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Maiko Yamamoto and James Long, co-founders of Vancouver’s Theatre Replacement, are the recipients of this year’s Siminovitch Prize for their innovative and influential work as directors.

Stephen Drover/Handout

For the first time in its 19-year history, Canada’s richest theatre award has been given to an artistic duo: Maiko Yamamoto and James Long, co-founders of Vancouver’s Theatre Replacement, are the recipients of this year’s Siminovitch Prize for their innovative and influential work as directors.

The pair will receive $75,000 of the $100,000 prize, with $25,000 going to their chosen protégé, Vancouver director-creator Conor Wylie.

“Yamamoto and Long are trailblazers whose influence is felt in their home community of Vancouver, across the country and around the world,” the chair of the Siminovitch jury, Vanessa Porteous, said in a statement. “There is just nobody quite like them in the country.”

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Porteous said the jury chose to award them as a team because “collaboration is the first principle of their art making.”

Yamamoto, speaking to The Globe and Mail prior to Thursday’s announcement, said the prize was a validation of the duo’s unconventional approach to theatre.

“Jamie and I have always considered ourselves outliers – it’s the thing you have to tell yourself as an experimental artist,” she said. “So to be recognized in this way really makes me feel part of the national theatre scene in a way that I hadn’t experienced before.”

Long and Yamamoto met as theatre students at Simon Fraser University in the 1990s and went on to co-found Vancouver’s Boca del Lupo company, before leaving it to start Theatre Replacement in 2003.

“A lot of the theatre that we were seeing in Vancouver didn’t reflect what we were as people or as artists,” Long explained, so they set out to replace it.

“We were ridiculously bold,” added Yamamoto, laughing.

The pair first grabbed attention on the national scene in 2007 with Sexual Practices of the Japanese, which toured to the Magnetic North Festival in Ottawa and Factory Theatre in Toronto.

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Since then, working both together and separately, they’ve created and produced a series of theatrical adventures, from the extremely intimate BIOBOXES – involving one actor and one audience member – to 100% Vancouver, a performance that put 100 everyday citizens onstage. Their fearless works have included the unsettling (and highly acclaimed) Winners and Losers, a two-man game exploring the ruthless capitalist mindset.'

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