It's been an easy transition, and that has everything to do with Gina. I would have found it eventually, but I don't know if I would have found it as quickly and easily. She really was the catalyst for it.
—Krista Jackson, Gina Wilkinson Prize winner
When Krista Jackson got word from actor Tom Rooney, she was shocked to hear she'd won a prize.
Rooney was married to the late actor and director Gina Wilkinson, and now administers an annual cash prize in her name that is awarded to female directors. Jackson had bested 18 other nominees for the $2000 prize.
"It's a huge honour," Jackson said. "I was a bit in shock because the other shortlisted nominees were so incredibly experienced. I was just completely taken aback and thrilled."
Taking the award is a very personal win for Jackson. She and Wilkinson worked together in MTC's 1997 production of Quills, and Jackson said she quickly realized what a huge theatrical force Wilkinson was.
Gina Wilkinson and Krista Jackson backstage during 1997's Quills at MTC. (courtesy Krista Jackson)
"I had to play two very different parts in the show and I would go to her for advice and for help. She was just such a brave actress and supported me in following my instincts."
That was the first time Wilkinson would act as a mentor to Jackson. They worked together again in 2010 when Wilkinson was directing The Seafare
r at the Warehouse. Jackson was starting to make the transition from acting to directing and signed on to be her assistant.
"That's when she took ill very suddenly. I was taking her to the chiropractor every day at the end of rehearsal and we had these long talks in the car about the transiton from acting to directing, and how long it took her to change people's perspectives, to take her seriously in this new role and it was really starting to happen for her."
When Wilkinson found out she had stage IV cervical cancer and had to leave the show before it opened, she asked Jackson to take over the production. "She just trusted me.... I was thrown in and since
then, I've just known in my gut that directing is my thing. And the
doors have been opening so quickly for me just one after the other," she said.
"It's been an easy
transition, and that has everything to do with Gina. I would have found it eventually,
but I don't know if I would have found it as quickly and easily. She really was
the catalyst for it."
Jackson said wasn't surprised that Wilkinson was planning on giving back while in the final stages of her illness. "When I found out about the award I just burst into tears, it was so Gina, to give after she's gone. I hope to honour it and honour her with everything I do going forward."
Next season, Jackson will be directing a modern version of Moliere's The Miser
as a co-production between her theatre company, zone41,and Theatre Projects Manitoba.
She will also be directing The Seagull
as part of MTC's Master Playwright Festival. And Jackson said she is happy to announce that Wilkinson's husband, Tom Rooney, has been cast in the role of Trigorin in that production.
Related:RMTC's new season a mix of classic and contemporary.