Why we shouldn’t take the Jessies too seriously

Jessies, The Seafarer, Pacific Theatre, Vancouver theatre

The ONLY Jessie The Seafarer won was for outstanding production. What’s up with that?

If we ever needed a reminder of why we shouldn’t take the Jessies too seriously, all we have to do is look at this year’s awards in the large-theatre stream. 

As I launch into this, let me make it clear that I am NOT knocking the awards that anybody got: ALL of the winners deserve celebration.

But the patterns don’t make sense. Pacific Theatre’s The Seafarer won as outstanding production, but it took no other prizes; PT’s three other Jessies all went to The Foreigner.

The outstanding production award was also detached from the direction Jessie, which went to Kim Collier for Hamlet.

As Collier said in her acceptance speech, you just don’t do Hamlet unless you’ve got an actor who can play the title role. Though nominated for his Hamlet in Collier’s production, Jonathon Young didn’t win. (John Voth, who did win for The Foreigner, did impressive work. I’m not knockin’ him. Again, my point is that the patterns are odd.)

One of the reasons for this, no doubt, is the weighted voting system in which jury members rank their choices 1 to 5. And, of course, selecting winners is subjective—much like writing reviews.

So, if you lost—or even if you won—it’s a good idea to take the Jessies with a packet of salt. It’s a genuine honour to receive one. But weird stuff happens in the nomination and voting processes.

It’s probably best to keep our sober eyes on the practical benefits of winning a Jessie: having  one in your back pocket gives you publicity and it can impress funding bodies.



About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.


  1. I love your observation on this – sharing with my students.

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