by Lynn on December 29, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

lollipopFor the past three years Paula Citron and I would get together for High Tea at the King Edward Hotel to commiserate over the theatre season. The result was the King Edward Tea Society Awards (KETS Awards). This year I have decided to move on from KETS and create my own awards.

As many of you know, for about the past 40 years, I have been giving Tootsie Pops to theatre artists to say, ‘Thank you for making the theatre so special for me.” I got the idea when I saw a show that wowed me. I wanted to say thank you in a way that was more than a standing ovation, more than giving a flower. I thought of the Tootsie Pop. Anybody who had a childhood probably knew this tasty recognizable confection. It’s not only sweet it’s also whimsical. People who got them know it’s given with affection, humour and appreciation.

I would send Tootsie Pops as ‘Good Luck’ charms on opening nights, ‘Congratulations on the run’ gifts for closing nights, and as a ‘Thank you’ after I saw a performance during the run.

I heard from Rod Beattie (a co-creator/actor of the hugely successful “Wingfield” series of one man plays) that at Stratford if an actor had received one of my Tootsie Pops, he was told by his fellows, “Oh, you’ve been Tootsied!” I loved that. I also heard there was a rumour floating around Stratford, that the flavour and colour of the wrapper was significant. I put a stop to that one quickly. The flavour and colour of wrapper don’t mean a thing. Getting “Tootsied” is the point.

So the name of my awards is a no-brainer. I am calling them the Tootsie Awards. There is no ceremony, no framed certificate. But when they least expect it, as is my habit, the recipients of an ‘award’ will be handed a Tootsie Pop to enjoy.

The categories are eclectic—there will be no top-ten, best of the year headings. The winners are meaningful to me. Here are the winners of the 2014 Tootsie Awards.

2014 Tootsie Awards


The Guts of a Bandit Award

Claire Armstrong, Benjamin Blais and Tyrone Savage.

For facing adversity head on when the basement of The Storefront Theatre flooded during their Red One Theatre Collective production of Shrew, damaging or destroying equipment and props. The dynamic-trio worked tirelessly to clean up the mess and got the next show up 10 days later.

The courtly Andy McKim offered the Backspace at Theatre Passe Muraille to Shrew to finish their run.

Antoni Cimolino

For programming two productions this past season at the Stratford Festival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One directed by ‘The Bearded-Wonder’ Chris Abraham and one directed by ‘The Hair-Raising’ Peter Sellars. Audiences were divided and vocal, which is what theatre should be all about.

Linda Griffiths

For acting in her play Heaven Above, Heaven Below last year while undergoing sick-making aggressive chemo for her cancer. And then seeing her, frail and short-haired, at the theatre, seeing a play this year. Sadly we lost her Sept. 21, 2014. She truly had the guts of a bandit.

Peter Hinton

For his unflinching interpretation of Cabaret at the Shaw Festival. I may not have agreed with his concept but his consistent boldness and obvious intellectual rigor was impressive.

The Inaugural John Harvey/Leonard/McHardy Mensch Award

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.

The One(s) to Watch Award

Sébastien Heins who wrote and performed in Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, giving a focused, bracing performance playing twin-brothers who were hip hop artists. The writing was sharp. The performance was stellar.

Shaista Latif who wrote and performed her one person play, Graceful Rebellions, during SummerWorks, revealing a fresh, bold voice writing of the immigrant experience of a gay woman finding her way. Her acting abilities for each character was varied, nuanced, smart, funny and moving.

Shannon Taylor as Elsa in The Road to Mecca an emotionally fraught performance; then a woman in control and impressive in True.

They Create Tomorrow’s Audiences Award

Lynda Hill, the Artistic Director of Theatre Direct that introduces young children to the glories of theatre by offering them programs and producing beautiful works such as The Old Man and the River.

Allen MacInnis, Artistic Director of Young People’s Theatre, who programs plays that speak to the diverse worlds of his young audiences, Sultans of the Street, To Kill a Mockingbird and James and the Giant Peach being but three examples. And for providing a nurturing haven for playwrights such as Anusree Roy.

They Can Do Anything Award

Claire Armstrong who played the daring, impish Skriker in the devilishly difficult play The Skriker for Red One Theatre Collective, and then fragile-minded, flighty, but determined Honey in the devilishly difficult play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? produced by Brief Case Productions and Red One Theatre Collective.

Patrick Galligan who played a hen-pecked husband with digestive problems in When We Are Married, a distraught tailor driven mad by a finicky customer in The Sea, both at the Shaw Festival, and a hard-nosed, aggressive editor of a magazine for men who goes for the jugular when challenged, in NSFW, produced by Studio 180.

Diana Leblanc who played the ethereal Miss Helen in The Road to Mecca, as well as directed beautiful productions of Glenn for Soulpepper and Le Passé Antérieur (Past Perfect) for Théâtre Français de Toronto.

Martha Henry who directed a clear, illuminating production of Mother Courage at the Stratford Festival, and acted in The Beaux Stratagem finding one more (hilarious) use for a zucchini.

Anusree Roy who played a frantic mother trying to do damage control when a video of her daughter having sex with a schoolmate goes viral in Free Outgoing for Nightwood, and writing Sultans of the Street about children begging in India. Her plays speak to all nationalities and all generations.

Christopher Stanton, who not only directed Moment for ARC but also created the sound and music. He also acts and is the Artistic Director of ARC.

Tanisha Taitt a tireless worker in the theatre, as a director, assistant director, lighting designer, who quietly goes about her business nurturing, encouraging youth at the Young People’s Theatre, and formed a company called Teenage Graceland, a community theatre collective for teens, to give them a safe place to learn, fail and triumph.

They Rocked My World Award

Alan Dilworth who directed a fast-paced production Minotaur at Young People’s Theatre, a thoughtful, sensitive production of 12 Angry Men for Soulpepper and the intriguing, elegant production of The De Chardin Project for Theatre Passe Muraille.

Eda Holmes for her exquisite direction of The Sea at the Shaw Festival, Arcadia at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (carried over from the Shaw Festival), and for a change of pace, Life, Death and the Blues at Theatre Passe Muraille.

Jackie Maxwell, Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival who continues her archaeology by finding gems like The Charity that Began at Home, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, and maintaining the high level of quality of the Festival as a whole, and then directed a stunning production of London Road for Canadian Stage, in her ‘down time.’

Franco Boni, Artistic Director of the Theatre Centre
Brendan Healy, Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre,
Matthew Jocelyn, Artistic Director of Canadian Stage,
Andy McKim, Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille.
Michael Rubenfeld, Artistic Producer of SummerWorks
for programming challenging, unsettling, vibrant work.

We Aim To Please, You Aim Too, Please Award

Deborah Drakeford in Moment for hurling (in character), getting some of the glop on my pants.

Scott Dermody in Circle Jerk for throwing his pants (in character) at me.


The Bull’s-Eye Award

Abigail’s Party at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace and Talking Heads at the historic Campbell House. Kudos to John Shooter, new to the Toronto Theatre scene, who produced and directed these two exquisite productions.

Is it a Filay or a Plim? Award

Helen Lawrence for a perfectly blending of film and play (play and film?) into one fascinating whole as part of the Canadian Stage season.

Getting to Know the Neighbours Award

London Road because of Jackie Maxwell’s detailed direction; Valerie Moore’s artful movement; and a dream acting ensemble. Produced by Canadian Stage.

The Love That Got Away Award

Afterplay Chekhov’s ache of a play of what might have been if two lonely characters met and continued their relationship, delicately directed by Kyra Harper at the Campbell House. Wonderful work by Steve Cumyn and Tracey Ferencz.

Mining Diamonds Award

The Motherf**ker With The Hat thanks to Coal Mine (Ted Dykstra, Artistic Curator, Diana Bentley, Artistic Producer) for its gripping production directed by Layne Coleman, starring: Juan Chioran, Melissa D’Agostino, Sergio Di Zio, Ted Dykstra, Nicole Stamp.

They Certainly Aren’t Afraid Award

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Brief Case Productions and Red One Theatre Collective produced a knockout production expertly directed by Tyrone Savage and beautifully acted by Claire Armstrong, Benjamin Blais, Janet-Laine Green and Booth Savage.

Blackbird congrats to SoundBooth for producing this difficult, uncomfortable play about a young woman who has sought out her former lover to learn why he ended it fifteen years before, when he was forty and she was twelve. Unflinchingly directed by David Ferry and fearlessly acted by David Ferry and Sarah Booth.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shaista Latif January 7, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Thank you Lynn! Such a kind mention! Much appreciated!


2 Shari Caldwell January 8, 2015 at 1:37 pm

And a Tootsie Pop to you, too, Ms. Slotkin, for another year of bracing theatrical reportage.