The jury for one of Canada’s top theatre awards has announced that Gibsons resident Sherry Yoon is shortlisted for a prestigious prize recognizing directors whose work is transformative and influential.
Yoon is the sole nominee from B.C., where she is the artistic director of Vancouver’s Boca Del Lupo theatre company. Boca Del Lupo was founded in 1996 to explore interdisciplinary theatre that unites artists from diverse backgrounds. Yoon has co-created more than 35 of its productions, while also working as a freelance director with organizations like Bard on the Beach and the National Arts in Ottawa.
“I have worked in theatres where audiences sit in seats and also toured festivals and creative work,” said Yoon. “I think that playing with form and putting theatre either outside or in unconventional and unexpected spaces does something to the work. It does something to the liveness of what we’re trying to share as artists. It does something to the audiences’ perspective of what theatre can be.”
Under Yoon’s direction, Boca de Lupo was the first organization in Canada to open live performances following the pandemic shutdown in March 2020. The company’s production of Red Phone was the centrepiece of an eight-week installation on Granville Island which launched in mid-2020.
Red Phone is an installation that invites audiences members to interact using scripted dialogue displayed on a teleprompter screen. The exhibit is currently at the Prismatic Art Festival in Halifax and will be presented at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in January before beginning a tour to South America.
“The definition of the whole Red Phone project is to challenge, to provoke, and to think about conversation in a different way,” said Yoon.
Early this year, Yoon launched LivePerformance360, a presentation series featuring Canadian and international contributors incorporating live performance and immersive technology. The project explores virtual reality as an avenue to connect individuals in remote communities to live performance.
Through her cross-country initiative Stop Asian Hate, Yoon worked with Asian Canadian theatre leaders from across Canada to condemn anti-asian sentiment and violence. In 2022 the movement evolved into a campaign titled Celebrating Asian Excellence.
“I do like to make work that feels very present and urgent,” said Yoon, “and work that people can get something out of. I don’t want people to feel alienated from the work. I like to bring a theatrical aspect to things — that’s how I started — but I do try to travel quite far from it.”
Last year, Yoon developed a project with Vancouver’s Dr. Peter Centre called Dialogues for the Vaccine Hesitant and Those Who Love Them. The collaboration between theatre and public health leaders resulted in a series of e-books and podcasts about healing divides arising from the pandemic response. The series featured playwrights and actors from across Canada.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a powerful effect on Yoon as an artist. “It completely changed me,” she said. “Through different levels of intimacy and personal distance, the very act of functioning as humans has changed. Theatre is about connecting with people. There’s an opportunity here to be creating work and supporting work that investigates that, so we can all make a discovery about who we are on this journey as human beings in this time.”
The Siminovitch Prize also recognizes that mentorship supports emerging talent. The prize laureate, who receives an award of $75,000, will be invited to select a protégé who receives $25,000.
The winner will be announced on Dec. 1. Other shortlisted directors are from Montreal, Toronto and Halifax.