The Jessies 2018: three companies take most of the hardware

Pippa Mackie and Peter Anderson perform a death scene in Titus Bouffonius.

Pippa Mackie and Peter Anderson got good and grotesque in Rumble Theatre’s Titus Bouffonius, which was one of the big winners at the 2018 Jessies.

At the 2018 Jessie Richardson Awards, which took place in the Bard on the Beach mainstage tent for the first time this year, the juries heavily favoured three companies: Rumble, the Arts Club, and Green Thumb.

There are three main categories at the Jessie Awards: small theatre, large theatre, and theatre for young audiences.

In the small-theatre stream, Rumble’s production of The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius nabbed six prizes, including outstanding production.

Other laurels that went to Titus Bouffonius include those for performance by an ensemble (Sarah Afful, Peter Anderson, Craig Erickson, Pippa Mackie, and Naomi Wright), lighting design (Sophie Tang), set design (Drew Facey), costume design (Drew Facey), and direction (Stephen Drover).

Accepting the ensemble prize, Craig Erickson and Pippa Mackie assumed the grotesque bouffon characters they inhabited in Titus Bouffonius—and delivered the most enthusiastically received thank-yous of the night, including Mackie’s “We’d like to thank all of the people who walked out when I pulled out a bloody tampon.”

Omari Newton, who replaced another actor at the last minute in SpeakEasy Theatre’s The Shipment, took home the statue for outstanding performance by an actor. And newcomer Shayna Jones nabbed the trophy for performance by an actress (Ruined, Dark Glass Theatre). Jones, who described herself as “a full-time mother”, was so surprised and moved by her win that she could barely make it down the aisle to the stage.

There were just two other outliers in the small theatre awards. The statuette for outstanding sound design or original composition went to Daniel Deorksen and Kurt Schindelka for their work on Seven Tyrants Theatre’s A Steady Rain. And the significant achievement kudos went to Tetsuro Shigematsu, Jamie Nesbitt, and Susan Miyagishima for “outstanding technical design and execution for the purpose of historical storytelling” (Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre’s 1 Hour Photo.)

With a total of seven awards, the Arts Club swept the large-theatre stream. The company’s production of Misery was recognized in three categories, including both of the acting races. Andrew McNee and Lucia Frangione, who co-starred in the thriller took the acting honours. And Lauchlin Johnston won for his deeply creepy set design.

The Arts Club’s Hand to God also chocked up three wins: Jeff Harrison (lighting), direction (Stephen Drover), and artistic achievement (Jeny Cassady for outstanding puppet design and coaching).

It was a big night for Drover, who took directing honours in both small and large theatre. He has also recently been appointed as the associate artistic director at the Arts Club.

The Arts Club’s seventh award went to Torquil Campbell and Alessandro Juliani (outstanding sound design or original composition, Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika).

Christine Reimer, who created the stylish late-50s costumes from Bard on the Beach’s Much Ado About Nothing took home the Jessie for costuming in large theatre.

And the biggest prize in the large-theatre stream, outstanding production, went to Pacific Theatre’s deeply charming Outside Mullingar, which didn’t win in any other category.

Another major award, the prize for outstanding ensemble performance, went to Neworld Theatre’s King Arthur’s Knight. That ensemble, which includes actors from BC’s Down Syndrome Research Foundation, consists of: Amber Funk Barton, Andrew Gordon, Nathan Kay, Tiffany King, Billy Marchenski, Niall McNeill, Lucy McNulty, Kerry Sandomirsky, Matthew Tom-Wing, Marcus Youssef, and Lucy Cairns.

In the TYA races, Green Thumb Theatre shut out the competition, winning three times for Jabber and twice for The Code.

The Jabber trophies went to: Parmiss Sehat for outstanding performance; Shizuka Kai, Joel Grinke, and Mishelle Cuttler for design; and Chelsea Haberlin for direction. Jabber was coproduced by Neworld Theatre.

The jury considered The Code the best production and also gave it a significant achievement nod for the “exceptional presentation of contemporary, far-reaching teen issues”.

Rachel Aberle, who wrote The Code, won the Sidney Risk Prize for an Emerging Playwright. Accepting the honour, she thanked Green Thumb for respecting the intelligence of young audiences and her husband “who is so patient he’s at this awards show.”

For the first time ever, the Critics’ Choice Innovation Award was shared by two productions: Universal Limited’s Japanese Problemand Mind of a Snail’s Multiple Organism. Several other special honours were also distributed, including: original script (Jovanni Sy for Nine Dragons), the Vancouver Now Representation and Inclusion Award (Rohit Chokhani), patron of the arts (Bonnie Mah), the Mary Phillips Prize for Behind-the-Scenes Achievement (Ruth McIntosh), the Sam Payne Award for the most promising newcomer (Tai Amy Grauman), the John Moffat and Larry Lillo Prize (Jack Paterson), the Colin Campbell Award for excellence in technical theatre (Bruce Kennedy), and the Ray Michal Prize for the most promising new director (Genevieve Fleming).

Fleming wasn’t in the theatre and, when she finally appeared, wearing a short green onesie, her good-natured dismay was another highlight of the refreshingly informal evening: “You guys, I just went to pee! I don’t know if I’m dressed!”

Former UBC prof and artistic director of Blackbird Theatre, John Wright was more sedate as he honoured costumer Jessie Richardson, after whom the Jessies are named, when he accepted the GVPTA Career Achievement Award.

Bill Millerd, the outgoing artistic director of the Arts Club, was frank when he received a lifetime membership in Actors’ Equity. “I’ve had a lot of fights with Equity,” he admitted. “When they told me they were giving me this award, I said, ‘Really? Fuck!’” He also acknowledged the importance of Equity and thanked the team that he’s worked with, including artist liaison and right-hand woman Stephanie Hargreaves, choreographer and director Valerie Easton, and lighting designer—and Millerd’s partner—Marsha Sibthorpe.

For a full list of this year’s nominees, all of whom deserve our gratitude and appreciation, click this link right here.

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.

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