2019 Tootsie Awards

by Lynn on December 26, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

2019 Tootsie Awards

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

Kevin Loring

Kevin Loring is the Artistic Director of the Indigenous Theatre of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. He created a wide-reaching roster of Indigenous plays only to find out that the Federal budget did not award his theatre $3.5 million that was vital for its future development. He went ahead anyway. He kicked off the Indigenous season in September with a wonderful 10 day festival of plays, activities and ceremonies called Mòshkamo, that began with a flotilla of canoes being paddled along the Rideau Canal to the NAC. The next day, the building was hopping with ceremony, pride, music and theatre (The Unnatural and Accidental Women by Marie Clements—heartbreaking and beautifully performed). Mr. Loring has the guts of a bandit.

Bob  (Robert) Nasmith (Posthumously, alas)

Bob had always been a part of the alternative theatre scene in Toronto since the Rochdale/Theatre Passe Muraille days. Quietly fierce, tenacious, articulate and political. Seven years ago he was diagnosed with throat cancer that wrecked his taste buds. He lost weight; looked wizened and craggy and naturally decided to do Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett at the Backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille. It sold out. He did the show again. It sold out again. Cancer didn’t stop him from living every second until he couldn’t. Bob died Dec. 16, 2019.

The Jon Kaplan 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.

Bea Campbell 

Allan Teichman

Neil Barclay

Carolyn Mackenzie 

Jenny L. Wright

Barbara Worthy

Patty Jamieson

These lovely people took care of Jennifer Phipps in her last years of life. They took her to doctor’s appointments, bought her groceries, kept her company, checked in on her, planned her birthday when she was in the hospital and when she died they helped plan a swell funeral.  They went on to celebrate her life with a wonderful memorial August 12. All these mensches work or worked at the Shaw Festival, as did Jennifer. Classy!

Twenty Years is too Long to Wait for Work this Good Award

Richard (Ric) Waugh

Who had not been on a stage for 20 years until he was cast in Copy That by Jason Sherman at Tarragon Theatre, playing Peter, the senior writer on a TV cop show. Ric Waugh’s acting was beautifully contained, gripping, intense and even explosively incendiary at times. And always, always true.

No Church Ever Gave Communion Like This Award

Allegra Fulton

Allegra Fulton is a hugely gifted actor but in Between Riverside and Crazy she was eye-popping in her brilliant performance as Church Lady.

The production was produced by the Coal Mine Theatre. It was written by Stephen Adly Guirgis  and directed with sublime intelligence by Kelli Fox. Allegra Fulton played Church Lady, a demure woman who comes to the house of Walter in an effort to give him communion, since he doesn’t go to church. Initially she is almost shy, with a lilt of an accent.  But then she straddles him as he sits in his chair, puts the wafer in her mouth and proceeds to give him ‘mouth-to-mouth-communion,’ among other things.  Wow!

A Man of Many Talents Award

Majdi Bou-Matar

Majdi Bou-Matar is a director-artistic director, curator, creator of art, originally from Lebanon but now relocated to Kitchener, Ont. where he ran MT Space. His productions are arresting in their vision with a deep sense of story-telling. I first saw his production of The Last 15 Seconds in the Backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille (thank you Andy McKim). Jaw-dropping. I looked out for his work ever since. For the past 10 years he was the Founder and Artistic Director of the IMPACT Festival that brought a diverse roster of plays and productions from the Middle East, across Canada and South America to Kitchener. I finally was able to see many of those productions. Again, jaw-dropping in their impact. He is slowly doing more work in Toronto. Will someone please bring him here to resurrect the World Stage Festival at Harbourfront!

The One(s) to Watch Award

Diana Donnelly

Diana Donnelly is a wonderful actor and now she’s adding that shine to directing. In her first directorial effort she brought The Russian Play by Hannah Moscovitch to the Shaw Festival. It’s about a simple flower seller who falls in love with a grave digger in Stalinist Russia with sad results. This stunning early play by Hannah Moscovitch  is given a dazzlingly creative production by director Diana Donnelly who filled the production with stunning imagery and realized some of the best performances from her excellent cast: Peter Fernandes Marie Mahabal, Mike Nadajewski and Gabriella Sundar Singh. The production makes one eager for more from Donnelly.

Saphire Demitro

Who played Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton. She was buoyant, effervescent, and illuminated the very best of this tenacious, lovely character.

Durae McFarlane

He played Avery, a young black man in The Flick produced by Outside the March and Crow’s Theatre. He was thoughtful, mysterious and heartbreaking. This was his first professional job. Wow!

Ali Joy Richardson

For writing and directing A Bear Awake in Winter.  This is a smart, thoughtful and confident writer and director, This play is wise, compelling and honest. My jaw dropped at the end because of the accomplishment of Ms Richardson.

Michael Torontow

He’s best known as an accomplished actor. He can now add director to that description. In his first directorial gig he directed a staged reading of Into the Woods for Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie, Ont. What he created was a clear reading of the musical that was inventive in its presentation, creative, illuminating and accomplished in realizing Sondheim’s difficult piece. Kudos also to Arkady Spivak, TIFT Artistic Producer who first saw in Michael Torontow a natural director and gave him the challenge. Arkady Spivak could make this list every year if he’s not careful.

These Movers and Shakers are moving on……

He’s a Quiet, Courtly Man but his Productions Packed a Punch Award

Philip Akin

Philip Akin has been a driving force as a founding member of Obsidian Theatre Company in 2000 and the Artistic Director since 2006 where he directed such stunning productions as Ruined, Passing Strange, Intimate Apparel and Pass Over. He has decided to step down as Artistic Director and he should be celebrated for all his work.

She Took Familiar Classics and Gave Them A New Lustre Award.

Allyson McMackon

Allyson McMackon formed Theatre Rusticle in 1998 and has been its moving force since then. The company uses muscular, balletic movement to dig deeper into the meaning of classics. The results made such productions as Our Town, The Stronger Variations, April 14, 1912 and Peter and the Wolf fresh, vibrant and evocative. Her production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set for January 2020 will be her last as Artistic Director when she steps down.

She Made Publicity into an Art Form Award.

Carrie Sager

The doyenne of theatre publicists who retired this summer after a long and successful career of making us aware of shows that mattered, made a difference and entertained–often all three at the same time. And she had an eagle eye to my grammar mistakes and gently drew my attention to them.

He Gave 110% Award.

Andy McKim

A man of the theatre. He has just retired as the Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille after leading that company for 12 years since he became Artistic Director in 2007. Andy McKim believes in collaboration, communication and creating opportunities for women and people of colour. All of these initiatives were alive and well during his tenure as Artistic Director. And yes, he gave 110% in everything he tackled.



When You Think You’ve Seen the Best, This Blows it Away Award


Produced by the Grand Theatre, London, Ont. Book by Joe Masteroff, Based on the play by John Van Druten and the Stories of Christopher Isherwood. Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Directed by Dennis Garnhum. Cast: Isaac Bell, Tess Benger, Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane, James Daly, Phoebe Hu, Lawrence Libor, W. Joseph Matheson, Charlotte Moore, Margaret Thompson.

Dennis Garnhum created a bracing, revelatory, joyous, immersive, gut-twisting production of this brilliant musical about life in a second rate cabaret in Berlin while all hell was breaking out outside. Tess Benger nailed it as Sally Bowles.

You Missed a Piece Award

The Flick

Produced by Outside the March and Crow’s Theatre. Written by Annie Baker. Directed by Mitchell Cushman, Starring: Colin Doyle, Amy Keating and Durae McFarlane and Brendan McMurtry-Howlett.

 To director Mitchell Cushman, his creative team and his trio of stunning actors who meticulously showed us how his characters cared about their menial work in an old-fashioned cinema. Two characters repeatedly swept popcorn off the floor with such care and commitment they made the audience look harder and pay attention as they did it.

A Really Plump Chicken in Every Pot Award.

The Jungle

Produced by Tarragon Theatre. Written by Anthony MacMahon and Thomas McKechnie. Directed by Guillermo Verdecchia. Designed by Shannon Lea Doyle. Starring Shannon Currie and Matthew Gin.

The play details a complicated economic formula explaining how the few have all the money and power over the many and according to the formula it’s next to impossible to break through and overcome that inequity. But then MacMahon and McKechnie put a human face to it, focusing on two people working two jobs in an effort to do better. Director Guillermo Verdecchia’s stylish, unsentimental production turns that cold formula on its ear. A fat chicken is cut up in the play. It’s symbolic and it’s brilliant.

Knit One, Pearl Two Award

The Knitting Pilgrim

Produced, co-written and performed by Kirk Dunn. Co-written by Claire Ross Dunn. Directed by Jennifer Tarver. Was performed at the Aga Khan Museum.

Saying The Knitting Pilgrim by Kirk Dunn is a play about knitting is as much an understatement as saying Gateau St. Honoré is a simple dessert. Dunn started as an actor and when he was touring he passed the time in the van by learning how to knit and improving. Knitting took over his life.  This brought him to the attention of Nataley Nagy the Past Executive Director of the Textile Museum of Canada. She said his knitted work was a work of art, almost like an expressionist painting. She suggested he knit something that says something about the world. That was the birth of his triptych of tapestries—three panels that illuminated aspects of Judaism, Christianity and Islam—the commonality and differences of the faiths. The panels are about 11’ x 7’ and it took him 15 years to knit. They are astonishing as is his ‘simple’, gentle show.

It Wouldn’t Let Us Look Away Award.

Pass Over

Produced by Obsidian Theatre Company. Written by Antoinette Nwandu. Directed by Philip Akin. Starring: Kaleb Alexander, Mazin Elsadig, Alex McCooeye.

Antoinette Nwandu uses Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot as the model about two black men who wait on a sidewalk to ‘pass over’ to a better life.

I’ve loved this play since I first saw it in New York. I loved how it threw up my assumptions in my face; how it startled me with my blinkered thinking; how it upset and unsettled me for all the right reasons. I loved how Philip Akin’s masterful, sensitive production made us feel every high and low emotion the characters felt.

The Voice of Reason Award

Twelve Angry Men

Produced by Drayton Entertainment. Written by Reginald Rose. Directed by Marti Maraden. Set by Allan Wilbee. Costumes by Jennifer Wonnocott. Lighting by Louise Guinand. Starring: Neil Barclay, Terry Barna, Skye Brandon, Benedict Campbell, Keith Dinicol, Thomas Duplessie, J. Sean Elliott, Omar Forrest, Jacob James, Kevin Kruchkywich, Cyrus Lane, Brad Rudy, Jeffrey Wetsch.

I saw this in Cambridge, Ontario. I would have traveled to the ends of the earth to see a production this gripping, electrifying and compassionate. Eleven jurors of twelve are sure a troubled teenager killed his father. One lone juror is just not sure and he spends the whole play trying to change the minds of the other eleven. The play is wonderful. Director Marti Maraden and her stunning cast did a masterful job in realizing the power of the play.

No Cigarette Necessary Award


Produced by the Shaw Festival. Written by Mae West. Directed by Peter Hinton-Davis. Designed by Eo Sharp. Starring: Diana Donnelly, Julia Course, Fiona Byrne.

A street-smart hooker thinks she might have a chance of going ‘straight’ when a rich young man proposes, not knowing she’s in the oldest profession in the world. Bravo to Peter Hinton for his tenacity in getting this play produced and bringing Mae West’s talent as a writer to light. West wrote and starred in it in New York in 1926. The play is hard-edged, has the language of the street and characters who are well drawn, all given a production that was intelligent, stylish, atmospheric and even moving.

 The Best Way to End the Theatre Year Again Award.

Jack and the BeansTalk—A Merry Magical Pantomime.

Produced by Torrent Productions. Written and directed by Rob Torr, choreographed by Stephanie Graham. Starring: Greg Campbell, William Fisher, Christopher Fulton, Tim Funnell, Cyrus Lane, Jamie McRoberts, Caulin Moore, Teresa Tucci and the voice of Cynthia Dale.

Rob Torr and Stephanie Graham produce a show that engages their whole audience with a hilarious re-imagining of a classic story embraces their East End community and in short order is making this a Christmas tradition. We boo the villain, cheer the heroes, marvel at the costume changes of the Dame and laugh without inhibition. A perfect way of ending a year full of theatre-going.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barbara Worthy December 28, 2019 at 11:30 pm

oh my gosh! Thank you so very much for this Lynn… from all of us.
It was our privilege to be ‘Jenny’s Team’.
And we love and miss her so very much.
Thank you.


2 Moore Tedde December 29, 2019 at 7:22 am

What a super list! Wonderful. Thanks ya.