Times Colonist

Cal­gary In­dige­nous play­wright wins $100K Simi­novitch Prize

- ADINA BRESGE

Tara Bea­gan says re­ceiv­ing the Simi­novitch Prize feels like a win for ev­ery In­dige­nous the­atremaker who came be­fore her.

The Cal­gary-based play­wright was awarded the $100,000 Cana­dian the­atre hon­our on Thurs­day for what ju­rors hailed as a “sub­lime and un­bear­able” style that makes her a sin­gu­lar fig­ure in the dra­matic arts.

But Bea­gan, who is Nt­laka’pa­mux and has Ir­ish an­ces­try, said she shares the ac­claim with the an­ces­tors from whom she in­her­ited the sa­cred tra­di­tion of In­dige­nous sto­ry­telling, al­low­ing her to pass it on to the next gen­er­a­tion.

“If we’re in a po­si­tion where we have a plat­form to speak from, that’s be­cause there are peo­ple who have al­ready cut that path for us,” Bea­gan said in an in­ter­view this week.

“It’s ac­knowl­edg­ing [who is] ahead of us and be­hind us, and re­al­iz­ing that it’s re­ally more of a cir­cu­lar ex­is­tence.”

This in­ter­gen­er­a­tional phi­los­o­phy shapes Bea­gan’s work as the co-founder and di­rec­tor of the In­dige­nous-led arts com­pany Ar­ti­cle 11, based in Cal­gary.

The not-for-profit fos­ters col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween young artists and el­ders to pro­duce con­tem­po­rary the­atre rooted in tra­di­tional ways of liv­ing.

A play­wright, ac­tor, di­rec­tor, dra­maturge and pro­ducer, Bea­gan is cur­rently the play­wright-in-res­i­dence at Win­nipeg’s Prairie The­atre Ex­change.

She served as the artis­tic di­rec­tor of Na­tive Earth Per­form­ing Arts in Toronto from 2011 to 2013, and has held res­i­den­cies at the Na­tional Arts Cen­tre and the Writ­ers’ Trust of Canada’s Ber­ton House.

Seven of her 32 plays are pub­lished, two of which earned nods at the Dora Ma­vor Moore Awards.

Her 2020 play Hon­our Beat won the Gwen Pharis Ring­wood Award for Drama.

As this year’s Simi­novitch Prize lau­re­ate, Bea­gan wins $75,000, and Joelle Peters of Walpole Is­land First Na­tion, se­lected as her pro­tege, will re­ceive $25,000.

“[Bea­gan’s] vi­sion is un­com­pro­mis­ing, her voice is nec­es­sary, her tra­jec­tory em­bod­ies the deep­est val­ues of the Simi­novitch Prize,” jury chair Vanessa Por­te­ous said in a state­ment.

“This is quite sim­ply ex­cel­lent, sear­ing, un­for­get­table the­atre of the high­est cal­i­bre.”

Bea­gan said the prize money will of­fer a re­prieve from the “cul­ture of poverty” that plagues Canada’s un­der­funded the­atre scene.

Bea­gan, said In­dige­nous creators have kept a rich cul­ture alive for hun­dreds of years.

“There’s not al­ways been an un­der­stand­ing be­yond the In­dige­nous com­mu­nity of how much we have to of­fer, but we’ve al­ways been cer­tain of that, so we’ve nur­tured that within each other,” said Bea­gan.

“I think that that is a part of why the work com­ing from our own com­mu­ni­ties tends to be ex­cit­ing and in­ter­dis­ci­plinary and can’t be kind of lumped in with one genre.”

The Simi­novitch Prize ro­tates on a three-year cy­cle. Each year, it rec­og­nizes pro­fes­sion­als in de­sign, di­rec­tion and play­writ­ing on an al­ter­nat­ing ba­sis.

 ??  ?? Tara Bea­gan, an In­dige­nous Cal­gary-based play­wright, will share the cash award with Joelle Peters of Walpole Is­land First Na­tion, se­lected as her pro­tege.
Tara Bea­gan, an In­dige­nous Cal­gary-based play­wright, will share the cash award with Joelle Peters of Walpole Is­land First Na­tion, se­lected as her pro­tege.

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