Sunday, February 28, 2021

Walpole Island playwright receives $25,000 protégé prize

Joelle Peters, a performer/playwright from Walpole Island, has received national recognition and a $25,000 prize.

The Siminovitch Prize “shines a spotlight” on excellence and innovation in Canadian Theatre with an annual prize worth $100,000.

Over a three-year cycle, the prize celebrates a professional director, playwright or designer, an acknowledged leader in the theatre whose work is transformative and influential.

The Siminovitch Prize also encourages and supports emerging talent with a protégé prize awarded to a theatre artist chosen by the recipient.

In 2020, the Prize was awarded to playwright Tara Beagan, who selected Peters as the protégé.

“Chi miigwetch to Tara for believing in me and my stories, to the Siminovitch Prize team, and the Siminovitch family for this incredible honour,” Peters said in her acceptance speech.

“Miigwetch to my past teachers and my mentors for their generosity and sharing of knowledge. Miigwetch to my parents Clint and Julie and my brother Dylan for their endless love and support. Miigwetch to my friends, and to the land, for holding me and inspiring my stories. I hope someday I can inspire younger generations of artists, just as Tara has done for me and countless others. Thank you.”

Peters moved to Toronto to study acting for camera and voice at Seneca College.

She has performed across Canada at festivals and theatres such as Western Canada Theatre, Thousand Islands Playhouse, Factory Theatre, Summerworks Festival, Theatre Passe Muraille and has toured across Ontario and British Columbia.

Currently, Peters is part of the Animikiig Creator’s Unit at Native Earth Performing Arts, writing a full length coming-of-age play called Niish, mentored by Falen Johnson.

She also co-wrote Frozen River with Michaela Washburn and Carrie Costello, which is set to premiere at Manitoba Theatre for Young People next spring.

Peters said this year has been a “rollercoaster.

“There’s no way any of us could have known how much our lives would change in 2020. I remember reading memes about how ‘2020 is gonna be our year!’ and now actual 2020 memes are about masks, hand sanitizer and how the world is ending. This time last year I had just closed a show and was working box office at Native Earth Performing Arts,” Peters said, adding that this year she mostly stays home.

“And for that my dog is thankful,” she said.

“There are no box office shifts because everything is online, gigs have either been cancelled or pushed back to who knows when and occasionally I get a swab shoved up my nose. So when Tara phoned me and said she had selected me as her protégé, I was surprised, shocked… I think I still am. What a wild year.”

Peters said she met Beagan in 2015 at the Debajehmujig Creation Centre in Manitowaning, Ontario.

“Since then, I’ve been such a huge fan of hers, not just as an incredible playwright, director and mentor but as a fellow human,” Peters said.

“Tara is so insightful and kind, and smart, and funny, and the way she approaches storytelling is something I deeply admire. She fights for what she believes in and lifts people up, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for both of us.”

Tara Beagan

Beagan, who was named the 2020 laureate of the Siminovitch Prize, receives the top prize of $75,000.

She is based in Mohkinstis (Calgary), is proud to be Ntlaka’pamux and, through her late father’s side, of Irish ancestry.

She is now Playwright In Residence at Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg.

Seven of her 32 plays have been published, two of which received Dora Award nominations, including one win.

In 2020, her play Honour Beat won the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama.

“Every Indigenous theatre maker to this point has created this moment, just by doing the hard work of existing,” Beagan said in a media release.

“Young Indigenous makers, you are the culmination of all your ancestors. Hold strong, check in with the earth and sky and remember that so many are walking with you.”

The announcement took place during the Prize’s 20th anniversary, virtual ceremony on November 26, 2020.

Watch the full virtual award ceremony, here.

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