Playwright Judith Thompson Wins Whitaker Award From Canadian Critics

By Kenneth Jones
September 27, 2012

The Canadian Theatre Critics Association have named Judith Thompson, "one of Canada's darkest and most daring playwrights," as recipient of the 2012 Herbert Whittaker-CTCA Award. The CTCA honors individuals "for their outstanding long-term contributions to Canadian theatre."



According to the organization, Thompson "burst onto the theatre scene in 1980 with the premiere of her gritty, controversial play The Crackwalker." Her work "combines poetic language with sometimes shocking realism."

Thompson's plays include White Biting Dog, I Am Yours, Lion in the Streets and Perfect Pie. In 2007-08, Thompson won the international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for women playwrights for her powerful Iraq War triptych, Palace of the End. She is also a two-time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Drama, and was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2005.

Currently a theatre studies professor at the University of Guelph, Thompson is also a director, actor, screenwriter and producer. Her theatre projects have included the Shaw Festival's 1991 production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, which she adapted and directed; the Dove-commissioned Body & Soul, a celebration of female aging featuring a non-professional cast; and Rare, a work showcasing nine performers with Down syndrome, which premiered at the 2012 Toronto Fringe.

Named after the distinguished Canadian theatre critic and author Herbert Whittaker (1910-2006), the award has been given out since 1975. Past winners have included theatre pioneer Dora Mavor Moore, Tarragon Theatre founder Bill Glassco, Young People's Theatre founder Susan Rubes, Quebec playwright and National Theatre School co-founder Gratien Gelinas, Factory Theatre founder Ken Gass and Shaw Festival artistic director Jackie Maxwell.

"I am honored to have been chosen for this award," Thompson said, "and thrilled to be in such accomplished company."

Thompson was chosen to receive the award by members of the CTCA, which is made up of professional critics, entertainment writers and journalists from across Canada.

"The award is a recognition, by those in Canada who write about the theatre on a regular basis, that Judith's work as a dramatist has been and continues to be important to us," said Don Rubin, CTCA's president, in a statement. "It is our special way of saying that she is deeply appreciated."

The Whittaker Award was originally established by the now-defunct Toronto Drama Bench in the 1970s. In 1997, the Drama Bench's successor, the CTCA, renamed the award in honor of Herbert Whittaker.