by Dave Ross
Last night was the Toronto theatre event of the season, the 2012 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, held at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. It’s a time of celebration, where the theatre community takes a “dark night” and recognizes the achievements of the many talented actors, performers, directors, choreographers and composers that call Toronto home. The awards, in their 33rd year, honour productions in five major categories: General Theatre, Independent Theatre, Theatre for Young Audience, Dance and Opera.
If there is one thing that Toronto knows how to do, it’s throw one hell of a party for the arts. CharPo was lucky enough to be invited to the VIP Cocktail Reception in the Sony Centre before the awards ceremony, giving us a chance to mix and mingle with the nominees and jurors. Fellow contributor Beat Rice and I spent the first part of the evening meeting many fine nominees, every one of which was excited to be there. We also ran into some old faces, and found contributor Jasmine Chen amongst the crowd as well. With a brass band on the street and the Dora Girls (my name for them) dancing and getting the crowd energized, it was a wonderful start to the evening. We met Nicole Underhay, nominated for Outstanding Performance, General Theatre Division for The Small Room at the Top of Stairs, many of the cast of Seussical the Musical at Young People’s Theatre, and director Ashlie Corcoran, nominated for Outstanding Direction, Independent Theatre Division for The Ugly One. It was a real pleasure to see her win later on in the evening. We also spotted friendly faces in Gideon Arthurs, directing his last Fringe here in Toronto before moving on to become manager of Tarragon, and saw Ken Gass (formerly of Factory Theatre) as well.
After the reception, the crowd was moved to the Bluma Appel Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre, and the ceremony got started. Host Thom Allison (performing currently as Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime at the Shaw Festival) did an excellent job. A humorous dance number, complete with back up dancers, set a very comfortable, informal vibe for the evening. There are many categories of Dora Awards, impossible to report here, but we’ll mention some of the standouts. Awards for this season wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the big-budget hit that Mirvish has in War Horse. It took home two Doras for Outstanding Costume Design and Outstanding Choreography in the General Theatre Division. Topdog, Underdog performed well, taking the Doras for Outstanding Direction, General Theatre Division (Philip Aikin, Director), Outstanding Production, General Theatre Division, and Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Principal Role to Nigel Shawn Williams.
A full cross section of performance was represented, with Iphiginia in Taurus from the Canadian Opera Company taking two Doras, and the Independent Theatre Division handing out Doras to nine different productions. The real standout show for the entire evening was Caroline, or Change, taking home four Doras. The reaction from the crowd at each reaction made me wish that I’d had the opportunity to see this show, everyone seemed to be so moved by the performances. Arlene Duncan, in accepting the award for Outstanding Performance by a Female for her work in Caroline, or Change made a point to stop and thank every member of the cast for making each day a joy-filled one.
Ravi Jain made the audience yell “JOY!”
The speeches in the evening were always eloquent. Yes, performers thanked the moms and dads and their agents, but there were some moments that resonated. In accepting the award for Outstanding New Play for Crash, Pamela Mala Sinha stopped and thanked her late mother, stating “every word of Crash rests on your love.” Ravi Jain made the audience yell “JOY!” with him, a theme that carried through the night. The Doras are an opportunity for artists to celebrate each other, and there was no shortage of it this night.
The show was long at nearly three hours, but they flew by. Twitter was on fire with Dora results, and Allison did a great job keeping the show moving and light, with his ever-changing collection of smoking jackets and a wry sense of humour. After Topdog, Underdog took the Dora for Outstanding Production, General Theatre Division, it was time to end the show. Allison appeared on stage, not in a smoking jacket, but in a heel-length gold lamé gown, blonde wig and make up. Keeping with the spirit of the night, he thanked us for coming, begged us for donations (to make sure he got paid, of course), and invited the crowd to the after-party on the street outside the theatre. “Good night, bitches!” he said with a flourish, and the night was over.
Be sure to check out our photos from the event on Charlebois Post - Toronto launch day, July 1, 2012!