Vancouver theatre innovators Maiko Yamamoto and James Long make the Siminovitch Prize shortlist

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      Theatre Replacement's Maiko Yamamoto and James Long have been shortlisted for the biggest theatre prize in the country--and they've made history as the first team of collaborators to make it as finalists for the Siminovitch Prize.

      They join Ravi Jain, founding artistic director of Toronto's Why Not Theatre and a director whose Prince Hamlet, Salt-Water Moon, and A Brimful of Asha have all played here in Vancouver; Christian Barry, cofounder and artistic codirector of Halifax's 2b theatre company; and Christian Lapointe, artistic director of Quebec City's Théâtre Carte blanche, on the shortlist.

      Yamamoto and Long founded Theatre Replacement in 2003 and are perhaps best-known for staging the wildly popular East Van Panto each year. Their wide-ranging theatre work is known for its experimental, intercultural, and interdisciplinary bents.

      The company's latest show, MINE, inspired by the real-life relationship between Yamamoto and an 11-year-old son fixated on the computer game Minecraft, travelled to the U.K. and Kingston, Ontario this year and hits the Cultch from March 18 to 22 next year.

      Among its other initiatives are Theatre Replacement’s Town Criers project, an ongoing series of site-oriented performances built through partnerships with an artist or company and a festival or venue in any given location.

      Both graduates of SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts theatre program, they also work as freelance artists, directing, writing, teaching, and creating performances with a diverse range of companies and institutions. Yamamoto also holds a Masters of Applied Arts in Visual Art from Emily Carr University of Art & Design, and Long holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Studies from SFU.

      The Siminovitch Prize was launched in 2000 to honour the values and achievements of the renowned scientist Lou Siminovitch and the late Elinore Siminovitch, a pioneering playwright.  Over a three-year cycle, the Siminovitch Prize celebrates a professional director, playwright, or designer who is a leader in theatre and whose work is transformative and influential.

      Two years ago, Vancouver's Marcus Youssef won the Siminovitch Prize in its playwrighting-focused year. As part of the prize, he named fellow artist Christine Quintana as his protegee, meaning she received $25,000 of the total. Youssef is a long-time friend of James Long, and their high-stakes, brutally honest theatre game-meets-conversation Winners and Losers, a coproduction between Theatre Replacementa and Neworld Theatre, has toured the world to acclaim.

      This year, a celebration of the finalists will be held on October 28 at Hart House, University of Toronto, with the winner announced at a ceremony on November 21 at theNational Arts Centre.

      Theatre Replacement's MINE hits the Cultch next year.