OAF News

2019/2020 Winners of the Ellen Ross Stuart Opening Doors Awards Announced

Toronto, ON, March 4, 2020 – The Ellen Ross Stuart Awards Committee is pleased to announce the 2019/2020 winners of the Ellen Ross Stuart Opening Doors Awards.

2019/2020 Award Recipients

Madeleine Brown
Madeleine Brown is a playwright and actor from Peterborough, Ontario now based in Toronto. Her last three comedies debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival including a sold-out run of Patron’s Pick Winner, Everyone Wants A T-Shirt!. She has previously received NOW Magazine Awards for Outstanding Ensemble and Individual Performance and was an inaugural Nightwood Theatre Young Innovator. She is a graduate of UTM/Sheridan College as a Loran Scholar and Second City's Conservatory program. Madeleine volunteers with L’Arche Toronto and plays the euphonium with the Swansea Community Concert Band.

April Leung
April Siutong Leung 梁筱彤is a performer and playwright raised in Hong Kong, now based in Toronto. Her current work tends to examine what it means to be Chinese-Canadian, the sociopolitical aspects of Hong Kong, technology, as well as food. In addition to Inside the Claypot Rice, she is working with Mammalian Diving Reflex to develop (a) round table, a show based on inter-generational cooking and the passing of recipes. April was also selected by Cahoots Theatre as one of their thirty theatre-makers who will shape the next thirty years in Canadian theatre. www.aprilleung.com

2019/2020 Award Runner-Ups

Polly Phokeev
Polly Phokeev is an award-winning playwright, dramaturg, and actor. She holds an honours bachelor from U of T, and is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at UBC. Her critically acclaimed play How We Are, created with Mikaela Davies, holds the 2016 Safe Words New Canadian Play Award and the 2016 My Entertainment World award for Outstanding New Work. How We Are has been produced in two sold-out independent productions in Toronto, as well as through the Kick and Push Festival in Kingston, ON. Other writing credits include Seams (SummerWorks 2015; noted in NOW Magazine for Outstanding New Play, Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Design, and Outstanding Production), and The Mess (with Mikaela Davies; nominated for 2017 My Entertainment Critics’ Choice Award). Polly was honoured with the inaugural Award for a Young Canadian Playwright through the Jon Kaplan Legacy Fund in 2019. She is delighted to take part in Driftwood Theatre's inaugural playwrights unit in 2020. Polly is currently translating and adapting the classic Russian novel Master and Margarita with Mikaela Davies and Hailey Gillis (work-shopped with the Stratford Festival in fall 2019), and writing her new play Kostroma, as well as her debut novel.

Zahida Rahemtulla
Zahida Rahemtulla is an emerging writer of fiction and theatre. She studied Literature and Middle Eastern Studies at New York University in New York and Abu Dhabi. She was a playwright in residence at the Arts Club Theatre Company’s 2019 Emerging Playwrights’ Unit, where she wrote her second play, The Frontliners. Her first play, The Wrong Bashir, was a national finalist for Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre's MSG Lab and Theatre BC’s 2019 Canadian Playwriting Competition. She’s also at work on a collection of short fiction and a humour novel for kids. Zahida is a graduate of the SFU Writer’s Studio and has been a resident at the Banff Centre in Alberta and Millay Colony for the Arts in New York.

Loreta Seto Sepehr Reybod
Sepehr Reybod is an Iranian-born emerging actor, playwright, and creator based in Toronto. Select credits include The In-Between, Geordie Theatre; Blood + Soil, Theatre ARTaud; Territorial Tales, Canadian Stage. Sepehr was a member of Factory Theatre’s acting enhancement program, The Mechanicals, for their 2018-2019 season, and joins them again as a playwright in their Foundry unit for 2019-2020. His play-in-development Saffron & Caviar was presented publicly at the curated Parkdale New Works Theatre Festival in 2019. His next play is about orgies in the Middle East.

About the Award

Award recipients were selected by a Committee of theatre professionals comprised of Ross Stuart, Award Founder; Ann Stuart, Award Founder; Autumn Smith, Award Managing Director; Gil Garratt, Artistic Director at the Blyth Festival; Rona Waddington, director and writer; Joanna Falck, Dramaturg at Tarragon Theatre; and Doug Floyd, General Manager at Hart House Theatre.

Each winner receives prize money plus dramaturgical support and mentorship from three partner theatres, Hart House Theatre, the Blyth Festival and Tarragon Theatre, and will create a script that will be showcased in workshop form at the Tarragon Theatre in May 2021.

Previous award winners include Bessie Cheng (2018), Sophia Fabiilli (2018), and Chelsea Woolley (2018).


For more information about the award and the application process contact:
Autumn Smith,  Managing Director

For more information about the Ontario Arts Foundation:
Alan Walker, Executive Director

Ontario Arts Foundation (OAF) is passionately committed to building long-term support for the arts in Ontario. In 2018-2019, the OAF paid over $4.35 million in endowment income and $315,000 in awards and scholarships."

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