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The Globe and Mail

Prestigious Siminovitch theatre prize coming to an end

Playwright Joan MacLeod at her home in Victoria, B.C., in 2009. She has been nominated for the 2011 Siminovitch Prize.

deddeda stemler The Globe and Mail

The Siminovitch Prize in theatre, at $100,000 one of the country's most valuable and prestigious arts awards, is coming to an end after a 12-year run this year.

Notice of the termination of the annual prize, which since 2001 has honoured theatre professionals in a variety of disciplines, was included this week in the last paragraph of a release announcing the call for nominations for its 2012 edition.

No reason is given in the release for ending the prize, which was created to honour noted Canadian medical scientist Lou Siminovitch, 91, and his wife, Elinore, a Toronto playwright who died at 72 in 1995. A call and an e-mail directed to Joseph Rotman, chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, founder of the Clairvest equity group and one of the six families that helped found the Siminovitch prize, were not returned on Thursday.

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One of the three Siminovitch children, Dr. Katherine Siminovitch, said in a brief interview that she had "just found out about [the termination]myself" and could offer no explanation. "It's very disappointing, to say the least."

The award was conceived and backed by a who's who of prominent Canadians and Canadian institutions. Besides Mr. Rotman and his wife, Sandra, founders included former BMO president Tony Comper and his wife, Elizabeth; Novopharm founder Leslie Dan and his wife, Anna; Allelix Biopharmaceuticals chairman John Evans and his wife, Gay; kidney transplant expert Dr. Cal Stiller and his wife, Angie; plus Larry Tanenbaum, chair of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and his wife, Judy. The six institutional backers include BMO Financial, the University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto), Toronto's Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, the J.P. Bickell Foundation and SickKids Foundation.

The Siminovitch prize was established to recognize, by jury evaluation, an artist in mid-career "who has contributed significantly to the fabric of theatrical life through a total body of work." Directors, playwrights and designers (set, costume, lighting, sound) were considered in cycles.

This year, for instance, nominations, due June 8, are restricted to designers; last year, it was for playwrights only. The shortlist for the 2012 prize is to be announced in September and the winner named in November. The $100,000 prize has been traditionally split in two, with $75,000 going to the winner, the remainder to a protégé chosen by the winner.

Among previous Siminovitch laureates are playwrights Joan MacLeod and John Mighton, directors Daniel Brooks and Brigitte Haentjens, designers Louise Campeau and Dany Lyne.

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