As many of you know, I have been giving out Tootsie Pops for many years to people in the theatre as a way of saying ‘thank you for making the theatre so special for me.’ Instead of doing top 10 lists of the best theatre and performances of the year, I do The Tootsie Awards that are personal, eclectic, whimsical and totally subjective.
Here are this year’s winners:
The Guts of a Bandit Award
For facing his medical challenges head on with resolve, grace and his always present smile.
The Living Their Dream Award
Michael Rubinoff, Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Michael Rubinoff for coming up with the idea for the musical Come From Away, the story of how the good people of Gander, Newfoundland opened their homes and hearts to the 7,000 passengers on 38 planes, who ‘came from away’ on 9/11, when American airspace was closed.
Irene Sankoff and David Hein for writing, composing and lyricising Come From Away, which has blown away anyone who has seen it.
The John Harvey/Leonard/McHardy Mensch Award
(Named after John Harvey and Leonard McHardy who gave us TheatreBooks for 40 years and showed us what class, graciousness and being a mensch was all about)
To the good people of Gander, Newfoundland (of course)
Who took in all those stranded people who ‘came from away’ on 9/11 and for several days after, fed, cared for and comforted them, showing everyone what decency and kindness are all about. It’s all so beautifully realized in Come From Away.
The Brutal and Bumbling Award
For playing Joe, the polite, ice-eyed killer in Killer Joe (for Coal Mine Theatre) and then playing you know… I mean… (adjusting eye-glasses) I mean…he really is, isn’t he? you know what I mean, Gary Lejeune in Noises Off (for Soulpepper) that eye-glass adjusting, sweet bumbler who never met a sentence he could finish articulately.
The Chameleon Award
He disappears into his roles to such an extent you can’t recognize him from one role to another. From the smarmy, spoilt rich kid in Caught at Theatre Passe Muraille to the twitchy and dangerous tough in The Circle at Tarragon Theatre, and the suave singing, dancing erudite man in Darling of the Day at Talk is Free Theatre in Barrie, Jakob Ehman slips so far into his characters, he dissolves.
The One(s) to Watch Award
For playing an overly-excitable, simple-minded soul in Pitchfork Disney in a site-specific production for Precisely Peter Productions and then playing a tough-as-nails Goth-girl with a stare that could freeze you to the floor in The Circle at the Tarragon.
For her riveting, gut-twisting performance of a teen with severe anxiety and depression problems, in which she also played every other character in the multi-character production of Still/Falling rendering each of them distinct in body language, voice and expression.
A feisty eleven-year-old who played the whiney Lee Bouvier in Grey Gardens for Acting Up Stage Company and then plays a forthright, confident, formidable Matilda in Matilda for Mirvish Productions. Levinson is one of three Matilda’s and is a powerhouse in my estimation.
The So Long and Thanks for All the Gems Award
The out-going (and outgoing) Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival for 16 years who packed her seasons with challenging, enlightening productions and championed women in every facet of her programming.
SPECIAL MENTION (because he works out of Barrie, Ont.)
The Fearless Imp Award
As the Artistic Producer of Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie, Ont. Arkady Spivak has programmed little known musicals such as Darling of the Day with great success, placed the musical The Music Man on the streets of Barrie where the audience either walked or bussed to the various locations, cast actors (Jakob Ehman for example) in roles you would not expect with terrific results, and offers a theatre for development for The Wedding Party by Kristen Thomson, before it opens the new Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre in Toronto in January. And he does it with an impish manner and easy wit.
The Bursting with Joy and Please Pass the Kleenex Award
Come from Away
Nothing else needs to be said.
Babies are the Quietest Audiences Award
One Thing Leads to Another
The revelatory show for babies created by Maja Ardal, Audrey Dwyer, Mary Francis Moore and Julia Tribe at Young People’s Theatre. If you just let babies be babies to discover this magical world of theatre, their world will open up to them. And to the adults who bring them.
The Gigantically Important Award
The Wee Festival
A festival of plays for babies and toddlers, organized and curated by Lynda Hill, the formidable Artistic Director of Theatre Direct. To see the inventive work done by companies from around the world who catered to this young audience, and to see the looks of wonder on those young faces, was magical.
Let the Fingers Do the Walking, Talking and Expressing Award
Kiss and Cry
Created by Michèle Anne de Mey and Jaco Van Dormael that played at the Bluma Appel Theatre for Canadian Stage. An entire world of first love, romance and exploding life all performed by gifted performers using only their dramatic, expressive, graceful fingers. (Noted this year because I missed it last year.)
A Spit in the Face to Make You Gasp and Heartsick Award
“Master Harold”…And the Boys
A glorious production of Athol Fugard’s devastating play about the history of South Africa encapsulated in the entwined stories of three characters. Produced by Obsidian Theatre Company and the Shaw Festival directed beautifully by Philip Akin and wonderfully acted by James Daly, Allan Louis and André Sills.
Your Brother HAS to be Alive Award
All My Sons
Arthur Miller’s gripping play about love, valour and responsibility and how one family was ripped apart because of questions of morality, was given a shattering production directed with exquisite care by Martha Henry and acted by a stunning cast at Stratford.
More Combinations than a Rubik’s Cube Award
A play about love and couples with seemingly endless possibilities of pairing, written with eye-popping inventiveness by Rosamund Small and directed with an eye to detail by Mitchell Cushman.
Trust Us, You’re Going to Follow Us To The Dark Side Award
By Philip Ridley, directed by John Shooter who created a wonderfully claustrophobic and grungy production about an emotionally damaged brother and sister afraid to go outside. This was presented in a grungy hole of a room in Kensington Market.
Three one act plays directed by Aaron Willis for the site-specific company, Convergence Theatre Company, in which the audience was lead up a laneway in the dark to the site of two of the plays, one in a dark garage, the other a backyard—a laneway, I reckon the audience would have avoided at all costs.
By Alistair McDowall. Christopher Stanton directed a sphincter-gripping production of McDowall’s unsettling play and set it in a dark space with a large garage-like door that shut you in with a bang.