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2022: Fay Nass

Fay lives on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.

Fay is a community-engaged director, writer, dramaturg, innovator, producer and educator. They are the Artistic Director of the frank theatre company and the founder/Artistic Director of Aphotic Theatre.

She has over 17 years of experience in text-based and devised work deeply rooted in inter-cultural and collaborative approaches. Fay’s work often examines questions of race, gender, sexuality, culture and language through an intersectional lens in order to shift meanings and de-construct paradigms rooted in our society. Fay’s work celebrates empathy and blurs the line between politics and intimate personal stories.

Fay’s work has been presented at PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, SummerWorks Festival, Queer Arts Festival, the CULTCH and Firehall Arts Centre. Her readings and experimental work have been presented at various conferences and artist-run galleries in Spain, Berlin and Paris. Their co-creation project Be-Longing was part of the 2021 New York international Film Festival, NICE International Film Festival and Madrid International Film Festival.

Her most recent credits include: directing I Cannot Lie to the Stars that Made me(the frank theatre), Directing Art Connectsdocumentary film (Aphotic Theatre),  co-creating Be-Longing (the frank theatre), co-directing Trans Script Part I: The Women(the frank theatre and Zee Theatre at Firehall Arts Centre), directing She Mami Wata & the Pussy WitchHunt (the frank theatre at PuSh Festival 2020), co-directing Straight White Men (ITSAZOO productions at Gateway Theatre). Fay holds an MFA from Simon Fraser University. Currently, Fay was selected for the Artistic Leadership Residency at the National Theatre School of Canada in 2020. 

As an artistic leader and a practitioner, Fay has deep and involved relationships—both creative and organizational—with a wide spectrum of artists across generations and stylistic practices. As an educator and facilitator, their philosophy and pedagogy are rooted in anti-racism and anti-oppression.

“I am humbled and honoured by this recognition, as I stand among many inspiring and resilient women. They include the company of my predecessors, those who have come before me and those who walk beside me. They have given me the courage and strength to keep going regardless of how lonely and challenging the path has been. I have been seen through the gaze of these women: my mother who left her country and her identity so that my sister and I could dream; my aunt, an actor in Iran who continued to fight for her voice and who inspired me to be a theatre artist when I was a child. Women like my mentors Judith Hogan and Brenda Leadlay, and my colleagues d’bi young Anitafrika and Nadia Ross who have held me and inspired me along the way through their art, their intelligence, their poetry, their activism and their passion.  Thank you for believing in my work. 

My life’s work has been the celebration of intersectional storytelling and the embracing of transculturalism. This Prize is a wonderful affirmation of the work that I have been doing for nearly two decades, in particular creating new models and methodologies rooted in equity and inclusion, highlighting and amplifying the voices of female, trans, non-binary, LGBTQ2+ and BIPOC communities. To be seen and to be recognized is a rare and beautiful feeling. I sincerely thank every member of the committee for this prize, and I extend my gratitude to Gina Wilkinson for making this possible.” 

Shortlisted Finalists


T’karonto, covered by Treaty 13, under the Dish with One Spoon Wumpum Belt Covenant.

With a string of firsts in Asian Canadian theatre, Nina Lee Aquino was the founding Artistic Director of fu-GEN Asian Canadian theatre company, organized the first Asian Canadian theatre conference, edited the first (2-volume) Asian Canadian play anthology, and co-edited the first (award-winning) book on Asian Canadian theatre.

She became Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre, currently holds the same position at Factory Theatre and is the incoming Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre English Theatre.  Nina is also serves as the President of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres.

She has directed at theatres across the country and has won the Ken McDougall Award, the John Hirsch Prize, the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards for Best Director, and three Dora Awards for Outstanding Direction.

Nina co-wrote Miss Orient(ed) and her monologues have been published in Beyond the Pale and She Speaks (Playwrights Canada Press).

Nina has taught and directed at educational institutions in the city and was recently appointed Adjunct Professor at York University’s Department of Theatre.  She is the 2019 winner of the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Margo Bindhart and Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award.

“Being a finalist for the Gina Wilkinson Prize is like being given a beautiful compass, making the navigation of my artistic terrain a little sweeter. The award is not only a chance to look up from the road, stop to rest and take stock of how far I’ve come, it also gives me an opportunity to celebrate all the steps so far and the cuts and bruises from the falls along the way. To me, this prize means keep going.”


Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg MB

Hazel Venzon is a director whose practice is influenced by relational-art aesthetics and community engaged practices as a vehicle to conduct immersive, intercultural experiences within live theatre and performance. 

A multi-faceted director, Venzon’s diverse experience working as a theatre artist has greatly influenced her current directorial practice. Early on, she found that conventional plays did not accurately represent the multicultural world she occupied. Since, Venzon has created opportunities to collaborate with independent companies who bend the rules of character and whose work releases the shackles of identity. She has pursued directing, writing and producing new works with iconic indie companies such as Theatre Replacement, The Chop, Urban Crawl, Boca Del Lupo, Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre and Mammalian Diving Reflex. 

Independently, for the past dozen years, her focus has been on directing Filipino-Canadian centred stories. Venzon co-founded U N I Together Productions (2016) which supports the evolution of Filipino storytellers across the country through producing, direction, dramaturgy, mentorship and consultation – bringing new ways to direct and stage narratives that celebrate audiences, inspiring connection.

“I’m meeting Gina for the first time through this amazing honour as a shortlisted finalist for the 2022 GW Prize. Grateful for Gina’s passion in theatre and live art – I want to share this recognition with my fellows who, too, tirelessly give towards the change in how live art is made.” |@unitproductions


Posted on

March 1, 2023