How to Be a Host

Photo by Kian McKellar / CC-by-A-2.0

Prepping for any awards show is a bit of a train wreck in both creation and execution. It’s a traumatic experience for all involved. Producers, writers, presenters, nominees, guests, press, receptions, parties, invitations, RSVPs, travel, and the weather: all make for a juggling act of the first order. It’s a scheduling and coordination nightmare that’s handled so beautifully by Jacoba Knaapen and her staff at the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA). But, it’s still terrifying. All I have to do is to learn my lines and show up on the day… But, rehearsing alone is hard.

I’m just the host.

That’s right, this year I will be hosting the 2016 Dora Mavor Moore Awards—the Toronto theatre community’s largest celebration of the work accomplished in the last season.

I have a couple of emotional attachments to this ceremony. Dora Mavor Moore was a pioneer of the Canadian theatre. An actor, teacher, and director, she shaped so much of what was, in her day, an almost non-existent theatre scene. I never knew her but was taught and directed by her son, the Canadian theatre great Mavor Moore. He was a member of the first board of directors of the Stratford Festival, founder of the Charlottetown Festival (Canada’s third-largest theatre festival, and the only theatre festival dedicated to new Canadian musicals), playwright, producer, and creator of Toronto’s legendary “Spring Thaw” reviews. I’ve also worked with Dora’s granddaughter, Canadian musical theatre actor extraordinaire Charlotte Moore—a goddess as both a person and performer.

And… I’ve won two Doras myself, of which I am very proud.

On the night of the ceremony, there will be jokes and stories and songs and dances and prizes and winners and all-stars of the Canadian theatre in one place, for one purpose.

To be proud.

But, perhaps there is another purpose…

Sure, there will be the anticipation and the egocentric, self-doubting hopefulness of all the nominees. And, too, there will be the producers’ concerns about awards won translating into proud boards of directors and future box office receipts.

But, yes, there is, behind it all, a greater purpose. We all do theatre because it is our choice. We could work in other media, but it is the live experience that drives us. Not just the magic and excitement of the applause; there is a special spark in the air when theatre happens. There is something special that happens somewhere between the stage and the audience. Communication happens. Travelling both ways. True communication.

We have our stories to tell, and the audience has their experience of those stories. More often, however, we share the stories of others. Many long dead. We share our understanding of those stories, and the audience shares their understanding of our understanding.

Live theatre isn’t a one-way street. It is the last great communal exercise towards an understanding of the human experience. We share what it is to be human.

With the Dora Mavor Moore Awards we celebrate not only excellence but bravery. Greater than any fear of snakes, or terrorists, or flying is the fear of public speaking; and we in the theatre are of that world. We are naked and alone and vulnerable and desperately trying to be truthful.

… Everyone should get a prize for that.

Even I should get a prize for that. I’m going to be doing most of the public speaking. And, of course, I’m nervous.

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In a career spanning thirty years, Bruce has appeared in four featured roles on Broadway and in leading roles for twelve seasons at Stratford. He is a two-time Dora Award winner, a Helen Hayes nominee, and has directed shows across Canada. As a composer/librettist, he has four new musicals in development.