Dora Nominations: Lynn Slotkin’s Snubs and Surprises

Jonah Q. Gribble, Maev Beaty, Joseph Ziegler and Bahia Watson in The Last Wife. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

I’m taking my life in my hands. The good people of Intermission magazine have asked me to react to and comment on the recent Dora Award Nominations. Full disclosure: I have recently been invited into the fold of the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards. The winners of our awards were announced recently. If this suggests a conflict of interest, well, I’m sure I’ll hear about it instantly. Moving right along.

Oy, is this list of nominations ever overwhelming. Eight categories (I’m including Musical Theatre/Opera as a separate category from Musical Theatre or Opera), forty-six awards with five nominees each, for a total of two hundred and thirty nominees. Yikes.

In many cases this year, a nomination seems more like an acknowledgement of a good effort rather than a nomination for excellence. Dora committee: be ruthless in your selections. It’s an award for excellence, not a pat on the head for a job well done.

Of course there are many worthy nominees, but there are also the weird inclusions.

Weird Inclusions:

General Theatre

When the wonderful production of Mouthpiece was considered for a Dora in 2015 it was in the Independent Category because only the (indie) Quote Unquote Collective was listed as the producer. It won for Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Sound/Composition.

This year Mouthpiece is still produced by the Quote Unquote Collective but is also presented by Nightwood Theatre. It’s now listed in the General Category and nominated for almost all the same awards as 2015, including Outstanding Production. Nothing has changed in the production itself. It’s still wonderful, but to include it in a different category for the same awards makes no sense.

If a cast is listed as Outstanding Ensemble Performance then I assume they are such a tight, cohesive unit and you cannot single out one performance over another. How then to explain that actors/actresses from those ensembles are also nominated in separate acting categories? For example, the ensemble of Soulpepper’s Father Comes Home From the Wars (Part I, II, III) is nominated, but Daren Herbert is also listed under Outstanding Male Performance, and Lisa Berry is listed under Outstanding Female Performance for the same production. Both are worthy in their parts but the Outstanding Ensemble Performance covers the nomination of excellence to the whole ensemble.

Ditto: Ensemble of Why Not Theatre’s Prince Hamlet but Christine Horne is also nominated as Outstanding Female Performance? The acting of the ensemble was terrific. They all get recognition if they are considered as Outstanding Ensemble Performance.

In the Opera category, the ensemble of the Canadian Opera Company’s Louis Riel is nominated, but Russell Braun is also nominated as Outstanding Male Performance.

Companies should choose whether they want to honour an Outstanding Ensemble or an Outstanding Male/Female performance, not both. Both suggest double dipping. That’s not a good thing.

Opera

Why is Opera listed this year? Truly. For Outstanding Production, Outstanding Male Performance, and Outstanding Female Performance there are only two companies in competition: the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and Tapestry Opera. In these three categories, the COC holds four of the five nominations, with Tapestry holding the other. That looks like the COC is in competition with itself. Surely a nominee would be worthier if there were three or more companies in competition? Surely Opera Atelier should have been considered, which would have made the Opera Category credible.

Dance

Meeting was really a touring show for Canadian Stage as part of the Spotlight Australia series. And the show only played for four days. Is the minimum number of performances different for dance than theatre? And while we’re at it, what is the minimum number of performances a show needs to be considered?

Omissions:

General Theatre

Where is The Last Wife by Kate Hennig in the Outstanding New Play category? Terrific, bracing, beautifully written. It deserved a nomination.

Soulpepper’s A Doll’s House got several nominations but none for its director, Daniel Brooks. Hmmm?? Brooks had a radical take on the play and the production; his distinctive style is obvious here and was worthy of a nomination.

Why no recognition for the hilarious production of Noises Off at Soulpepper? It had an ensemble cast loaded with inventive comedic business and a director in Ted Dykstra who brought it all together. Both are worthy of a nomination.

Independent Theatre

Where is Our Town by Theatre Rusticle in the Outstanding Production category? I know they had a tough year financially and perhaps they could not come up with the full number of performances, but what a lapse not to recognize that wonderful production. It also should have been recognized as Outstanding Ensemble Performance.

There were two major omissions in the Outstanding Direction category:

Jonathan Goad for John for The Company Theatre. This was Goad’s debut as a director and he instilled such detail and smarts in his production that realized the play that he deserved a nomination.

Ted Dykstra for Superior Donuts for Coal Mine Theatre. Dykstra is a master in creating the down-at-the-heels world of the play and its characters. He has a keen sense for both the play’s comedy and its drama.

Musical Theatre

For Outstanding Ensemble Performance, Come From Away should be listed so everybody gets recognized in this tsunami of a show.

The show also deserves a nomination for Kelly Devine for Outstanding Choreography. Because this is an ensemble of twelve people, Ms. Devine created the pulsing, driving choreography for the whole group that moved as one. From the throb “Welcome to the Rock” to the last song, her choreography was stellar.

The three Matildas (Hannah Levinson, Jaime MacLean, Emma Weir) in Matilda deserve a mention in the Outstanding Female Performance category. They are the feisty star of the show and because they alternate the role, they all should be nominated together.

Also Patricia Cano for The (Post) Mistress from Pleiades Theatre/Théâtre français de Toronto. She was the most buoyant, lively, joyous, sensitive guide in this show, and she sings like a dream.

Theatre for Young Audiences

Outstanding Individual Performance: Olivia Hutt for Still/Falling at Young People’s Theatre—but there were three nominees for Treasure Island! Olivia Hutt played all the characters in this play about teenage depression and was masterful and compelling in the role.

Outstanding Ensemble Performance: One Thing Leads to Another at Young People’s Theatre. A show so “revolutionary” considering its demanding audience (babies!!!) that it was brought back twice this season.

I don’t doubt that discussions by the juries were difficult. But optics have to be considered. Often it looks as if the juries just gave in and nominated people rather than thrash it out to winnow down the number of nominees. The Dora Awards, the categories, and the sheer number of awards have to be reviewed. If there are not enough worthy nominees for a category, cut the category.

Good luck picking the winners.

UPDATE (June 5, 9:30 p.m.): Intermission was informed by a Dora nominee that an actor nominated individually is excluded from the ensemble nomination. So for example, the ensemble of Prince Hamlet includes everyone except for Christine Horne. This applies to all shows that have been considered for Outstanding Ensemble Performance that also singled out performances to be considered on their own.

OH, PUUULLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZ! Can the Dora Awards be any more confusing and hair splitting! Let’s make this simple. You are either a wonderful ensemble together, totally or you are not and then can nominate a person(s) for Outstanding Male/Female Performance. It cannot be both. It just makes the whole process look ridiculous.


Written By

Lynn is the former theatre critic for Intermission, and currently writes reviews on her blog The Slotkin Letter. She also does theatre reviews, interviews, and commentary for CIUT Friday Morning (89.5 FM). She was a theatre reviewer for CBC's Here and Now for ten years. On average, she sees 280 shows a year.