWorks production of Mark O’Rowe’s verse drama Terminus was picked up by producer David Mirvish and presented at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. “I just think he’s great and I wanted to give him this recognition to cheer him on,” Mr. Abraham said.

Mr. Abraham knows just how cheering being named the Siminovitch protégé can be to a young director – it happened to him 12 years ago, when director Daniel Brooks won the inaugural edition of the award. “What came with the prize was [Mr. Brooks’] offer to work together, make this a mentorship,” he recalled. “The most significant thing about the Siminovitch Prize, even more than the amount of the money, is that they’ve embedded the idea of mentorship into the DNA of the prize.”

Mr. Abraham was selected over finalists Marie-Josée Bastien of Quebec City and Benoît Vermeulen of Montreal. Jury chair John Van Burek said he was the unanimous choice of the judges, in part due to his record of paying forward that legacy of mentorship to younger directors like Mr. Cushman, who was recently named as Crow’s Theatre’s first associate artistic director.

As for what Mr. Abraham plans to do with his share of the cash – the father of two has not decided just yet.“I don’t know – the credit line is always screaming to be fed,” he said.

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