A historic production of David Freeman's 1971 Canadian play Creeps was one of the three big winners at the 35th annual Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards in Vancouver Monday night. The play – written by Freeman, who lived with cerebral palsy, on a typewriter he operated with a mouth-held stylus – was mounted by Realwheels, a theatre company with a mandate to produce performances that deepen audience understanding of the disability experience. The production featured an integrated cast of seven that included three actors who live with disability. Creeps won three Jessies, including outstanding production in the small theatre category.
The Arts Club Theatre Company's production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches also received three awards, including outstanding production in the large theatre category; Bard on the Beach's production of Pericles won three awards, including best director for Lois Anderson; and Touchstone Theatre's Brothel #9 won three awards with a fourth going to Rohit Chokhani, artistic director of Diwali Fest, where the play was presented. He received the award for significant artistic achievement in the large theatre category for "outstanding work in expanding the diversification of Vancouver theatre through excellence in festival programming."
The youngest winner of the night was Valin Shinyei, 16, named best supporting actor for large theatre for Billy Elliot.
The awards for best actress in the large theatre category both went to Brothel #9 – Adele Noronha for lead actress and Laara Sadiq for supporting actress.
Damien Atkins won best actor for Angels in America. The third award for the production went to Torquil Campbell and Alessandro Juliani for sound design or original composition.
Brothel #9's third award went to Drew Facey for set design.
Pericles also won for costume design (Carmen Alatorre) and lighting (John Webber).
In the small theatre category, Creeps also won the award for significant artistic achievement for its ensemble cast, and Lauchlin Johnston won for set design.
Best actress went to Alexandra Lainfiesta for Solo Collective's Green Lake, best actor to Kyle Jespersen for Bleeding Heart Theatre's The Fighting Season, best supporting actor to Ashley O'Connell for the Slamming Door Artist Collective's Flare Path and best supporting actress to Yoshié Bancroft for Ithaka, produced by dream of passion productions and Excavation Theatre.
Rachel Peake won best director in the small theatre category for Green Lake.
Dorothy Dittrich won the award for outstanding original script for The Piano Teacher at the Arts Club and the Georgia Straight Critics' Choice Innovation Award went to Fight with a Stick for Revolutions. The Vancouver NOW Representation and Inclusion Award went to Chris Gatchalian "for producing an extraordinary 16/17 season that included Q2Q, the first ever theatre conference in Canada, which embraced intersections of queerness and cultural diversity with vision and integrity."
The Little Onion Puppet Company's Freddie in the Neighbourhood won outstanding production in the theatre for young audiences category.