Virtual Dora Awards were short but resembled a PSA

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At 62 minutes, Monday’s Dora Mavor Moore Awards was the shortest ceremony in its 41-year history. It’s too bad the show itself wasn’t a bit… more of a show.

Oddly, the thing that usually gives the live version of the awards its heart – acceptance speeches – was missing. Winners were encouraged to post their reactions on social media with the hashtag #Doras2020speeches. And there are some lovely ones, for some very deserving shows, which I’ll discuss later.

Completely pre-recorded, the YouTube broadcast, written by Diane Flacks and directed by Ed Roy, lacked momentum. Despite a half dozen or so starry presenters (including one TV couple – Jean Yoon and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, from Kim’s Convenience, presenting separately – and two real life couples, Gillian Gallow and Christopher Morris and Aurora Browne and Kris Siddiqi, presenting together), the giving out of the awards, including a hard-to-read graphic of nominees that appeared for about two seconds, at times resembled a dreary PSA, or those sped-up “side effects may include” provisos on drug commercials.

The entertainment was uneven. Michael Healey’s bit about dressing up to go the actual awards was hilarious, full of sharp jokes (“It’s the one night of the year when Toronto theatre gets together to try to remember each other’s names”), motivation (he wanted to finally have sex with Thom Allison) and drama, while nominee Carly Street’s cleverly edited, 20-second segment about putting on makeup and doing vocal warm-ups for a banal radio commercial was great satire.

The stand-out musical segment was an old-timey number featuring the fabulous talents of the aforementioned Thom Allison, Sharron Matthews, Astrid van Wieren, Jani Lauzon and Sabryn Rock.

But what were we to make of Seana McKenna performing a monologue from Richard II with a celestial Zoom background? Or a naked Tony Nappo channelling his inner Gollum (“My preciousssss!”) to speak to a roll of toilet paper? (Okay, Nappo/Gollum made me laugh.)

Presenter Ravi Jain, artistic director of Why Not Theatre, used his time to inspire us with his call to action.

“We need to stay in this moment and make it a movement that Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour have been fighting for for so long,” he said. “Team, we are in the midst of a very painful process, and if every day we are not working to dismantle white supremacist systems, then we are in the way.” Amen. 

Another lively thing about the show was the comment scroll on YouTube. I’m especially happy that people called out Mayor John Tory, who began the night with a speech that was uninspired, rote and, like much of the ceremony, badly recorded. (Earlier in the day he had voted against a motion to cut funding for the Toronto Police.)

“Mute him,” commented playwright and actor Yolanda Bonnell. “You failed us today, John,” wrote actor Jeff Lillico. “We don’t need more studies, Mr. Tory. Defund the police,” commented Come From Away’s Astrid van Wieren. 

Thankfully, the main reason for the Doras – the recognition of excellent in theatre, dance and opera – came through. Soulpepper’s excellent production of The Brothers Size won five Doras in the general theatre division, including one for actor Daren A. Herbert. Young People’s Theatre’s The Mush Hole dominated the theatre for young audiences division with five wins. The Canadian Opera Company’s Rusalka took home four Doras in the opera division, and Coal Mine Theatre’s Marjorie Prime stood out in the independent theatre section with three wins.

One of the most exciting – and deserving – wins went to Obsidian Theatre’s Pass Over, which took home the Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award. In presenting it, TAPA executive director and Dora Awards producer Jacoba Knaapen said the public submitted a record number of votes.

The full list of winners can be found here

And if you have time, check out the #Doras2020speeches hashtag. Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, who won the directing Dora, has a lovely speech, and so does Anosh Irani, whose Buffoon won best new play, and Alexander Thomas, who won the Dora for best performance by an individual for Between Riverside And Crazy. 

One Dora winner, Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, who received the award for sound design/composition for Box 4901, even thanked yours truly for singling his work out – in a negative way – in an otherwise positive review of the show. 

At least I didn’t have to avoid him, or sheepishly admit I was wrong, at the after-party. 

@glennsumi