As Ontario approaches the home stretch of theatre closures spurred by COVID-19, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) is pleased to announce that the Dora Ancillary Awards will be streamed on YouTube tomorrow, June 16, at 10:00 AM.
Jacoba Knaapen, TAPA’s Executive Director, spoke candidly in an interview with Intermission on the sheer loss of the 2020-21 producing season: “it’s having a profound impact on all arts workers in our community.”
“We want to give folks an opportunity to come together,” said Knaapen on this year’s Dora Ancillary Awards. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s creating a bit of buzz in these times of relentless struggle.”
It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the performing arts industry across Canada, and TAPA has worked tirelessly to advocate for artists during this time. TAPA’s efforts have included writing letters to the federal government with requests to extend CERB and CEWS, increasing advocacy efforts for UBI (Universal Basic Income), and launching public advocacy campaigns like iMissLiveTheatreTO to highlight the importance of the performing arts.
“There were thousands of personal and public messages of gratitude towards this campaign existing,” said Knaapen. “Our target expectations were exceeded with #LightUpLive…and saw theatre venues across the country light up in red in support of an industry that is still in the dark.”
Knaapen spoke frankly on the necessity of TAPA’s work during this time: “I’m exhausted with the provincial government’s lack of planning for our sector. We desperately need a framework so that our producing companies can understand what they need to do and how to be compliant…and this still doesn’t exist in Ontario, [and yet] does in B.C. and Quebec.”
This year’s Dora Ancillary Awards will, of course, be digital, having been pre-taped in a rented studio.
“We would typically present the Ancillary Awards at the press conference announcing the Dora nominations across all seven Dora Divisions,” said Knaapen. “But because our theatres have been shuttered during the pandemic, there is no one and nothing to nominate. So, instead, we’re celebrating the fabulous recipients of the Dora Ancillary Awards…they are spectacular individuals.”
When asked about the decision to forgo nominations for the myriad digital theatre experiences produced by Canadian artists in the past year, Knaapen made clear that this issue was one which underwent many, many internal conversations.
“This possibility [of including digital or streamed content for registration eligibility to the Dora Awards] ultimately presented too many insurmountable access equity issues. Internet speeds are not universal across the city…and access to the internet is entirely dependent on the juror’s financial means, which opens up huge disparities exacerbated by the job losses incurred by the pandemic.”
“For producers, access to financial, technical, artistic, and production resources already varies widely under the best of normal circumstances. With the pandemic forcing digital-only content, it only widens these differences rather than levelling the playing field, due again to the added costs of access.”
The industry-wide, temporary transition from stage to screen has been a fraught one for many artists and administrators throughout the pandemic, and TAPA thoroughly considered this reality when making plans for this year’s Dora Ancillary Awards.
“A number of [TAPA members] are fundamentally opposed to translating their work from stage to screen as a matter of principle,” said Knaapen, echoing the digital fatigue felt across Canada’s performing arts sector.
The Dora Ancillary Awards will be available to stream tomorrow at 10:00 AM here.