November 26, 2020 – OTTAWA (Canada) – Ntlaka’pamux playwright Tara Beagan has been named the 2020 laureate of the Siminovitch Prize, the largest and most prestigious theatre prize in Canada. Ms. Beagan will receive $75,000, and $25,000 will go to her selected protégée, Joelle Peters.
Ms. Beagan, who is based in Mohkinstis (Calgary), is proud to be Ntlaka’pamux and, through her late father’s side, of Irish ancestry. She is now Playwright In Residence at Prairie Theatre Exchange (Winnipeg). Seven of her 32 plays have been published, two of which received Dora Award nominations (one win). In 2020, her play Honour Beat won the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama.
“Every Indigenous theatre maker to this point has created this moment, just by doing the hard work of existing,” said Ms. Beagan. “Young Indigenous makers, you are the culmination of all your ancestors. Hold strong, check in with the earth and sky and remember that so many are walking with you.”
The 2020 Siminovitch Prize Foundation jury of peers was comprised of Chair Vanessa Porteous (Calgary), Jessica Carmichael (Montreal), Julie McIsaac (Toronto/British Columbia), Olivier Sylvestre (Montreal) and Donald Woo (Toronto).
“Tara Beagan’s nominator, Michelle Thrush, aptly describes her as ‘a word lover and a carrier of stories,’’’ said Jury Chair Vanessa Porteous. “Beagan herself sees theatre as ‘sacred work.’ During jury deliberations, there was palpable excitement in the room whenever Beagan’s work came up. It hits you in your heart and in your body. The jury identified in her writing a quality of being both sublime and unbearable. Beagan is carving out a place. No other writer on this territory proposes this kind of material for our consideration, material so rich in character, story, emotion, humour, violence, humanity, compassion, complexity, and righteous fury. Her vision is uncompromising, her voice is necessary, her trajectory embodies the deepest values of the Siminovitch Prize. This is quite simply excellent, searing, unforgettable theatre of the highest calibre.”
“My daughters and I are delighted to see the 2020 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre awarded to Tara Beagan,” said Dr. Lou Siminovitch, who celebrated his 100th birthday in May. “This Prize was created 20 years ago in part to honour my late wife Elinore, a pioneering playwright whose work focused on social justice and political repression. As a feminist who struggled to have her voice heard, I believe Elinore would have loved the bold and brave nature of Tara’s work and especially her brilliance in making voices that otherwise might not be heard resound across the stages of our nation.”
The Siminovitch Prize also recognizes the importance of mentorship to support emerging talent through the $25,000 Protégé Prize. Ms. Beagan has selected Joelle Peters, a Toronto-based Anishinaabe and Miami performer/playwright, as her protégée. Ms. Peters is currently part of the Animikiig Creator’s Unit at Native Earth Performing Arts, writing a full-length coming-of-age play called Niish (mentored by Falen Johnson). She also co-wrote Frozen River with Michaela Washburn and Carrie Costello, which is set to premiere at Manitoba Theatre for Young People in the spring of 2021.
“It’s a good feeling when someone you look up to says ‘I see you and the work you’re doing, keep going,’” said Ms. Peters. “Being selected as Tara’s protégée is an incredible encouragement and I look forward to seeing where my life as a storyteller takes me next.”
The announcement took place during the Prize’s 20th anniversary virtual ceremony on November 26, an event that drew together the Canadian theatre community and theatre lovers from across the country. The ceremony also celebrated each of the exceptional shortlisted playwrights, who included Carmen Aguirre (Vancouver), Martin Bellemare (Montreal), Karen Hines (Calgary/Toronto), and Annick Lefebvre (Montreal).
“We congratulate Tara Beagan on receiving the Siminovitch Prize in honour of her extraordinary body of work,” said NAC President and CEO Christopher Deacon. “We also recognize all of the other exceptional playwrights on the shortlist this year – Carmen Aguirre, Martin Bellemare, Karen Hines and Annick Lefebvre – all of whom represent the very best in excellence and innovation in Canadian theatre.”
ABOUT TARA BEAGAN
Tara Beagan is proud to be Ntlaka’pamux and, through her late father’s side, of Irish ancestry. She is cofounder/director of ARTICLE 11 with Andy Moro. Beagan served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts from Feb 2011 to Dec 2013. During her time, NEPA continued with traditional values for guidance, had an Elder in Residence, and named and moved into the Aki Studio. Beagan has been in residence at Cahoots Theatre, NEPA, the National Arts Centre, and Berton House (Dawson City, Yukon). She is now Playwright In Residence at Prairie Theatre Exchange (Winnipeg). Seven of her 32 plays are published. Two plays have received Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations, Miss Julie: Sheh’mah and winning Outstanding New Play in 2005 for Thy Neighbour’s Wife. In 2018, Beagan was a finalist in the Alberta Playwrights’ Network competition. In 2020, Honour Beat won the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama. ARTICLE 11 has worked across Turtle Island, in Aotearoa, Australia and Scotland, and is grateful to be based in Mohkintsis (Calgary, AB)
ABOUT JOELLE PETERS
Joelle Peters is a Toronto-based Anishinaabe & Miami performer/playwright. She is from Walpole Island First Nation, Bkejwanong Territory in Southwestern Ontario and moved to Toronto to study Acting for Camera and Voice at Seneca College. Joelle loves the stage and screen and would like to continue living in both worlds. Joelle has performed across Canada at festivals and theatres such as Western Canada Theatre, Thousand Islands Playhouse, Factory Theatre, Summerworks Festival, Theatre Passe Muraille, and has toured across ON and BC. Joelle loves exploring new works and ways to engage with storytelling and is developing an interest in directing and dramaturgy. Currently, she is part of the Animikiig Creator’s Unit at Native Earth Performing Arts, writing a full-length coming-of-age play called Niish (mentored by Falen Johnson). She also co-wrote Frozen River with Michaela Washburn and Carrie Costello, which is set to premiere at Manitoba Theatre for Young People in Spring 2021.
ABOUT THE SIMINOVITCH PRIZE
The Siminovitch Prize recognizes excellence and innovation in Canadian theatre. Over a three-year cycle, the Siminovitch Prize celebrates a professional mid-career director, playwright, or designer who is acknowledged as a leader in the theatre and whose work is transformative and influential. Past playwriting laureates include Marcus Youssef, Olivier Choinière, Joan MacLeod, Daniel MacIvor, John Mighton and Carole Fréchette. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the prize that was launched in 2000 to honour the values and achievements of the renowned scientist Dr. Lou Siminovitch and the late Elinore Siminovitch, a pioneering playwright.
The Prize also recognizes the importance of mentorship to support emerging talent: the laureate receives $75,000 and selects a protégé who receives $25,000. Furthering the tradition of mentorship within the Prize, a group of playwriting students from the Anglophone and Francophone programs of the National Theatre School of Canada participated in a workshop with the artists shortlisted for the Prize in late October.
In 2016, the Prize began a partnership with the National Arts Centre. Both the NAC’s English Theatre and French Theatre are led by Siminovitch Prize laureates – Jillian Keiley (2004) and Brigitte Haentjens (2007).
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.