Playwright Marcus Youssef has been named the 2017 recipient of the Siminovitch Prize, Canada’s most prestigious prize in Theatre.
This year marks the 17th year of the Prize, which was celebrated at a ceremony today in the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Centre, hosted by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Anne-Marie Cadieux.
The award of $100,000 is the largest theatre prize in Canada. Mr. Youssef will receive $75,000 and Christine Quintana, whom he has chosen as his protege, will receive $25,000.
Mr Youssef was one of four talented playwrights on this year’s shortlist, which also included Evelyne de la Cheneliere, Hannah Moscovitch, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard.
“The jury was thrilled by the quality of the vast majority of this year’s nominations,” said Jury Chair Bob White.
“The final deliberations were intense, but in awarding the Prize to Marcus Youssef, we were absolutely delighted to be able to celebrate a mid-career artist whose work was already of the highest calibre and was, in fact, changing the face of Canadian theatre.”
Marcus Youssef has written and co-written some of Canada’s best-known theatrical investigations of otherness and difference, including “Winners and Losers,” “King Arthur’s Night” (which recently played at the NAC as part of the Canada Scene Festival), just to name a few.
His works have been performed across North America, Australia and Europe, and published by Talonbooks and Playwrights Canada Press.
Awards include Canada Council Lynch-Staunton Award, Rio-Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award, Chalmers Award, Arts Club Silver Commission, Vancouver Critics’ Choice (three times), a Governor General’s Literary nomination, and numerous Jessie Richardson Awards, Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Montreal English Theatre Awards and nominations.
Marcus is Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Neworld Theatre, and co-founder of the artist-run production centre, PL1422.
In 2016 and 2017 he was Senior Playwright-in-Residence at the Banff Playwrights Colony.
Marcus is Editorial Advisor to Canadian Theatre Review, Canadian Fellow to the International Society for Performing Arts and Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.
“The Siminovitch Prize is an extraordinary commitment to Canadian theatre and theatre artists. There is simply no other award like it, in terms of prestige and also the practical difference it can make for nominees and winner.
This is especially critical because it honours artists in midlife, when I think many of us begin to wonder about our choice to become artists in the first place and about what may happen to us and our families as we age. The Siminovitch Prize is a bold, powerful antidote to these pressures,” acknowledged Mr. Youssef.
“It honours the idea that it might make sense for us to dare to think it is legitimate to be working artists through our whole lives. This is the sign of a mature culture. As the tiny neighbours of the world’s dominant power, I believe we must be unafraid to mythologize ourselves, fiercely and unapologetically.
This is precisely what the Siminovitch Prize permits us to do.”
This year, Mr Youssef selected Christine Quintana as protege. Ms Quintana is an actor, playwright, and co-Artistic Producer of Vancouver based indie theatre company Delinquent Theatre.
Christine has worked in multiple capacities with a variety of organizations including the Arts Club Theatre Company, Ruby Slippers Theatre, Pi Theatre, Rumble Theatre and the Electric Company Theatre.
Christine’s plays include “Selfie” (commissioned by Theatre la Seizieme, premiered in March 2015, winner of the Sidney Risk Prize for Outstanding Script by an Emerging Playwright), “Our Time” and “Stationary: A Recession-Era Musical” (toured to Talk is Free Theatre and the Cultch in April 2015, winner of the Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Outstanding Musical, Small Theatre) for which she also served as producer and performer.
Currently, Christine is working on “Never The Last,” a collaboration with violinist Molly MacKinnon about the life and works of Canadian composer Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatte.
Christine is the Marketing & Operations Coordinator for Neworld Theatre, and the Program Assistant for the LEAP Program at the Arts Club. She holds a BFA in Acting from the University of British Columbia.
Describing her reaction to hearing she was chosen as Mr Youssef’s protege, Ms Quintana stated, “I haven’t quite wrapped my brain around what it means to be a Siminovitch protege, but I know this – I hope to repay the tremendous generosity I’ve received through my contributions to the arts community in Canada, both as a theatre artist and as a dedicated supporter of the nation’s artists.”
“This year’s finalists each exemplify the spirit of excellence and innovation that the Siminovitch Prize seeks to recognize. They are profoundly talented and we are proud to highlight their creativity and artistic contributions.
Now in its 17th year, the Prize has been a catalyst to a generation of Canadian theatre artists,” said Dr. Kathy Siminovitch, Board Chair.
“This year’s Prize goes to a playwright, which is particularly meaningful to our family as the Prize was established to honour both my father, Lou, and my late mother, Elinore, who was a pioneering playwright in her time.
On behalf of my family and our Board of Directors, I congratulate all the finalists and thank the jury, TD Bank and all our supporters, as well as our partners at the National Arts Centre and Hart House at the University of Toronto, for their dedication to the spirit and intent of the Siminovitch Prize.”