Gillian Gallow, a decorator and costume designer who has created striking visual worlds for both large-scale opera productions and small solo performances, won the 2021 Siminovitch Prize. The richest award in Canadian theater, he includes $ 100,000 to be shared in part with the proteges.
“It was mind-boggling, exciting and shocking,” Gallow said upon learning she was the winner a month ago, news she was to keep under wraps until a virtual ceremony Thursday night.
“Of course, there is the financial security it brings, which cannot be underestimated.”
A mid-career artist with Shaw Festival credits to the Canadian Opera Company, Gallow pivoted during the pandemic, like so many others in his field, in the film and television industry. She joined the Directors Guild of Canada and began to apply her skills in artistic direction.
But long before she learned that she was even nominated for the Siminovitch, Gallow had already started redirecting her energy to the theater.
The pandemic break gave Gallow, who lives in Toronto with her 20-year-old partner – director and playwright Christopher Morris – and their seven-year-old daughter the opportunity to stop and take stock. Dipping her toes in movies and television helped her discover that,
Despite the difficulties associated with living “paycheck to paycheck” that come with working in the theater, she finds the collaboration and risk-taking in the living art form more artistically satisfying.
“What’s beautiful is that I realized that I love what I do – I love the theater and I don’t want to leave,” she says. “I don’t really like realism or high realism or creating historically accurate productions.”
Four-time winner of the Dora Mavor Moore Award, Gallow’s recent work includes the innovative 24-foot treadmill she designed as a set for The runner, a single-actor thriller set in Israel and written by Morris that will resume a national tour interrupted by a pandemic in January at Toronto’s Tarragon Theater.
Performer Gord Rand spends much of this show led by inaugural Siminovitch Prize winner Daniel Brooks on the move. “It’s such a unique show in that all the elements are so well integrated – and I live with the writer,” says Gallow. “There was constant dialogue about what the design might be for the show, even from the early stages of writing. “
On a larger scale, Gallow cites his work with Peter Hinton, the former artistic director of the National Arts Center English Theater, as one of the most rewarding artistic experiences of his career to date. His collaborations with Hinton include costume design for two productions for the Canadian Opera Company (Harry Somers’ Louis riel in 2017; Rufus wainwright Hadrian in 2018) as well as set and costume design for the remixed melodrama Pushing the Limits by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins an octoron at the Shaw Festival in 2017.
Gallow is particularly proud of her work on an octoron, which she says it was a difficult production to work on because the script “deals with performance and deals with a lot of cultural and racial issues that I’m not a part of.”
The Siminovitch Prize jury, chaired by director Vanessa Porteous, specifically cited the “complex intercultural projects” Gallow has worked on, for which his collaborators praised his “respect, dedication and care,” in their remarks on his work. Victoire.
A quarter of Siminovitch’s money is set aside for one or more proteges chosen by the winner – and Gallow has selected two early-career artists to share his chance: Joyce Padua, a Toronto-based set and costume designer; and Joshua Quinlan, a set and costume designer based in London, Ontario.
Gallow worked with Padua on a few independent productions in Toronto in early 2020 – the sci-fi play Marjorie prime at the Coal Mine Theater (which ended up being the penultimate performance of stage legend Martha Henry); and writer / director Karen Hine All the little animals that I ate at the Nightwood Theater, which was in rehearsal when the pandemic struck.
“She was with me with it all at a standstill – and I really love Joyce’s collaborative energy and positivity,” said Gallow. “She’s a gold costume designer with a truly unique perspective.”
Quinlan was an associate designer on the touring musical No change of weather, for which Gallow designed the set and worked as a set assistant or costume designer for numerous productions in recent years at the Stratford Festival. “His stage work is really exciting for me,” says Gallow. “He seems to have a bold take on design. “
It can be difficult to go from partner or assistant to production designer on a theater production in Canada – and Gallow says her pick of Padua and Quinlan is to help them do that. “My big hope for them is for someone to take a chance, because that’s what it takes,” she said. “Someone has to go, yes I’m ready to invest in you.”
This year, Gallow was on the Siminovitch finalist list along with Linda Brunelle of Montreal, Nancy Bryant of Vancouver and her compatriot Michelle Ramsay. The award is presented over a three-year cycle to a designer, director or playwright. It was created in 2000 in honor of Lou and Elinore Siminovitch.
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