Siminovitch Prize goes to Vancouver playwright Marcus Youssef

A scene from King Arthur's Night. Photo: Tim Matheson

The winner of this year’s Siminovitch prize in theatre is the author of many scripts that investigate and celebrate difference.

Marcus Youssef picked up the award for $75,000 Monday night in Ottawa at a ceremony at the National Arts Centre.

The rest of the $100,000 award goes to a protege selected by the winner. This year Youssef has selected the actor Christine Quintana.

This is the 17th year of the prize. Three other playwrights were on the shortlist for the award. The other finalists were Evelyne de la Chenelière, Ottawa native Hannah Moscovitch and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard.

Marcus Youssef. Photo: Simon Hayter

The choice of Youssef was made by a jury chaired by the veteran theatre artist Bob White who said in a media release that “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.”

Patrons of the NAC’s Canada Scene festival this past July may have seen Youssef’s play King Arthur’s Night, co-written with Niall McNeil and Veda Hille, which featured actors with Down Syndrome. His other credits include: Winners and Losers, Leftovers, How Has My Love Affected You?, Ali & Ali, Chloe’s Choice, Everyone, Adrift, Peter Panties, Jabber and A Line in the Sand.

His plays have been performed across North America, Australia and Europe. he has won or been nominated for many major awards. 

Youssef is the artistic director of Vancouver’s Neworld Theatre, and co-founder of the artist-run production centre, PL1422. Has has been a senior playwright-in-residence at the Banff Playwrights Colony. He is an editorial advisor to Canadian Theatre Review, Canadian fellow to the International Society for Performing Arts and Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.

“The Siminovitch Prize is an extraordinary commitment to Canadian theatre and theatre artists. 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,” said Youssef in the release.

Quintana is an actor, playwright, and co-artistic producer of the Vancouver based company Delinquent Theatre. She has also worked with the Arts Club Theatre Company, Ruby Slippers Theatre, Pi Theatre, Rumble Theatre, Electric Company Theatre, Neworld Theatre, Playwrights Theatre Centre, Carousel Theatre and Caravan Farm Theatre. Christine’s plays are regularly produced and have won several awards. 

“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,” she is quoted in the release as saying. 

Over a three-year cycle, the Siminovitch Prize goes to a professional director, playwright or designer. The 2016 Prize was awarded to Wakefield, Quebec based director Nadia Ross, the founder and artistic director of the company STO Union.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.