Vancouver theatre artist Marcus Youssef is nominated for a Siminovitch Prize for playwriting, the largest national theatre award.
The Siminovitch Prize Foundation and the National Arts Centre announced the shortlist today. The Siminovitch Prize awards its winner a whopping $100,000, rotating over a three-year cycle to alternate honouring professional directors, playwrights, and designers. Finalists get $5,000.
Youssef--who is also an actor and co-artistic director of Neworld Theatre, was born in Montreal, graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada, and later got his Masters in Fine Arts from UBC--has written and cowritten plays including Winners and Losers (one of Neworld's longest-running and most successful pieces), King Arthur’s Night, Leftovers, How Has My Love Affected You?, Ali & Ali, Chloe’s Choice, Everyone, Adrift, Peter Panties, Jabber, and A Line in the Sand. His works have nabbed numerous Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards and Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and they've been performed across North America, Australia, and Europe.
Born to Egyptian parents, Youssef has often made diversity and the ideas of difference and diversity themes in his work. He once told the Straight that telling stories about the experiences of diverse communities was "critically important to me in a culture driven...hugely by profit and the imperative of global capitalism. Hearing those stories in a really intentional, curated way that’s connected to real communities is very important—and making people laugh, which we do sometimes.”
Youssef is up against three other playwrights: Hannah Moscovitch (whose disturbing Little One has been performed to great success by Vancouver's Alley theatre), Montreal's Evelyne de la Chenelière, and Toronto's Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (a.k.a. Belladonna the Blest).
“The four finalists for the 2017 Siminovitch Prize are playwrights and theatre-makers of the first order. Their extraordinary, idiosyncratic visions of what transpires on stage have already created transcendent experiences for audiences across the country,” jury chair Bob White said in a press announcement today. “Their passionate belief in the power of theatre to not only celebrate the human experience but also challenge our ways of looking at the world is inspiring. Furthermore, the jury was thrilled by the abundance of award-worthy work that all the 2017 nominees had created and we all left the jury table confident that the future of Canadian theatre was indeed bright in the hands of all these remarkable artists.”
Finalists celebrate with a reception on October 16 at University of Toronto Hart House. The celebration will be cohosted by two acclaimed Canadian theatre artists: novelist and playwright Ann-Marie Macdonald and director and dramaturge Jackie Maxwell.
Then the final 2017 Siminovitch Prize will be awarded at a ceremony on November 6 at the National Arts Centre.