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Recipients Announced for the Fifth Annual Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund Theatre Awards

MAY 17, 2023 (Toronto, ON): Don Cole, President of the Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund, today announced the Fund’s fifth-annual theatre award recipients: $5,000 to emerging Canadian playwright Rachel Mutombo; $5,000 to stage performer Kim Nelson; and $2,500 to Abigail Henry, a recent graduate of Theatre and Drama Studies at Sheridan College and the University of Toronto at Mississauga.

“We announce our theatre awards on Jon’s birthday as a way to celebrate his life and his work,” said Cole. “Jon was devoted to the theatre community, and we support Canadian theatre makers in his honour. Congratulations to this year’s award recipients. We look forward to seeing more of their work on stage.”

Over the past five years of awards the Legacy Fund has shared over $40,000 in support of Canadian theatre artists. In addition to annual awards, the charitable Legacy Fund supports mission-aligned programs like the Toronto Fringe New Young Reviewers Program.

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Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund 2023 Award Recipient Bios

JLKF Award Recipient: Canadian Stage Performer

Kim Nelson was born to Haitian parents, who met while they were both professors of Greek, Latin and French Literature in Haiti. Her father later became an economist for the UN, leading the family to move to Santiago, Chile – where Kim was born – then to the US and later Trinidad. As a result of the family’s travels and her parents’ insistence on a broad education, Kim is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Haitian Creole. Though family stories all reference Kim dancing to greet visitors, she didn’t immediately find her path to performance, graduating instead from the University of Montreal’s law program. While practising law, she began taking acting workshops in 2010 and was soon playing in the Montreal Centaur Theatre’s production of Good People, and independent productions. In 2016, Kim turned down a partnership offer and moved to Toronto where she was introduced to the theatre community by her dear friend Mikaela Davies. Kim made her Toronto stage debut that same year in Breathing Corpses at the Coal Mine Theatre. Other selected theatre credits include: Doubt (B&E Theatre Company), This Was the World (Tarragon Theatre), Cyrano/The Winter’s Tale (Saint Lawrence Shakespeare Festival), Bloom (Modern Times Stage Company/Buddies in Bad Times Theatre) and S/W (One Little Goat Theatre/TPM). Kim has also lent her voice to video games and worked on screen on critically acclaimed television shows on CBC, BBC America and the CW, and on major streaming platforms such as Netflix, Apple TV and Crave. Off-stage, is it Kim’s great privilege to serve as a conduit for stories of incredible resilience, as a community interpreter for new immigrants to Canada.

JLKF Award Recipient: Young Canadian Playwright

Rachel Mutombo is an award-winning actor and writer who has bounced between Toronto and Montreal for most of her life. An acting graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, some pre-pandemic theatre performance credits include Antigone: 方 (Young People’s Theatre) and School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Obsidian Theatre/Nightwood Theatre). Rachel’s first full length play, Vierge, (2020 winner of Infinitheatre’s Write-On-Q competition) recently premiered at Factory Theatre. She has various other projects in development with theatre companies across the country including Persephone Theatre (SK) and bcurrent in Toronto. Rachel is also developing a theatre for young audience play at Young People’s Theatre, Homeroom, (2021 winner of Playwright’s Guild of Canada Tom Hendry TYA award).

JKLF Award Recipient: Graduating Student from a Canadian Theatre School

Abigail Henry is an actor, dancer, and theatre creator of Trinidadian and Jamaican descent. She is a passionate, grounded artist who aims to highlight the complexities of the black experience within her work and allow young black girls to see themselves reflected through her. She has recently written and performed a solo play called Another Snow White in which she subverts Snow White’s story to explore the effect of Eurocentric beauty standards on black girls as they grow up. She hopes to continue creating and being a part of pieces with similar themes. Abigail has had the pleasure of working with many skilled artists during her training, such as Kyle Blair, Andrew Cheng, Melee Hutton and Melinda Little. She has also had the opportunity to work with Paolo Santalucia in Theatre Erindale’s production of The Witch of Edmonton, where she played Ma Thorney. In the theatre’s most recent season, she has played #00 in The Wolves under Anita La Selva’s direction, and Love in Everybody, directed by Leah Simone-Bowen. Abigail is a trained violinist and is proficient in hip-hop. She enjoys incorporating music and movement in her work and has become more interested in using movement as a method of abstract expression and storytelling. She has also been the music director for two productions with UTM’s English and Drama Society; Galathea and 35mm. Now that she has finished theatre school, she hopes to begin pursuing work both on stage and behind the scenes, and is excited to see what her artistic future holds.

The Legacy Fund gratefully acknowledges the work of this year’s jurors: Thom Allison, Virgilia Griffith, Ka Kei Jeff Ho, Keith Kemps, Alison Lawrence, Lee MacDougall, Catherine McNally, and Shelley Simester; as well as video announcement support from Christopher Morris, Daniel Malavasi, and the JKLF team.

About the Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund

For decades as a beloved Canadian theatre writer for NOW Magazine, Jon Kaplan elevated and celebrated artists in all stages of their careers. He was also a strong proponent of the growing presence of diverse voices in the creation of theatre. With this in mind, the Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund was established in Kaplan’s honour to support theatre makers in all stages of their careers.

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