How an award is born – The Gordon Pinsent Award of Excellence

By Megan Mooney

A while ago I let folks know about The Company Theatre’s new award – The Award of Excellence.  It was awarded to Gordon Pinsent, and in subsequent years the award will be called ‘The Gordon Pinsent Award of Excellence’.  It was delivered at one of those ritzy galas that Harper so despises.  Although, like most Galas, it was a fundraiser, so I’m not sure where his ‘subsidized by the tax payers’ thing comes in, but you know…

The introduction of the award made me curious.  I wanted to know what sparks the desire to institute an award like this, and how it gets decided.  Luckily, since I’m a theatre writer, I get to ask all the questions I want.  Philip Ricco, the co-artistic director of The Company Theatre, was kind enough to feed my curiosity.  And, just in case you guys are curious too, I thought I’d tell you the answers I found out.

Megan:  Does The Company Theatre have any other awards or is this the first? Are there plans to implement more?

Philip:  This is our first.  As a performance focused company this award fit perfectly with our mandate.  I don’t foresee us implementing anymore, but never say never.

M: How did the Company Theatre decide that they wanted to implement an Award of Excellence?

P:  As a company we have thrown many events and will continue to throw many more in the future.  We wanted a way for one of our events to be tied directly to what the company is about.  Our entire artistic process is foremost about the pursuit of excellence in the art of performance.  And so this award really represents what The Company Theatre is all about.

M:  How many people were involved in the decision?

P:  The final decision was made by myself, Allan Hawco, Diane Mugford and our Board of Directors

M: What came first, knowing you wanted to do an Award of Excellence, or knowing that you wanted to honour Gordon Pinsent?

P:  Part of  our mandate is the promotion of Canadian performers.  With that in mind we were organizing a night honouring Gordon, and the award became the most appropriate way of honouring him. And  now it will give us a vehicle in which we can celebrate great Canadian performers for years to come.

M: How did you choose Gordon? Was there a committee? How many on the committee?

P:  Once we agreed that we were indeed going to create this award, we only ever thought of giving it to Gordon this year.  In future years there will be more of a structured process to choose the winner, but when you create an award for excellence by a Canadian performer it’s impossible not to give it to Gordon Pinsent first. He’s the best there is.

M: When did you decide that when the award continued, it would carry Gordon’s name?

P:  That was always the idea.  That our award for excellence would be named after Gordon, because he represented everything we wanted the award to stand for.  After that we decided that it would be fitting for him to win the first award and from then on the award would carry his name. This way we are able to honour Gordon this year, and every time the award is given out.

M: Will it continue to be a ‘lifetime achievement’ type award [lifetime achievement were my words, my impression, it wasn’t how the award was billed – ed.] or, in the future will the candidate include relative newcomers (relative newcomers in this case could include people who have been in the industry for 10 years).

P: It definitely is not a lifetime achievement award. Any Canadian performer who has shown consistent dedication, passion and fearlessness in their pursuit of excellence in the art of performance will be considered.  Fearlessness is an important word for us, we want to reward performers who truly challenge themselves to get better everyday.

So, there you have it.  The birth of an award.