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September 13, 2020

Canadian Stage Performer

Justin Miller received the Award and $2,000

So much about creating theatre, or any art making, is about finding your kin. When I was a baby clown, my mentors – John Turner and Karen Hines – told me to find Jon Kaplan. Jon was a legend. Jon took the clowns and the weirdos seriously before anyone else did. Jon was Toronto theatre, not its gatekeeper, but a champion of anybody willing to try something new and risky and beautiful. He was kin to everyone.

I so regret that Jon Kaplan never met Pearle Harbour, my clown/drag alter-ego/worser-half, because I think we would have gotten on. But I am so honoured to be receiving this award, in his name.

At lunch today, I got to meet Don, his partner of 4 decades, under dappled sunshine and an enormous willow. What’s so evident, when you hear the way Jon is described (the way everyone describes him), is that Jon became exactly what he was meant to be, more fully than most people can hope. He was meant to write, to share his joy of theatre, to be our champion. He was the very heart of our community for decades, and crucially: while it was in its infancy, while in the process of becoming.

I am so grateful to Don and the Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund for this tremendous honour, especially in such uncertain times. My hope is that I may become everything I am meant to be in our community, as fully and joyfully as Jon Kaplan, my kin.

– Justin

Canadian Playwright

Ka Kei Jeff Ho received the Award and $2,000

I met Jon Kaplan during SummerWorks 2014, where I was performing Unknown Soldier, written and directed by Jonathan Seinen, at the TPM backspace. It was opening, which in festival terms, was also tech dress, basically. All those opening night jitters, compounded with the fact that it was a solo show, meant I was a truly nervous wreck. I remember finishing the run, and rushing outside to say hello to friends… then Jon comes by, and in a sincere moment of connection, he whispered a thank you, and that he’s excited to see me on stages across the city. Then he laughed and walked away saying, FABULOUS. Just FABULOUS. I will never forget that moment. That little bit of encouragement, when I first started out, gave me such hope, and injected that extra bit of self confidence that kept the rejections and harder times at bay.

With this Jon Kaplan Legacy Award for a Young Playwright, I feel a similar sense of encouragement, and a great wish to continue Jon Kaplan’s legacy of recognizing, affirming, and amplifying new voices in our theatre landscape. It’s a beautiful, and often difficult, industry to navigate, and people like Jon made a career on stage, a witnessed journey… and for that, I will never forget and never stop appreciating the legacy he’s left behind for so so so many of us.

Student at a Canadian Theatre School

Madelaine Hodges received the Award and $1,000

Receiving this award is an incredible honour, and could not have come at a more opportune time. In this period of uncertainty it is easy to doubt one’s ability and even the decision to commit oneself to such an unpredictable field as theatre. But to be given this award and more importantly the affirmation of my faculty and the board members of the Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund has reminded me that I have much to offer and that I must remain resilient and adaptive. The generous funds provided are also especially helpful during this challenging time and I hope to put the money towards the continuation of my training. Though I never had the privilege of meeting Jon, I know that he wielded a legendary status in the theatre community and yet he never failed to exude kindness, generosity, and commitment to Toronto theatre and its artists. I hope to exhibit these same traits throughout my career. I am beyond grateful for this award. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

– Maddy

Jurors

Canadian Stage Performer

  • Catherine McNally
  • Allegra Fulton
  • Christopher Morris

Canadian Playwright

  • Lee MacDougall
  • Rob Kempson
  • Alison Lawrence

Student at a Canadian Theatre School

  • The faculty at Ryerson University School of Performance: Acting
Andrew MacDonald and Don Cole
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