Buddies in Bad Times leads troupes vying for Toronto theatre awards

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre has reason to celebrate, with the independent troupe among the leading contenders Monday for Toronto's 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, which honour the city's best performance arts productions of the past year.

Toronto company earns flurry of nominations months after attendance woes

Arigato, Tokyo is the latest play by Daniel MacIvor, staged this spring by Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. (Jeremy Mimnagh/Buddies in Bad Times Theatre)

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre has reason to celebrate, with the independent troupe among the leading contenders Monday for 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, which honour excellence in Toronto's performing arts.

Buddies, the theatre company devoted to productions shedding light on Canada's LGBT community, leads this year's nominees in the general theatre division because of two works: Daniel MacIvor's Arigato, Tokyo and the one-man production Obaaberima, written by and starring Tawiah M'Carthy.

We're "honoured to be recognized by our peers for the quality of the work we're doing," Buddies artistic director Brendan Healy told CBC on Monday.

"I guess the message is kind of 'Keep going. Keep exploring the way that we're exploring. Keep asking the questions we're asking with the work. Keep bringing the same kind of rigour that we're bringing.' It's really a pat on the back."

Altogether, Arigato, Tokyo and Obaaberima garnered 15 Dora nominations for the Toronto company, including a pair of nods in the category of outstanding production. Rival best-production nominees are Someone Else, by Canadian Stage, The Crucible by Soulpepper Theatre Company and The Little Years, staged by Tarragon Theatre.

Monday's wave of recognition comes just two months after Healy issued a public letter to patrons questioning the "shockingly" poor attendance for Arigato, which he described as a "bold and exciting" creation that he counts "among the finest that our company has ever produced.

"Our houses have been disappointingly low. I would even say 'shockingly' low for such a critically lauded production by a writer of Daniel's stature. They are low in such a way that we are scratching our heads and asking some very serious questions," Healy wrote in early April.

Buddies also earned several nominations for its Lady Gaga-inspired co-production Of A Monstrous Child: A Gaga Musical.

After his company earned more than 20 nominations overall on Monday, Healy said he's now hoping the boost translates into increased audience curiosity about the theatre's works.  

"Certainly, this is encouraging. I'm ecstatically excited about next season. I think that this kind of validation really helps give me a kind of wind behind my back and pushes us forward with a bit of gusto."

Special Dora Award-winners revealed Monday:

Pauline McGibbon Award (for excellence by an early-stage theatre professional) - Theatre carpenter Ryan Wilson

George Luscombe Award (for mentorship) - Franco Boni, artistic director of Toronto's The Theatre Centre.

Leonard McHardy and John Harvey Award (arts administrator) - Paul Templin, events director for University of Toronto's Hart House.

In the independent theatre division, Modern Times Stage Company's staging of The Lesson led the field with eight nominations, including best performance for actors David Ferry and Michelle Monteith. The absurdist play is also vying for outstanding production, alongside BOBLO (Kitchenband and The Theatre Centre), Mr. Marmalade (Outside the March), The War of 1812: Thie History of the Village of the Small Huts, 1912-15 (VideoCabaret/Young Centre for the Performing Arts) and Laws of Motion (Small Elephant Co-Op/Dani Kind/Kate Zeigler).

Three productions emerged as frontrunners in the Dora musical theatre categories: Mirvish's The Wizard of Oz, Young People Theatre's staging of Cinderella and Theatre 20's Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare. Meanwhile, the dance division was led by two contenders: DanceWorks' Akshongay and Kaha:wi Dance Theatre's Susuriwka - willow bridge.

Once again, the Canadian Opera Company leads in the opera division with its productions. The COC's Lucia di Lammermoor, Dialogues des Carmélites, Il Trovatore, Tristan und Isolde, De Fledermaus, La clemenza di Tito and Salome face competition from two outside shows: Julie Sits Waiting (Good Hair Day Productions) and A Synonym for Love (Volcano/ Classical Music Consort).

A trio of shows dominate the young-audiences categories: Roseneath Theatre's Wrecked, Soulpepper's Alligator Pie and Theatre Direct/Young People Theatre's Binti's Journey.

Theatregoers are invited to once again for their favourite production of the past year online, with the winner to receive the audience choice award.

Administered by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), the 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Awards take place June 24 in Toronto, hosted by comic actors Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram of The National Theatre of the World.

The Wizard of Oz is among the frontrunners in the Dora musical categories. (Cylla von Tiedemann/Mirvish)