How to build a better Canadian arts award
Melissa Leong, Postmedia News
At the 33rd annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards last month, Philip Akin gripped his bronzed statue and announced to the audience: "Joy!"
It had been a great evening for the artistic director of Obsidian Theatre. Among the Toronto company's many awards, Akin won directing honours for Topdog/Underdog, which was named outstanding production of a play, while Obsidian's Caroline, or Change won best musical. After the gala, company members celebrated at a street party with music, ice cream and hotdogs.
But how long would this joy last? The answer tells the story of Canadian arts awards.
"I got a lot of teasing phone calls about, 'Will my head fit in a room?' and, 'Will I build another shelf for the awards?'" Akin says. "But the wheel turns fast in Dora-ville. You're king of the walk one minute and you're in the mud next year. I have no illusions about anything other than it was a couple of great shows."
Since 2000, Obsidian has been nominated for 42 Doras and has won 13 times; but Akin says producers were not exactly banging on his door with post-award job offers. "You're still caught in the same traps. If you're a black director, people only see you as directing black plays. There's not been anybody phoning saying, 'Gosh Philip, let's hire you.' I'm directing a SummerWorks show this year because if I didn't direct it, I wouldn't have directed anything for a year and a half between Topdog and my next show."
The after-effects of winning a Canadian arts award are difficult to measure. For artists, of course, it feels good to be nominated, and great to win. But success in terms of career advancement and sales is far from guaranteed, as is audience awareness and post-award publicity.
The last Gemini Awards, for instance, reeled in only 430,000 viewers, while the Genie awards averaged 378,000. (A typical episode of Dragons' Den can net 1.5 million viewers.) And other award ceremonies such as the Doras and are not televised at all.
Is our national modesty to blame? Are we quietly patting ourselves on the backs at insular parties when we could be adding more heft to our accolades? Is there, in fact, a way to build a better awards system?
"In Canada ... no one really cares if you've won an award. The Gemini is the Canadian Emmy for God's sake, and there's very little homage paid to it," says comedian Debra DiGiovanni, winner of a Gemini Award and four Canadian Comedy Awards.
To read the full article: http://www.canada.com/entertainment/build+better+Canadian+arts+award/6931460/story.html