2012 Dora Awards Are a Black Tie(s) Affair
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2012 Dora Awards Are a Black Tie(s) Affair

Obsidian Theatre, Acting Up Stage Theatre, and Theatre Passe Muraille are among the big winners in the night's co-produced "bounty."

Actress Arlene Duncan (right) won a Dora last night for her titular role in Caroline, or Change. Photo by Joanna Akyol.

At Monday’s Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Obsidian Theatre’s two-hander drama Top Dog / Underdog earned big wins in the general theatre category: Outstanding Production, Outstanding Performance in a Lead Male Role for Nigel Shawn Williams, and Outstanding Direction for Philip Akin.

Before any of that happened, recent Broadway star and hometown hero, host Thom Allison, tied up his opening monologue by telling the nominees he wanted to “see emotion, people… but keep it under 90 seconds.” Akin’s classy speech did just that, with the seasoned actor and director barely glancing at his notes. He advised the crowd to “accept bounty when it comes.”

The bounty continued for Obsidian in the musical theatre division, where actors Sterling Jarvis and Arlene Duncan won the outstanding male and female lead awards, and their show Caroline, or Change won Outstanding Production, bringing Obsidian’s unofficial Dora award count to eight. Caroline, or Change, which also grabbed an Outstanding Musical Direction nod for Reza Jacobs, was produced by the Acting Up Stage Theatre Company, which also shared a Best Touring Production award with Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville company and Theatre Passe Muraille for the quirky and popular musical Ride The Cyclone, bringing Acting Up Stage’s total to five awards.

Theatre Passe Muraille was the biggest winner in the general theatre division, where Pamela Mala Sinha’s one-woman show Crash earned Outstanding New Play, Outstanding Female Lead, Outstanding Lighting Design (for three-show nominee Kimberly Purtell), and Outstanding Sound design for Sinha’s brother Debashis Sinha. The actress and first-time playwright (who also shared in Nightwood Theatre’s Outstanding Ensemble award for The Penelopiad) gave full credit for her emotionally raw show—about surviving a home invasion—to her collaborators. “A play lives on its artistic realization,” she told us after the ceremony, “and it needs an artistic team, like I had, to fulfill its potential.” Sinha ignored the swelling stage music during her acceptance speech to praise her director, Alan Dilworth. As she said after the awards, “I told him, ‘I don’t have a venue, or anything,’ and he told me, ‘We’ll do Crash on a doorstep if we have to.’ He didn’t even know me. We were speaking on the phone after he’d read the script.”

The all female cast of Nightwood Theatre's The Penelopiad won an ensemble award last night. Photo by Robert Popkin.

Collaboration was the theme for the night, both between companies sharing in “the bounty,” and in the recipient’s acceptance speeches. As one tweet joked, a drinking game could have been made out of the number of times “you can’t do this alone” was said. The tone was set early in the night by Pauline McGibbon Award recipient Ravi Jain, an inventive theatre creator who uses multimedia techniques, international talent, and even his own family (his show with his mother Asha will be remounted in Tarragon Theatre’s next season). Jain, who received a standing ovation, opened by telling the full theatre, “I greet you with so much joy,” and ended his speech with a call and response of “Joy!” Jain explained the origins of the call and response to us at the after-party. “My friend Ian Kamau, the poet and hip-hop artist, does that at concerts, so I asked him, ‘I’m winning this award, can I borrow “joy”?’ He said, ‘Absolutely, go ahead.'”

Surprises for the night included wins by Theatre Smash in the independent theatre category for Outstanding Set Design (by previous Dora winner Camilla Koo) and Outstanding Production for The Ugly One; an Outstanding Performance award in the same category for clowns Morro & Jasp in their show Go Bake Yourself; and a shutout of the phenomenally popular Kim’s Convenience, currently being remounted by Soulpepper Theatre. The controversial ousting of Factory Theatre’s artistic director Ken Gass was only briefly referred to by André du Toit during his acceptance speech for Best Lighting Design for The Double (though Gass’s name elicited generous applause).

For a full listing of all Dora Mavor Moore award winners, visit the Toronto Alliance of Performing Art’s website.