THE GINA WILKINSON PRIZE
“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
GINA’S PRIZE 2023
“Bountiful gratitude to the Prize committee. This news brought me to tears.
When my longtime mentor Allen (MacInnis) first nominated me for this award in 2021, my impulse was to flinch. I was touched that he was championing me, but I wasn’t sure if I embraced the same self-belief. Reading his words, I realized that I was doing what women often do — what women of colour are tacitly encouraged to do — which was to downplay who I was as a builder of the world around me. I now value my contributions, and understand that to further evolve as an leader I must prioritize Forward, not Back. I always wanted people to audit and atone for the past. There is meaningful resonance to that, certainly, but I’ve become less concerned with the eggshell fragility of those clinging to their own diminishing echoes.
I know now that ego, shame and fear prevent people from cleaning their rearview mirrors. I’m investing in legacies of the future. I see hope in my students; I feel hope in the communities Cahoots serves. My notion of ‘community’ is ever-expanding, as is my reach. I stumble often, but I am fueled by courage and truth rather than cynicism and resentment. And I am bolstered everyday by sweet Gina, who believed in me so deeply and whom I’d like to think is smiling now. My mentor, my friend… I love you beyond measure. Always.”
Born and raised in Toronto, Tanisha is a playwright/performer/educator, Dora-nominated director and accidental essayist who still calls the city home. She was pursuing her first love, music, when life collided with what would become her second. 17 years after this happy accident led to her first experience of leadership in community activist theatre, as Producer of V-Day Toronto, she occupies the artistic helm of Cahoots and co-coordinates the Theatre and Drama Studies program at Sheridan/UTM.
Tanisha’s journey as a college educator began at George Brown Theatre School, where her transformation of the Contemporary Scene Study syllabus led to the keynote address at the inaugural Canadian Theatre Educators’ Conference. Also a singer-songsmith since her teens, Tanisha is a recipient of the Canadian Music Publishers Association Songwriters Scholarship for exceptionality in songcraft. She was thrilled to bring her passion for the art form to her work as a theatre educator when she joined Sheridan’s Music Theatre Performance faculty, teaching Acting Through Song.
In 2019, Tanisha was appointed Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre. During her tenure, she has created over a dozen initiatives for artists in the margins. After implementing the Small Change program, providing microgrants to artists following the pandemic-driven industry shutdown, she and co-leader Lisa Alves conceived the Compassionate Care Fund to reduce financial barriers to artistic participation. She accepts that she cannot be all things to all people, but hopes that her efforts leave something permanent – and something impermanent – behind. Tanisha is a two-time YWCA Woman of Distinction nominee for her commitment to artistic excellence and social justice.
“The Gina Wilkinson Prize is a noteworthy nod to the work and process that I am committed to creating as a theatre artist. I am grateful to the committee and to Gina’s vision of what theatre can become when supported with not only a thoughtful prize but with recognition that the stories imagined are also impactful. I am appreciative. Mahsi cho / Quyanainni.”
Reneltta is an Inuvialuit, Dene and Cree from the Northwest Territories. She is founder of Akpik Theatre, a northern focussed professional Indigenous Theatre company. Raised by her grandparents on the trap-line until school age, this nomadic environment gave Reneltta the skills to become the multi-disciplined artist she is now. For two decades, Reneltta has taken part in or initiated the creation of Indigenous Theatre across Canada and internationally. Reneltta has written, produced, and performed various works creating space for Indigenous-led voice. Current works include Pawâkan, a Plains Cree takeover of Macbeth written by Arluk. Pawâkan was inspired by working with youth and Elders on Frog Lake reserve, Treaty 6 territory. Reneltta is the first Inuk and first Indigenous woman to graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting program and direct at The Stratford Festival where she was awarded the Tyrone Guthrie – Derek F. Mitchell Artistic Director’s Award for her direction of the The Breathing Hole.
“In the marathon that is an arts career, being honoured with Gina’s Prize is like being handed a cup of cool, refreshing water along the route: I feel invigorated and encouraged to keep going. Gina inhabited a strength and grace in her many disciplines that I am inspired to manifest in my future projects.”
Aviva is a caretaker on land originally inhabited by the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haundenosaunee and Mississaugas Peoples. She is an actor, director, writer and producer, working in theatre and film. Most recently, Aviva appeared on stage in ARC’s production of Martyr, at the GCTC in Forever Young, produced VideoCabaret’s The Great War and directed and produced the short film You’re Invited.
She was the founder and Artistic Director of The Lab Cab Festival (an annual multi-arts festival) in Toronto for thirteen years. She is the co-director of the film adaptation of The Drawer Boy, which won over fourteen Best Feature Awards at international film festivals. Aviva wrote, co-directed, and starred in the feature film, Lune, which gained her a Canadian Screen Award nomination for her performance, and honoured her as the first Canadian to win The Micki Moore Award for Best Feature at TJFF.
MAKAMBE K SIMAMBA
“I am privileged to be a part of Gina Wilkinson’s legacy through this recognition. It makes me deeply consider the meaning of legacy. I contemplate whose legacies have helped reach the place I am in my practice, as well as the legacy I get to leave behind, not just through making work that is aligned with my spirit, but through the joy of having that work understood and recognized by both peers and mentors. As a finalist for Gina’s Prize, I feel permission to take stock of what has come before, to rest, and then to leap boldly into the chapter that lies ahead.”
Makambe K Simamba is a multiple award-winning playwright, actor, and truth enthusiast based in T’karonto. Select stage acting credits include The First Stone (New Harlem Productions), Serving Elizabeth (Thousand Islands Playhouse), GIANT (Ghost River Theatre), Winners and Losers (Chromatic Theatre), Bea (Sage Theatre), inVISIBLE (Handsome Alice Theatre) and SIA (Pyretic Productions). On screen, she can be seen in projects such as Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Titans, True Dating Stories, Grand Army and more.
As a playwright, her solo work includes the multiple Dora Award-Winning Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers (b current performing arts, Tarragon Theatre, Black Theatre Workshop), A Chitenge Story (Handsome Alice Theatre) and Makambe Speaks (Ghost River Theatre). Makambe’s works in progress have been supported by The Stratford Festival, Banff Playwright’s Lab, Downstage Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, b current performing arts, Citadel Theatre, Obsidian Theatre, and Green Thumb Theatre.
Makambe was the 2020/21 Urjo Kareda Artist in Residence at the Tarragon theatre, and the co-host of Cahoots Theatre’s Blackstage Pass Podcast. Makambe’s intention is to be of service to her community through her ability to tell stories.
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.
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 communities who cherished her joy, energy, and great lust for life. In memory of Gina’s talent and in celebration of her life, the Gina Wilkinson Prize was established in 2011. The prize fund has been built through the generous donations of many friends and colleagues from theatre communities across the country.
Gina’s profound impact as a mentor was recently celebrated on Michael Healey’s Podcast Just One More. Listen HERE.
A huge thank you to THE KINGFISHER FOUNDATION & DEBBIE GRAY and to all of our supporters who generously gave to the 10th Year Anniversary Fundraising Campaign! Our cherished donors are listed HERE. We are very grateful for two substantial gifts that were made to the the Gina’s Prize fund. The first was in 2014 by the beneficiaries of the ESTATE of ELSIE V. ADAMSON, a long-time friend and client of Martin Wilkinson, Gina Wilkinson’s brother. The second was in 2021/22 from THE KINGFISHER FOUNDATION.
GINA’S PRIZE 2023
ELIGIBILITY | Theatre artists from underrepresented genders which includes cis women, trans women, and non-binary folks who have acquired foundational training (from a training program or through experience) and have worked for at least 5 years 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.
THE PRIZE | Gina’s Prize is awarded annually, offering financial support to an inspirational theatre artist with a demonstrated body of work and who is recognized by their community (-ies) for their practice, leadership and dedication to their craft. Gina’s Prize shines a spotlight on an artist whose practice and leadership merits recognition at this stage of their evolution.
A prize of $10,000 will be awarded to the winning artist.
A prize of $2,500 will be awarded to each of two finalist artists.
Past nominated artists may re-apply.
- A nomination letter from one artistic collaborator, (with a maximum of one additional support letter if desired), who can speak to the nominee’s artistic practice, values, and the ways in which they create space and care for other artists. Please also speak to why this moment in their evolution is a time to be recognized.
2. In the spirit of Gina’s interdisciplinary artistry (dancer, visual artist, actor, director, playwright) nominated artists may submit:
A written document (to a maximum of 3 pages) OR one of the following (to a maximum of 5 minutes): video vignette, photos, mixed media, movement piece or other, to share with us…
- Where are you in your evolution as a theatre artist/leader.
- Please share the values that guide your process, how these values inform your practice/leadership, and how your work embodies them.
- Describe how your practice contributes to the artistic community and beyond, as well as how it considers future generations of theatre artists.
- What does Gina’s Prize mean to you in this moment?
3. The nominated artist’s headshot and CV
Nominators please email all materials to: [email protected]
Deadline: December 15, 2022
2023 PRIZE DEADLINE: December, 15th, 2022
Nominators please submit all materials to: [email protected]
Submissions will be reviewed by the Gina Wilkinson Prize Committee: Micheline Chevrier, Krista Jackson, Ann-Marie Kerr, Lindsay Lachance, Kimberley Rampersad, Tom Rooney, and Jovanni Sy.
Committee co-leaders Krista Jackson & Kimberley Rampersad are available to answer any questions about the submission process at:
Bruce Bennett, Executive Director
Ontario Arts Foundation
416-969-7413 | [email protected]
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.