Vancouver playwright Marcus Youssef has won the Siminovitch Prize, Canada's most prestigious theatre award. Youssef, the artistic director of Neworld Theatre, was awarded the $100,000 prize at a ceremony at the National Arts Centre on November 7. Christine Quintana, whom he has chosen as his protégée, will receive $25,000.
Among Youssef's extensive portfolio, he has written and cowritten Winners and Losers, King Arthur’s Night, and Leftovers. His works have won the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards and Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and have been performed across North America, Australia, and Europe. He has been a playwright-in-residence at the Banff Centre, the National Theatre School, Neworld, and Touchstone Theatre.
“The jury was thrilled by the quality of the vast majority of this year’s nominations,” said jury chair Bob White in the press announcement today. “The final deliberations were intense, but in awarding the Prize to Marcus Youssef, we were absolutely delighted to be able to celebrate a mid-career artist whose work was already of the highest calibre and was, in fact, changing the face of Canadian theatre.”
In a statement today, Youssef had this to say about the award: “The Siminovitch Prize is an extraordinary commitment to Canadian theatre and theatre artists. There is simply no other award like it, in terms of prestige and also the practical difference it can make for nominees and winner. This is especially critical because it honours artists in midlife, when I think many of us begin to wonder about our choice to become artists in the first place and about what may happen to us and our families as we age. The Siminovitch Prize is a bold, powerful antidote to these pressures. It honours the idea that it might make sense for us to dare to think it is legitimate to be working artists through our whole lives. This is the sign of a mature culture. As the tiny neighbours of the world’s dominant power, I believe we must be unafraid to mythologize ourselves, fiercely and unapologetically. This is precisely what the Siminovitch Prize permits us to do.”
Quintana, Youssef's protégée, is the Urjo Kareda Emerging Artist Resident at Toronto's prestigious Tarragon Theatre. Her play Selfie won the Sydney Risk Prize for Outstanding Script by an Emerging Playwright, and will have its English-language premiere at YPT in April of 2018. Stationary: A Recession-Era Musical, which she performed in and produced, won the Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Outstanding Musical in the small-theatre category.
“I haven't quite wrapped my brain around what it means to be a Siminovitch protégée," says Quintana, "but I know this - I hope to repay the tremendous generosity I've received through my contributions to the arts community in Canada, both as a theatre artist and as a dedicated supporter of the nation's artists.”
For more information on this year's Siminovitch Prize winners, check out the Georgia Straight's write-up here.