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Annual Prize of $5,000 honours female theatre artists transitioning to directing

Jasmine Chen

Toronto - March 10, 2020 - The Gina Wilkinson Prize Committee is pleased to announce that Jasmine Chen is the recipient of the ninth annual Gina Wilkinson Prize for an Emerging Female Director.

About Jasmine Chen
Jasmine is a Chinese-Canadian multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto/Vancouver.  She is the creator of The Mother Tongue Project which was featured on CBC Arts and Fête Chinoise Magazine. Her bilingual participatory theatre piece The Gateway Language Exchange Gameshow was featured in the Richmond News for bringing together inter-generational Mandarin and English speakers. Her performance credits include: the Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, Canadian Stage, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Young People’s Theatre, The Arts Club, Prairie Theatre Exchange, and more. Her directing credits include: Hilot Means Healer (Cahoots Theatre/b current), Yellow Rabbit (Silk Bath/Soulpepper), Madness of the Square (Lift Off/Cahoots), Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) (Banff/Citadel), Le Ba-Ta-Clan (Opera 5), DIRT (Forward March Festival). Jasmine is a recipient of the Stratford Festival Jean Gascon Award, Toronto Harold Award, and is a Dora Mavor Moore Award Nominee. Jasmine is the incoming Artistic and Community Producer at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond, BC. Website: msjasminechen.com

Quote
"I never had the privilege of meeting Gina. Through her friends and colleagues, I’ve received stories of her warmth, her magic, her fabulous outfits, her fearlessness, but most of all, her generosity. I’m inspired by her legacy and the previous recipients of this prize, many of whom have had a profound impact on me, spurring me on to open even more doors for others.

I’m deeply grateful for the chosen family I have found in our nationwide community. Thank you to Norman Yeung, Victoria Wang, Miquelon Rodriguez, Meg Roe and the selection jury for believing in my nomination. I’m indebted to the women trailblazers who came before me and encouraged me to listen to and trust my voice. This prize recognizes what so often goes unseen: a transition that requires sacrifice, rigour and courage. I would not have had that courage without the unwavering support of my community. To my mentors, Marjorie Chan, Esther Jun, Chris Abraham, David Yee, Meg Roe, Brian Quirt, Nina Lee Aquino, Tanisha Taitt, Jovanni Sy, and many others: thank you for seeing in me what I had not yet discovered in myself.

In receiving this honour, I want to say this: when you invest in artists, a little bit of encouragement goes a long way. Without champions, without the people to tell you to keep going, there are too many burgeoning artistic voices that get lost along the way. In the spirit of Gina’s generosity, I would like to recognize two new-generation artists who inspire me and are blazing paths in their own communities, they are: Rinchen Dolma and Kemi King.”

Shortlisted Nominees
Ms. Chen was selected from a short list that includes, in alphabetical order, Diana DonnellyChanda Gibson, and Chiamaka G. Ugwu. Each shortlisted nominee will receive $1,000.

Diana Donnelly is a director and actor, originally from Montreal. In 2019 she directed Hannah Moscovitch’s The Russian Play at The Shaw Festival. Diana was a Neil Munro Intern Director at Shaw in 2018. She was the assistant director for Ravi Jain on The Orchard: After Chekhov and Craig Hall on The Hound of the Baskervilles. Her Director’s Project at Shaw was Caryl Churchill’s Far Away. She was a finalist for Crow’s Theatre’s RBC Rising Star Emerging Director’s Prize in 2019. Diana is a graduate of the National Theatre School where she currently mentors. She has worked across the country as an actor. She won the Best Ensemble Dora Award in 2018 with her cast mates in Jerusalem (Company Theatre/Outside the March). This summer she can be seen in M. Butterfly at Soulpepper Theatre. Diana will direct Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes at The Grand Theatre in 2021. She is very grateful for this recognition and in such excellent company.

Chanda Gibson, a versatile Franco-Ontarian actress and artist, is a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s Theatre Department (2005). She has performed in numerous theatrical productions including Le Passé antérieur (Th. l’Île); Exit(s) (Catapulte/TNO),; Silence en Coulisses! (Th. du Trillium); Le Désir (Th. l’Île); Les Médecins de Molière (Catapulte/TfT); Boeing Beoing (Th.l’Île); iShow (PCC); Les Précieuses ridicules (TfT); as well as Peau (She Said Films). On television, her projects include Météo+Les Bleus de RamvilleMotel Monstre (TFO), Consensus (TV5/Web), Vision Polyphonique (TV5/Web), and Toi et Moi III (RDI). She also portrays the exuberant Dame Viviane in Mehdi & Val, a French children’s TV show produced by Slalom (RDI). Chanda’s directing career started with productions for young audiences (Les Zinspirés: Cinq sur Cinq, Six degrés de séparation and L’Âge de raison) for which she received two Dora-Mavor-Moore Awards for Outstanding Direction in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and last Fall she directed Eugène Ionesco’s absurd classic comedy The Bald Soprano at the Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT). Chanda is honoured to have been considered for the Gina Wilkinson Prize for Emerging Female Director's and would like to thank the jury and congratulate this year's recipient.

Chiamaka G. Ugwu (she/her) is an interdisciplinary actor-creator, writer, director, and producer. As a Dora-nominated actor, Chiamaka has worked in theatres across the country including Neptune Theatre, Odyssey Theatre, New Harlem Productions, Modern Times Stage Company and Aluna Theatre. As a director, Chiamaka has worked extensively in new play development including directing the workshops of Broken Windows (bcurrent, Theatre InspiraTO), The Disappearance of Laura May (fuGEN Theatre), Don’t Talk to Me Like I’m Your Wife (Factory Theatre) as well as creating, producing and directing as part of the Cardinal Direction Experimentation Lab for emerging, female directors of colour. Her other directing credits include The Twelve-Forty (Theatre InspiraTO - People’s Choice Award) and Neck-Breaking Car-Hop (Theatre Erindale), as well as assistant directing mentorships at Nightwood Theatre with Weyni Mengesha, at Factory Theatre with Judith Thompson, and at the AMY Project with Maya Rabanovitch and Lisa Codrington. In her training Chiamaka has sought opportunities that celebrate her interdisciplinary work which includes being a Chalmers fellow, as well as training with the SITI Company, Kristin Linklater, Directors Lab North, and Generator’s Artist Producer Training program. As a writer, Chiamaka is currently writing her first play Swallow which follows a PhD candidate whose study of an Igbo goddess disrupts her romantic, familial and spiritual relationships on the eve of her father’s death. She is honoured to be shortlisted for the esteemed Gina Wilkinson Prize.

Nominations and Selection Committee
The Committee received 21 nominations from across the country and was thrilled by the calibre of the artists vying for the Prize. The nominations spoke to an incredibly diverse, intelligent and passionate group of artists who, as emerging directors, are clearly dedicated to creating not only a lively, rigorous and positive environment for theatre-making but also to providing audiences in their communities with theatre experiences of the highest order.

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, Eda Holmes, Krista Jackson, Lindsay Lachance, 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 Award
Gina's Prize honours a Canadian female theatre artist who is transitioning from one theatre discipline (acting, stage managing, playwriting, administration, etc.) to that of directing. The Prize pays tribute to actor/playwright/director Gina Wilkinson, who passed away in 2010, and whose dedication, vision and indomitable spirit imbued her work and her life. An actor for over twenty years, Ms Wilkinson began turning her attention to both writing and directing and, in the last few years of her too-short life, established herself as a daring, strong, inventive director and collaborator in the Canadian theatre. In the spirit of Ms Wilkinson's appetite for life, the Prize of $5,000 is a gift to be used in any way the recipient chooses.

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

Past recipients of Gina's Prize include Anita La Selva (2019) Tanja Jacobs (2018), and Kimberley Rampersad (2017).  See full list of previous recipients

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