Anick La Bissonnière has been awarded Canada’s most prestigious theatre award – The Siminovitch Prize. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the award, which was celebrated at a gala this past weekend at Toronto’s Hart House Theatre. As a part of the $100,000 prize, La Bissonnière receives $75,000 and Marilène Bastien, whom she has chosen as her protégée, receives $25,000.
La Bissonnière was one of four talented designers on this year’s shortlist. For the first time, The Siminovitch Prize has added an additional $15,000 in prize money to award $5,000 to each of the three other finalists: Bretta Gerecke, Trevor Schwellnus and Nancy Tobin.
“In awarding the 2015 Siminovitch Prize to Anick La Bissonnière, the jury recognized her extraordinary talent to create epic, eye-popping environments that manage to remain intimate, subtle and totally actor-friendly,” said Jury Chair Bob White. “This ability to imagine complete, original worlds for the plays she designs and to empower actors to lay bare the human soul, marks Anick La Bissonnière as a rare and precious theatrical artist.” He added, “Clean lines, a dynamic use of negative space and a flair for the bold gesture make La Bissonnière’s work unique and ground-breaking.”
La Bissonnière studied architecture in Switzerland and Montreal before landing her first professional set design job in 1993. Since that time, La Bissonnière has collaborated with dozens of talented Canadian directors including André Brassard, Gilles Maheu, Matthew Jocelyn and her ongoing collaborator, Siminovitch Laureate Brigitte Haentjens. Her set designs have been produced all over the world on such renowned stages as the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Festival d’Avignon, New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. She has created award-winning work for theatre, dance, film, urban events, circuses, museums and site-specific installations. Since 2010, she has been actively sharing her knowledge in design with students at Université du Québec à Montréal. La Bissonnière was previously a Siminovitch Prize finalist in 2006, 2009 and 2012.
“After three nominations, I think I had unconsciously resolved that my fourth time would end the same way,” said La Bissonnière. “To be one of the nominees again felt extraordinary. It meant that over the years my whole career has been acknowledged by the Siminovitch jury. To be the recipient is an incredible honour, and an extraordinary gift which offers the possibility of freedom.”
Marilène Bastien was chosen by La Bissonnière as her protégée. A multi-talented set, costume and prop designer, Bastien has created sets and costumes for many prominent productions including theatre, circus and dance. Bastien has been part of the creative team of the festival Montréal Complètement Cirque, designing costumes for its 40 acrobats and dancers. In the summer of 2015 she created costumes for ‘Le monde est fou,’ a Cirque du Soleil production directed by Jean-Guy Legault.
Describing her reaction to hearing that she was chosen as La Bissonnière’s protégée, Bastien said. “It is such a surprise and the emotion is so strong that my heart is pounding and words fail me. I admire Anick greatly. This unexpected acknowledgement sweeps me off my feet and fills me with overwhelming feelings; I am moved, proud and honoured.”
“RBC is pleased to support The Siminovitch Protégé Prize as part of the RBC Emerging Artist Project,” said Rebecca Mooney, Vice President and Head, Brand and Marketing, RBC Wealth Management. “We believe in the power of mentorship to foster the development of the next generation of artists and are pleased to congratulate Marilène Bastien as this year’s recipient.”
“Each year, since its inception in 2001, The Siminovitch Prize has turned the spotlight on exceptional Canadian theatre artists. The award has stimulated and enabled winners to push the boundaries of their craft, illuminated their work nationally and internationally and has served as a springboard for the advancement of their careers,” said Dr. Kathy Siminovitch, Board Chair. “This Prize, and its protégé component, allows us to reflect on the importance of theatre to our country’s cultural life, the need of its artists for support, recognition and opportunities for risk-taking and the incredible value of mentorship. We are delighted to support Canadian theatre artists with the help of our Presenting Sponsor RBC Wealth Management and partners University of Toronto, Hart House Theatre and the Friends of the Siminovitch Prize.”
For more information on The Siminovitch Prize, visit siminovitchprize.com.