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article image‘Jerusalem’, ‘Life After’, ‘Orphée’ dominate this year’s Doras Special

By Jeff Cottrill     Jun 26, 2018 in Entertainment
Toronto - It was an evening of rampant rule-breaking at the thirty-ninth Dora Mavor Moore Awards last night – the annual ceremony recognizing the best in Toronto theatre – as winners littered the stage with random F-bombs and overlong speeches.
Not that anyone seemed to mind, in the relatively casual atmosphere at the Winter Garden Theatre. The audience was instructed early on to hold their applause for nominees until every one in the category had been announced, but that rule was soon invalidated. Ditto for the one-minute time limit for acceptance speeches. Michaela Washburn refused to be played off by the band and insisted on taking two minutes as she accepted the Dora for Outstanding Female Performance (General Theatre) as the iconic Métis leader Louis Riel in Soulpepper’s Confederation & Riel.
A Métis herself, Washburn paid homage to the arts community by quoting Riel in the second minute of her speech: “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”
The awards were dominated by Jez Butterworth’s trailer-park drama Jerusalem in the General Theatre categories and Life After, Britta Johnson’s musical about a daughter’s revelations about her late father, in the Musical Theatre categories. Both productions won six competitive awards each, including Outstanding Production in their respective genres; Jerusalem also received the Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award, chosen by public votes.
Not far behind was Orphée, an electronic reinvention of the Gluck/Berlioz classic Orphée et Eurydice, which won five Doras in the Opera categories, including Outstanding Opera Production. The show was a co-production by Against the Grain Theatre with Banff Centre of Arts and Opera Columbus.
But Orphée was not the only opera with an impressive showing. The Overcoat, Canadian Stage’s revival of the Morris Panych/Wendy Gorling adaptation of the famous Gogol story, nabbed three awards, including Outstanding Male Performance (Geoffrey Sirett), Lighting Design and Scenic Design in the Opera categories.
Jerusalem’s wins also included Outstanding Male Performance for Kim Coates, known to TV audiences for his role on Sons of Anarchy, as well as Outstanding Direction for Mitchell Cushman, Ensemble Performance, Lighting Design and Sound Design/Composition, all in the General categories. Life After also won for Outstanding Female Performance (Tracy Michailidis), Direction (Robert McQueen), Ensemble Performance and Musical Direction in the Musical categories, plus Outstanding New Musical/Opera.
Orphée’s other honours included Outstanding Female Performance (Marcy Richardson), Ensemble Performance, Choreography, and Costume Design in the Opera categories.
Other major winners: Bears, which received Outstanding Production and New Play in the Independent Theatre categories; Until the Lions, which won Outstanding Production in Dance; Instant, named Outstanding Production in Theatre for Young Audiences; Bearing, deemed Outstanding Touring Production; Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, which received Outstanding New Play and Sound Design/Composition in General Theatre; and De La Raiz (From the Root), nabbing Outstanding Male Performance (Juan Ogalia), Lighting Design and Sound Design/Composition in Dance.
“This was my first professional production,” said the ceremony’s first winner, Max Haynes, who won for Outstanding Male Performance (Independent) for his role in Annie Baker’s The Aliens. Haynes made his debut in the Coal Mine Theatre play after training at New York’s William Esper Studio.
Another memorable early moment came from Raven Dauda, winner of Outstanding Female Performance (Independent) for the rehab-facility-set drama Addicted. “Millions of people suffer from addictions,” Dauda said in her acceptance speech. “If you see one of us, give us a hug.”
Actor, director and producer Sarah Conn received the Pauline McGibbon Award for Unique Talents and Potential for Excellence. “Change is completely unavoidable. It’s inevitable,” Conn said, referencing the cultural shifts currently going on in the arts world and beyond.
The Silver Ticket Award, a lifetime-achievement prize, went to veteran actor David Fox, acclaimed for decades of Canadian stage and TV roles, from Road to Avonlea to the original production of Michael Healey’s classic The Drawer Boy.
The show was hosted by Astrid Van Wieren, a cast member of the original Toronto production of Come from Away (a multiple Dora winner last year) and currently starring in the same role on Broadway. Halfway through the ceremony, Van Wieren teamed up with Lisa Horner – who has taken over the former’s Come from Away role in Toronto – for a mashup of a number from the show with Parachute Club’s “Rise Up”.
“I’ve been doing some form of awards hosting in my room since I was eight,” Van Wieren noted in her opening monologue, which included anecdotes about meeting Henry Winkler and Sophie Trudeau, as well as acknowledgement of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
The early winners included plenty of no-shows, quickening the pace of the first half. “He is at home staggering under the weight of his own genius,” presenter Coates quipped about Ken MacDonald, an absentee who won for Scenic Design for The Overcoat.
The complete list of last night’s winners is available online here.
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