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2021: Yvette Nolan

Toronto  – March 10, 2021 – The Gina Wilkinson Prize Committee is pleased to announce that Yvette Nolan from Saskatoon, Treaty 6 Territory, and the homeland of the Mètis, is the recipient of the 10th annual Gina Wilkinson Prize.

About Yvette Nolan
Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) 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.”


Shortlisted 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)

Nominations and Selection Committee
The 41 nominations from across the country spoke to an incredibly diverse, dynamic and passionate group of artistic leaders who are serving their communities. They were inspiring, original and dedicated to creating positive spaces centered around care and innovative practice.

The Gina Wilkinson Prize was established through the generous support of Gina’s colleagues and admirers from across the country. The Committee (Micheline Chevrier, Bonnie Green, Krista Jackson, Lindsay Lachance, Kimberley Rampersad, Tom Rooney and Jovanni Sy) extends its heartfelt thanks to all those supporters. Through their incredible generosity, the spirit of Gina lives on.


About the Prize

Gina’s Prize honours a woman-identifying theatre artist/leader who is exploring new models of storytelling in the diverse theatre communities in what is now known as Canada. The Prize pays tribute to Gina Wilkinson, who passed away in 2010, and whose dedication, vision and indomitable spirit imbued her work and her life.

Gina’s interdisciplinary artistry as a dancer, visual artist, actor, playwright and director established herself as a daring, strong, inventive leader and collaborator in the Canadian theatre. She believed in the necessity of fun in the rehearsal hall, on and off stage, and in all aspects of one’s life. In the spirit of Gina’s appetite for life, the Prize of $5,000 is a gift to be used in any way the recipient chooses.

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.   

The Ontario Arts Foundation manages the endowment that funds the Gina Wilkinson Prize.  Anyone wishing to donate may do so at

See full list of previous recipients



Posted on

March 10, 2021