Montreal’s two main anglo theatres, Centaur and Segal, were handed three of the big prizes Sunday night at the seventh annual METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards), held at the Monument-National. It was a bittersweet feeling for these venues, perhaps, because out of 34 nominations between them, they came away with just eight wins, demonstrating the strength of the city’s independent and community theatre scene.
Both actress and actor categories for outstanding lead performance were won by the Segal. Singer-songwriter Eva Foote, remarkably making her acting debut, was honoured for her role as a Czech immigrant in the gritty, Dublin-based musical Once. The role also won her the award for outstanding emerging artist (performance).
Ryan Bommarito, another relative newcomer, took his award for the lead role in Indecent, Paula Vogel’s historical musical drama about the furor around a controversial Jewish play. Indecent also earned Ray Hogg an award for outstanding choreography/movement direction, a category making its debut this year. Another Segal winner was Pierre-Étienne Locas for his monumental and surrealist design in the Ibsen “sequel” A Doll’s House, Part 2.
Centaur won big with Choir Boy, an intensely moving play about the tensions in a Chicago private school for African-Americans. It took the award for outstanding PACT (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres) production. The production’s musical director, Floydd Ricketts, won the award for outstanding contribution to theatre for his wonderfully diverse a cappella creations. Another Centaur win was for its visually ravishing production of the Henry VIII family drama The Last Wife, which took the outstanding lighting design award for Andrea Lundy.
Like Centaur and Segal, the ever-inventive company Scapegoat Carnivale snatched a small victory, numerically speaking, from a wealth of nominations (eight of them) for Yev, the strange and compelling tale of a Siberian hermit. The fact that it won for outstanding independent production no doubt sent them off on a high.
Another big winner was Liz Valdez, who won the outstanding direction award for Encore, Tableau D’Hôte’s small gem of a production tucked away in MainLine’s Mini-Main space. This beautifully performed two-hander about an estranged couple obsessively reliving their first meeting also earned Jacob Burtenshaw an award for outstanding musical composition.
Oren Safdie’s provocative school locker-room drama Gratitude, another little big show at Mini-Main, got a nod as Patrick Émmanuel Abellard took a break from hosting the ceremony (alongside Kate Hammer) to take his own turn at accepting an award. His portrayal of a clumsily libidinous schoolboy earned him the gong for outstanding supporting performance (actor).
It was a pretty good year for MainLine, in fact, with Meghan Vera Starling’s interpretation of creepy servant Riff Raff in the theatre’s annual Rocky Horror Show production winning the award for outstanding supporting performer (actress).
A six-pack of brilliant female performers (plus one pizza man) over at La Chapelle took the outstanding ensemble award for Talisman’s production of Clean Slate, a raucous and unflinching tragicomedy about friendships and falling-outs in the woods.
Theatre for young people was represented at the ceremony by a new-text award for Rhiannon Collett’s gay punk revenge drama The Kissing Game, produced by Youtheatre, while Diana Uribe took the costume design award for her work in Geordie Theatre’s The Little Witch.
Geordie got more love with Nikita Bala taking the emerging artist (production) award for her management work on the ballet drama Reaching for the Stars, as well as for Black Theatre Workshop’s How Black Mothers Say I Love You and Tableau D’Hôte’s Blackout.
The Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society took home their fourth META for outstanding community production, this time for Cabaret.
One of the city’s cultural treasures, Playwrights Workshop Montreal, got major recognition this year in both honorary awards. The new writing organization’s general manager, Lesley Bramhill, took the Unsung Hero of Theatre Award for her advocacy of English theatre in Quebec and beyond, while Playwrights Workshop Montreal won the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award for its establishment of programs addressing specific areas of inclusion, including youth, LGBTQ, feminist and neurodiverse artists.