Black was the new black at the Dora Mavor Moore awards on Monday night, as Obsidian Theatre dominated Toronto’s annual theatre, dance and opera awards.
Canada’s leading black theatre company was the big winner in both the play and musical theatre categories with a pair of co-productions of challenging contemporary American works.
Topdog/Underdog, Suzan-Lori Parks’ sharp 2001 two-hander about African-American brothers named Lincoln and Booth, was named outstanding production of a play, beating out such high-profile competition as the international stage hit War Horse.
Obsidian artistic director Philip Akin was given the gong for best director for his work on the production, which was originally staged at the Shaw Festival before traveling to Toronto. Nigel Shawn Williams received a Dora for best actor for his portrayal of a one-time street hustler working as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator.
Meanwhile, Caroline, or Change – produced by Acting Up Stage Company in association with Obsidian – received the award for outstanding production of a musical. Cast members Arlene Duncan and Sterling Jarvis were named best actress and actor in a musical, for their performances in Tony Kushner’s sung-through musical about a African-American maid struggling in 1963 Louisiana.
Acting Up Stage Company picked up an additional award for best touring production for bringing Atomic Vaudeville’s hilarious hit musical about an undead high-school choir, Ride the Cyclone, to Theatre Passe Muraille.
The big surprise of the evening came when Pamela Mala Sinha’s Crash was named best new play over Ins Choi’s sold-out Soulpepper comedy Kim’s Convenience.
Sinha also picked up the best actress award for her harrowing performance in the solo show that explores the aftermath of a brutal rape.
Mirvish’s all-Canadian production of War Horse did not ride out of the Dora empty-hooved; it won for best costume design (for Handspring Puppet Company’s extraordinary puppet horses) and best choreography (for Toby Sedgwick’s “horse” movement).
While Canadian Stage was shut out in the general theatre division, its presentation of choreographer Crystal Pite’s Dark Matters was named outstanding dance production. Lina Cruz and Fila 13 Productions’s Soupe du Jour was honoured for outstanding original choreography.
In the independent theatre division, Theatre Smash’s production of The Ugly One was named best production, while Jules Lewis’s absurdist comedy about jealousy, Tomasso’s Party, was named best play.
Last but not least, in the opera division, the Canadian Opera Company’s presentation of Iphigenia in Tauris was named the best of the year.
For the entire list of Dora winners, visit tapa.ca/doras.