Five playwrights have been shortlisted for the 2020 Siminovitch Prize, the $100,000 Canadian theatre award that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Carmen Aguirre is the westernmost of the finalists. The Vancouver-based playwright is a core artist with the Electric Company Theatre for which she recently wrote Anywhere But Here, which was celebrated as “the largest Latinx piece to receive its world premiere on a Canadian mainstage.”
Aguirre’s other plays include Chile Con Carne, The Refugee Hotel, The Trigger, Blue Box and Broken Tailbone – and her other talents include writing for the page (Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter won CBC Reads in 2012).
The place known to some as Mohkinstsis and others as Calgary is home to two of the shortlisted writers.
Tara Beagan, who describes herself as a “proud Ntlaka’pamux and Irish ‘Canadian’ halfbreed,” is the cofounder of the Indigenous activist arts company ARTICLE 11 with Andy Moro. Her recent plays include the solo show Deer Woman, which had an international tour interrupted by the pandemic, and the family drama Honour Beat, which opened Theatre Calgary’s 2018-2019 season and went on to win the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama.
Karen Hines, an artist recently associated with One Yellow Rabbit and Alberta Theatre Projects, has had a multi-faceted career in theatre. The darkly comic writer regularly returns to her cult narcissistic bouffon character Pochsy, star of her Governor General’s Literary Award-nominated The Pochsy Plays, and her other works for the stage include Hello...Hello (A Romantic Satire), Drama: Pilot Episode and a true-life horror story about Toronto real estate called Crawlspace.
The two other nominees are French-language playwrights based in Montreal.
Martin Bellemare has established an international career in the decade since he won the Prix Gratien Gélinas, an emerging writer award, for Le Chant de Georges Boivin in 2009. His play Moule Robert premiered simultaneously in Saguenay, Que., and Geneva in 2017 before bring produced in Paris, while his theatre for young audiences shows Un château sur le dos and Des pieds et des mains have toured in Canada and abroad.
Annick Lefebvre has been a finalist for the Prix Michel-Tremblay twice, for Ce samedi il pleuvait (2013), J’accuse (2015), and was the Quebec playwriting prize’s most recent winner for ColoniséEs (2019). She’s no stranger to the Siminovitch Prize - having been named the protégé of winner Olivier Choinière back in 2014.
The Siminovitch Prize is awarded to a playwright, director or designer on a three-year cycle – with the winner receiving $75,000 and passing along the remaining $25,000 to one or more protégées.
That amount of money may not go quite as far now as it did in 2001 when director Daniel Brooks was the inaugural recipient, but it still remains the richest prize in Canadian theatre and has delivered a major boost to the profiles of the mid-career artists who have won it.
This year’s winner of the Siminovitch Prize, named in honour of the scientist Lou Siminovitch and the late playwright Elinore Siminovitch, will be announced in a national, virtual ceremony on November 26 at 7p.m. ET.
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