“Collaboration is all. I come from a background of dance and visual art and in my work with designers, my desire is to ignite the fire of confluent imaginations. Out of that union must come the space for the ultimate alchemy – the actors’ process. I’m there to safeguard story, yes, but beyond that, to help the artists, and therefore myself, defeat the limitations of fear.”
Gina Wilkinson was a prolific actor/playwright and a stage director in constant demand. Her sudden passing was a great loss to her family, friends, and the theatre community who cherished her joy, energy, and great lust for life. In memory of Gina’s great talent and in celebration of her life, the Gina Wilkinson Prize was established in 2011.
For the past ten years, Gina’s Prize has honoured woman-identifying artists transitioning from one theatre discipline to that of directing. In 2021, we are moving forward by reimagining the prize to recognize woman-identifying artists who place community and new creation models at the heart of their artistic leadership.
WINNERS OF THE 2021 GINA WILKINSON PRIZE
Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) from Saskatoon, Treaty 6 Territory, and the homeland of the Mètis, is a playwright, director and dramaturg. Her works include the play The Unplugging, the dance-opera Bearing, the libretto Shawnadithit, the short play-for-film Katharsis, and the audio play You Can’t Get There From Here for Factory Theatre. She was one of the ten writers on Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show. She co-created, with Joel Bernbaum and Lancelot Knight, the verbatim play Reasonable Doubt, about relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. She is currently working on Tapwewin with Maria Campbell, on Namwayut with Marion Newman, on Sophia with Tim Brady. From 2003-2011, she served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. In 2015, she founded the Short Cuts Festival of 10-Minute Plays in Saskatoon. Her book, Medicine Shows, about Indigenous performance in Canada was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015. She is an Artistic Associate with Signal Theatre, and the Company Dramaturg for Sum Theatre. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Policy at Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.
“I knew Gina. I watched her grow from performer to playwright to director, weaving all those skills together. I admired her fearlessness, her hunger for the work and for how the work was inextricably woven into life. I am honoured to be recognized with the newly imagined Gina Prize in this year of change, this year when everything, everything can be reimagined. I am, as many know, a theatre rat, who will do almost anything to stay in the theatre, because I believe in its power to make change, to make people see things that were invisible, to hear voices that were silenced. Now, in this moment, this change moment, I am hopeful that all the work we have done to make new models, to make safer, braver rooms, will manifest in a more powerful, more inclusive, more vibrant theatre. That I am being recognized for my small part in the change is humbling.”
Short Listed Nominees
Debbie Patterson is a theatre maker who lives her life in the very centre of Turtle Island, sometimes in a little co-op apartment in Treaty 1 Territory, and sometimes in a cabin on the shore of Lake Winnipeg in Treaty 2 Territory, but always with her true love, remarkable Arne MacPherson.
During her first pregnancy she teamed up with some other theatre artists to start a company called Shakespeare in the Ruins. The company and her child are both 27 years old now, both doing just fine without her undivided attention. Gislina now creates dangerous, groundbreaking theatre, often centering Shakespeare’s text, that fills Debbie with admiration. During her second pregnancy she produced and performed in a show that teamed up a group of theatre artists and a group of sex workers for a sort of cross-cultural exchange. The show was about the land and our bodies and the vulnerability we experience in professions that won’t let us tell the truth about what it means to be a woman. Shortly after her second child was born, she went blind at a playwriting retreat and was diagnosed with MS. Her vision returned, the child grew and now he makes movies that are screened all over the world. Solmund’s vision is precise and refined and skews towards austere beauty.
She raised her kids and acted in some plays and wrote some plays and directed some plays while scar tissue slowly formed in her central nervous system. Her work became more and more about our bodies, especially women’s bodies, broken bodies, bodies that betray us.
When her body told her to sit down, she started Sick + Twisted, a theatre company for people whose bodies and brains offer creative obstructions. And now she works to make space for non-normative bodies and brains in all theatre companies, so we can all tell the truth about our bodies, so we can all bring our whole selves to the work. She loves creating opportunities for other artists to do great work, to tell their truth. She is grateful for all the artists doing the hard work of pushing in from the margins. She is deeply honoured to be recognized in this mighty cohort. (Photo Credit: Leif Norman)
Jenna Rodgers (she/her) is a mixed-race Director and Dramaturg based on Treaty 7 Territory, colonially known as Calgary. She is the founding Artistic Director of Chromatic Theatre – a company dedicated to producing and developing work by and for artists of colour. Jenna is also the Dramaturg for the Playwrights Lab at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She is a passionate arts equity advocate; the Vice President of Anti-Oppression for LMDA; and the Artstrek Director with Theatre Alberta. Jenna is a graduate of the NTS Artistic Leadership Residency (2020), a graduate from the Banff Centre’s Cultural Leadership Program (2019), a member of the artEquity National Facilitator Training cohort (2018), and a recipient of a 2018 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Emerging Artists. She holds a MA in International Performance Research from the universities of Amsterdam and Tampere.
Jenna is both humbled and honoured to be shortlisted for the Gina Wilkinson Prize in such excellent company. She’d like to thank her nominators for encouraging her to apply, for believing in her work, and for being part of the exceptional community of artists that have helped to shape her practices. Finally, Jenna would like to extend congratulations to her fellow nominees, to the exceptional shortlist, and to Yvette. She’s had the great privilege of learning from several of you in the past, and looks forward to future opportunities to be in collaboration with such extraordinary company. (Photo Credit: Brianne Jang)
Tanisha Taitt In addition to her role as Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre, Tanisha is a director/actor/playwright, musical artist, theatre & anti-racism educator, accidental essayist, and audiobook director with Penguin Random House Canada. Her journey includes work with numerous companies including Obsidian, Buddies In Bad Times, Paprika Festival, Musical Stage, The Theatre Centre, NAC, Nightwood, and Soulpepper. She is a former lead Drama artist-mentor for the Toronto District School Board, and spent three seasons as a Resident Artist Educator with Young People’s Theatre. Tanisha has been nominated as a director for the Pauline McGibbon Award, and is a recipient of the Canadian Music Publishers Association Songwriters’ Award for exceptional skill in songwriting. Her plays Keeper and Admissions were published by Scirocco Drama in 2016 and 2019. She is part-time faculty at Sheridan College where she teaches 2nd Year Music Theatre Performance, and George Brown Theatre School where she teaches 1st Year Contemporary Scene Study. Tanisha spent seven years as Producer/Director for V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. She is a two-time YWCA Woman of Distinction nominee for her commitment to artistic excellence and social justice.
“I am touched. To live in Toronto, whose traditional name means The Gathering Place, and be nominated for marrying my artistic life with a commitment to community feels very poetic to me. I cannot imagine doing it any other way. To be nominated by a mentor for an award named for another of my lighthouses — my female directing mentor who made an indelible impression on me very early in my career — means even more. I have carried Gina into every rehearsal hall for the last decade, and I talk to her on the regular. She is a giant in my heart and in my life, and I have no more words but thank you.” (Photo Credit: Michel Dauda)
Past PRIZE Recipients
Canadian actress, playwright and stage director.
Gina Clare Wilkinson was born on March 10, 1960, in Victoria, B.C. to visual artist, Jack Wilkinson, and ballet teacher, Marie Wilkinson. Gina graduated from the National Theatre School in Montreal and spent the first 20 years of her career as an actor working in theatres across Canada.
Her innate understanding of storytelling in the theatre was an invaluable asset when working on new plays and made her transition from actor to director a natural one.
Gina’s incredible ability to communicate with everyone involved in the making of a play – actors, designers, technicians – made her a successful director and theatre collaborator. A painter and visual artist all her life, her productions were visually exciting.
Her dedication, imagination, humour and unique visual sensibility were some of Gina’s many strengths but it was her understanding and compassion for all things human – both the beautiful and the ugly – that made her a true artist.
Gina believed in the necessity of fun in the rehearsal hall, on and off stage, and in all aspects of one’s life.
THE SUBMISSION PROCESS
All artists who experience the world as women are eligible for Gina’s Prize. Artists must also be Canadian citizens or have permanent resident status, as defined by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or as a self-identifying Indigenous artist.
Gina’s Prize is awarded annually, offering financial support to a woman-identifying theatre artist/leader who is exploring new models of storytelling in the diverse and culturally specific theatre communities in what is now known as Canada.
A prize of $5,000 will be awarded to the winning artist.
A prize of $1,000 will be awarded to each of three shortlisted artists.
Past shortlisted artists or nominees are highly encouraged to apply for this new chapter of Gina’s Prize as your practice evolves.
1. A nomination letter from an artistic collaborator who can speak to the artist’s values in the work, the ways in which they create space and care for co-creators.
2. In the spirit of Gina’s interdisciplinary artistry (dancer, visual artist, actor, director, playwright) nominated artists may use any platforms (written document, video vignette, photos, mixed media, movement piece or other) to share with us…
- What do you value as a theatre artist/leader and how do you embody those values in your artistic practice?
- How does your practice serve your community(-ies)?
- How are you disrupting storytelling and creation models to create your stories?
- What is your hope for future generations of theatre artists?
3. The nominated artist’s headshot and CV
Nominators please email all materials to: firstname.lastname@example.org
DEADLINE FOR 2022 TBA
Nominators please submit all materials to: email@example.com
Submissions will be reviewed by the Gina Wilkinson Prize Committee: Micheline Chevrier, Bonnie Green, Krista Jackson, Lindsay Lachance, Kimberley Rampersad, Tom Rooney, and Jovanni Sy.
Gina’s Prize honours artists who work across Turtle Island on both treaty and unceded territories. Through this prize, we look to acknowledge and amplify their relationship to the land they live on and the communities they serve.