Obsidian Theatre Company's Shaw Festival production of Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog Underdog won the 2012 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Production, presented tonight, June 25, by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts at St. Lawrence Center for the Arts.
As described on Obsidian's website, the 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning play, set in a rundown New York apartment tells the story of two grown brothers as they work through their past, present, and possible futures. The play, which represents contemporary reality as a dog-eat-dog world, dramatizes race as a contradiction between dreams of a possible life and the present which is as dangerous as it is illusory.
Topdog Underdog is directed by Philip Akin, who also took home the award for Outstanding Direction, and features Kevin Hanchard and Nigel Shawn Williams. Williams won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Principal Role.
The show's creative team features set and costume designer Camellia Koo, lighting designer Kevin Lamotte, sound designer Joe Lapinski, stage manager Meredith Macdonald and production manager Erin L. Birkenbergs.
Philip Akin has been acting and directing in Toronto theatre for more than 30 years. In 2000, he was a founding member of Obsidian Theatre, Canada’s leading black theatre company, and has served as its Artistic Director since 2006. In 2002, he was part of the team that launched the Obsidian Mentor/Apprentice Program, a one-of-a-kind program that has so far helped 26 black artists embark on exciting careers as directors, dramaturges, producers, production managers, lighting, set and costume designers with some of the most established performing arts companies nationwide.
Akin has also mentored emerging playwrights through Obsidian’s Playwrights Unit, which he created in 2006. As leader of the unit, Akin focuses on the development of the playwrights, rather than on play creation, and encourages open discussions about moving stories beyond the stereotypical ‘Black History’ play. Every one of the unit’s original participants has gone on to have a work produced and/or is workshopping new works to be produced in the near future.
Akin was most recently seen on stage in the 2009 re-mount production of The Last days of Judas Iscariot (Birdland Theatre) and the 2007 productions of Othello and Of Mice and Men (Stratford Shakespeare Festival). His directing credits include Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winning Ruined; Toronto the Good and El Paso (Factory Theatre); Intimate Apparel (Citadel Theatre, Canadian Stage, Obsidian Theatre), and Black Medea, Born Ready and Pusha Man (Obsidian Theatre). His film and television credits include Shake Hands With the Devil (2007), The Sum of All Fears (2002) and Flashpoint (2008-2011).
In 2011, Akin was honoured with the Mallory Gilbert Leadership Award. In 2010, he received the Silver Ticket Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts presented by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts. He is currently the Vice-President of the Board for the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, a member of the Metcalf Foundation’s Performing Arts Internship Jury and a member of the Humber College Theatre Program’s Advisory Board. He has also served on juries for Theatre Ontario, OAC, Canada Council for the Arts and has spoken on many panels particularly in the area of cultural diversity in the arts.
Nigel Shawn Williams other Shaw credits include The Doctor in Bernard Shaw’s The Millionairess, Leading Man in Six Characters in Search of an Author, Rashomon, The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles, The Petrified Forest and The Six of Calais. Recently, Williams directed Factory Theatre’s production of Brothel #9 and was seen in The Overwhelming and as Colin Powell inStuff Happens for Studio 180.
A Dora award winner for his performance in Canadian Stage Company’s production of Six Degrees of Separation, Williams has also appeared in Belle (Factory Theatre); Two Words for Snow, Dying is Easy (Alberta Theatre Projects); A Guide to Mourning, Six Degrees of Separation (Alberta Theatre Projects); the Canadian premiere of Angels in America Part I – Millennium Approaches and Democracy (Manitoba Theatre Centre); Othello (Ford Centre for the Performing Arts); Macbeth for Young Peoples Theatre; The Wars of the Roses trilogy (Canadian Stage Company); The Odyssey, Palmer Park, Fuente Ovejuna, Harlem Duet, Treasure Island, Twelfth Night, Our Town (Stratford Shakespeare Festival).
Photo courtesy Obsidian Theatre Company, copyright Coopers.