by Lynn on December 26, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer


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

Arkady Spivak, artistic producer, Daniele Bartolini, site-specific creator and director, and Mitchell Cushman, director.

For the creation of The Curious Voyage produced by Talk is Free Theatre,  that took place in Barrie, Ont. and London England over a three day stint all leading to a production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street at a site-specific building in London.

The Jon Kaplan Mensch Award

(Renamed from the John Harvey/Leonard McHardy Mensch Award) in honour of Jon Kaplan, the long serving senior theatre writer/reviewer/interviewer for NOW Magazine who died April 28, 2017 and showed us what class, graciousness, generosity of spirit, love of the theatre and its creators and being a mensch was all about.

Natasha Parsons, Director of Patron Services, Tarragon Theatre.

Charming, personable, gracious and goes the extra mile in everything she does. She takes care of staff and actors when they are sick. And even when I buy a ticket on line to see a show at Tarragon for a second time, she always seems to know and puts a reserved sign on my favourite seat in the theatre even though I never asked for such a favour. Classy.

The Damaged Older Daughter Award

Deborah Hay

For the most shattering performance of Goneril I have ever seen, in Lear, directed by Graham Abbey and produced by the Groundling Theatre Company.

As played by Deborah Hay, Goneril was so terrified and damaged by her bullying and demanding parent, Lear, she shook and was almost too paralyzed to speak clearly without stuttering. This was revelatory.

The Labour of Love Award

Maev Beaty

For her stunning performance in Hannah Moscovitch’s Secret Life of a Mother  at the Theatre Centre, playing herself and Hannah Moscovitch about the gut-wrenching trials and joys of motherhood: miscarrying, labour and birth.

The Incendiary Passion of a Wronged Woman Award

Virgilia Griffith

For her breathtaking performance as Billie/She/Her in Harlem Duet  by Djanet Sears at the Tarragon Theatre.

Billie is told by her husband, Othello, that he’s leaving her because he’s in love with a white woman named Mona. We know it doesn’t end well for anybody, but Virgilia Griffith’s performance sears itself into your memory.

She Rocks Award

Sabryn Rock

For her stunning, heart-breaking performance as Nina in The Royale, written by Marco Ramirez, directed by Guillermo Verdecchia and produced by Soulpepper.

When Nina was younger she took as her ideal a white, blonde woman in a magazine. She tried to straighten her hair to look like the photo. Her brother Jay saved her when her hair burned. He grew up wanting to be the first black heavyweight champion of the world to make Nina proud of being black. In Sabryn Rock’s performance we saw a woman, proud, straight-backed, wearing pristine, starched, perfectly-ironed clothes, trying hard to be better than the ideal but wanting to be invisible and not attract notice. A performance that left me limp in my seat.

Actually, She Took Us All With Her Award

Clare Coulter

For her riveting performance as Mrs. Jarrett in Caryl Churchill’s play Escaped Alone produced by Soulpepper and Necessary Angel.

Mrs. Jarrett happens upon three ladies in a backyard, drinking lemonade and invites herself in. The performance was intensely focused, compelling and full of quiet rage. Coulter was so concentrated in listening to the other characters that she made the rest of us listen hard too.

He Clarifies Every Message, Even When the Dialogue is Deliberately Obtuse Award.

R.H. Thomson

He played Marshal McLuhan in the last year of his life, in Jason Sherman’s play The Message at Tarragon Theatre.

Thomson showed both a man struggling with the loss of language when McLuhan had a stroke and a man at the top of his game as he discoursed in a stream of consciousness about his thoughts and theories about the world, technology, religion, James Joyce, and punning.

Is There Anything She Can’t Do Award.

Hannah Levinson

For her performance as Small Alison in Fun Home by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, based on the Graphic Novel by Alison Bechdel in which her character was demanding, confident and endearing and her singing of “Ring of Keys was joyous; for her agile performance as Polly Peel (age 11) in The Preposterous Predicament of Polly Peel at the Toronto Fringe Festival,  book by Julie Tepperman with music and lyrics by Kevin Wong; and her unsettling performance as Iris in The Nether, by Jennifer Haley, produced by Studio 180 and Coal Mine Theatre, in which she played a little girl who appeals to those fantasy tastes of men who are attracted to little girls in the nether world of the internet, yet there is an adult behind the fantasy. Each performance is true, accomplished and startling for one so young (12-years-old).

The One(s) to Watch Award

Ahmed Meree

For his gripping, shattering play Adrenaline which he performed at SummerWorks.

It’s about a Syrian refugee spending his first winter in Canada as he remembers and is haunted by those he had to leave behind. It’s a startling piece of work and Ahmed Meree’s performance left me gasping at its eloquence.

Thalia Gonzalez Kane

Her first play was The ’94 Club that played the Tarragon Extraspace.

The play was about a group of teens in high school and all the sexual pressures that brings with it. The writing was bracing and smart, the ideas were clearly detailed and the characters were distinct and totally believable. Ms Kane is now studying in Ireland. Hurry up and finish there and bring us your next play.

Leora Morris

She directed The Philosopher’s Wife by Susanna Fournier for Paradigm Productions at the AKI Studio. She’s done SummerWorks and other small scale shows here, but her theatrical vision, her finesse in handling even the most challenging work and her ability to create compelling productions are huge. She’s Canadian, was educated at Yale and does a lot of work in the States. We need her here!

Rachel Cairns

She’s played Rosencrantz in the rock version of Hamlet at the Tarragon Theatre, Maggie in Bunny by Hannah Moscovitch at the Tarragon Theatre, #25 in The Wolves at Crow’s Theatre playing the tough but vulnerable captain of the team. In every role Rachel Cairns is distinctive, creative and accomplished.


The Provocative and Unsettling Award

A Delicate Balance

Produced by Soulpepper Theatre Company. Written by Edward Albee, directed by Diana Leblanc, starring a stellar cast.

The long carpet that flips up at the end in Astrid Janson’s set says everything about the family at the centre of the play. On the surface they are well-off, civilized and sophisticated but there are terrors lurking and the family and two friends are about to have the rug pulled out from underneath them. Diana Leblanc’s direction keeps everything delicately balanced as the family’s lives unravel, but you still hold your breath until the end.

It Grabs You By the Throat Award

Punk Rock

Written by Simon Stephens. Produced by the Howland Company. Directed by Gregory Prest.

Simon Stephens writes about the competitive world of education in a grammar school in England. Director Gregory Prest kicked it up a notch so that the confrontations, rock music and pace made you grip the seat.

The Elegant and Heart-breaking Red Dress Award

The Monument.

At the Factory Theatre, written by Colleen Wagner and stunningly, sensitively directed by Jani Lauzon starring Augusto Bitter and Tamara Podemski.

Lauzon likened the idea of women raped and murdered in war, to those Indigenous women and girls who have disappeared across Canada. In the play the man who killed and buried his victims tells the mother of one of the girls where they are buried. Jani Lauzon represented each body with a simple, beautiful red dress, hung on a hanger above the stage. Shattering and so moving.

High-flying and Adored Award

Mary Poppins

At Young People’s Theatre, directed by Thom Allison, starring Vanessa Sears as Mary Poppins.

Mr. Allison is fast becoming the director to go to when you want to illuminate the heart and soul of a show without pandering to sentiment. This was a production that reflected its audience. Mary Poppins is a no-nonsense person who puts the function back into dysfunctional when it comes to damaged families. Ms Sears was dandy.

It Left Me Breathless Award

The Runner

Produced by Human Cargo and played at Theatre Passe Muraille. Written by Christopher Morris, directed by Daniel Brooks and starring Gord Rand.

About Jacob, a paramedic with Z.A.K.A a volunteer group in Israel that collected dead Jews and bits and pieces of them for proper burial. The production was done entirely on a treadmill. Thrilling.

Terrific Enough to See It Again Award

Fun Home

 Produced by Mirvish Productions. Music by Jeanine Tesori,  book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, based on the Graphic Novel by Alison Bechdel. Directed by Robert McQueen.

About Alison Bechdel seen at three stages of her life as she comes to grips with her sexuality and her father’s deep secret. The production was ravishing, the cast was stunning.

The Tempest

Produced by the Stratford Festival. Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Antoni Cimolino. Starring Martha Henry as Prospero.

Bold, beautiful, achingly moving and so human.

Paradise Lost

Produced by the Stratford Festival. Written by Erin Shields, directed by Jackie Maxwell.

Lucy Peacock played Satan and was “divine”. Based on John Milton’s epic poem of how Satan fell from grace and was shunted to the other place and got her revenge. Erin Shields’ writing is sharp, witty, keenly observed and provocative. A mesmerizing  production.

Every Brilliant Thing.

Produced by Canadian Stage. Written by Duncan MacMillan with Johnny Donahoe, directed by Brendan Healy, starring Kristen Thomson.

A play about life, things, ideas and people that make it worth living in a production that touches the heart and makes us all think of our own list of ‘brilliant things.’

What a Magical, Merry Way to End a Theatre-going Year Award

CINDERELLA, A Merry, Magical Pantomime

Produced by Torrent Productions in the East End of Toronto, written and directed by Rob Torr and choreographed by Stephanie Graham his producing partner.

This glorious, simple, irreverent pantomime of that beloved story was a wonderful way to conclude a full year in which I saw 330 shows.




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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John R Van Burek December 26, 2018 at 11:51 am

Lucky you!!
I only saw a few of those shows.


2 Allegra Fulton December 26, 2018 at 6:24 pm

And the BIG Tootsie goes to Lynn Slotkin who saw 330 shows in a year!!!!!