Indigenous playwright wins top drama prize

Tara Beagan has won the $75,000 Siminovitch Prize which is the largest theatre award in Canada. The prize is given to a professional director, playwright or designer who is “an acknowledged leader in the theatre whose work is transformative and influential.” 

Beagan is of the Ntlaka’pamux First Nation of southern British Columbia and has Irish ancestry through her father. Many of her plays address issues leading to violence against Indigenous women and girls. Seven of her 32 plays have been published and two have won other awards.

Beagan is the co-founder of the Indigenous arts company called Article 11.  “Every Indigenous theatre maker to this point has created this moment, just by doing the hard work of existing,” said Beagan upon winning the prize. “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.”

Beagan’s performative installation called Declaration played at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. (YouTube/Siminovitch Prize in Theatre)

Her work ‘hits you in you heart,’ says jurist

“Beagan herself sees theatre as ‘sacred work,’” said jury Chair Vanessa Porteous in a statement. “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 Siminovitch Prize allows the winner to name an emerging talent eligible for a $25,000 Protégé Prize. Beagan selected Joelle Peters, an Indigenous performer and playwright of the Anishinaabe First Nation. Peters is part of the Animikiig Creator’s Unit at Native Earth Performing Arts and is writing a coming-of-age play called Niish

Prize created to honour pioneering playwright

Molecular biologist Lou Siminovitch expressed delight at Beagan’s win. “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.” Siminovitch is now 100 years old.

The announcement of the prizes was made at a virtual ceremony that is said to have drawn the Canadian theatre community and theatre lovers from across the country. The ceremony celebrated shortlisted playwrights Carmen Aguirre, Martin Bellemare, Karen Hine and Annick Lefebvre.

(YouTube/The Siminovitch Prize)

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Indigenous
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