History of the Brickenden Awards

The Birth of the Brickendens

In 2002, Christopher Doty, resident critic for the Theatre in London website, proposed filling an information gap by compiling a listing of the best shows of the year, thus recapping the year in London, Ontario live theatre. Jeff Culbert, co-founder of the Theatre in London website, turned Doty’s idea into a competition where nominees would be posted on the website, followed by an announcement of the winners on New Year’s Day.

In December 2002, Theatre in London co-founder and webmaster Sean Wilson created an on-line voting system for members of the public. Two sets of winners, critic’s choice and people’s choice, were created. These awards, in name only, were called The Brickendens, in honour of the late local actress, director and playwright, Catharine Brickenden.

2019 — The Eighteenth Year

2019 Nominees

2018 — The Seventeenth Year

2018 Winner and Nominees

2017 — The Sixteenth Year

2017 Winners and Nominees

2016 — The Fifteenth Year

2016 Winners and Nominees

2015 — The Fourteenth Year

2015 Winners and Nominees

2014 — The Thirteenth Year

2014 Winners and Nominees

2013 — The Twelfth Year

2013 Winners and Nominees

2012 — The Eleventh Year

2012 Winners and Nominees

2011 — The Tenth Year

2011 Winners and Nominees

2010 — The Ninth Year

2010 Winners and Nominees

2009 — The Eighth Year

2009 Winners and Nominees

2008 — The Seventh Year

This year’s Awards Ceremony broke new ground with MC Mike van Holst’s creative multi-media video presentation which opened the show, and his overheads of the nominees for each Award as they approached the stage. Kudos are due Stephen Mitchell and Steve Hickson for their technologically smooth presentation of these visuals. Van Holst’s commentary and antics kept the audience laughing (and occasionally groaning).

Highlights of the ceremony included Teresa Tarasewicz’s lively rendition of Carmen Miranda complete with the Tropical Fruit headdress during her presentation of the Bravest Production Award. Tom Trampleasure, Matco Tools, presenting the Outstanding Set Design Award, announced a new prize of a tool package from Matco Tools valued at $500; he was full of encouraging words for young people to continue the tradition of theatrical excellence in London.

The Outstanding Original Script Award was presented this year by John Gerry and John Jeffery, son of Nonie Jeffery, donor of the $500 prize awarded annually to the winning playwright. Nonie herself was present in the audience, as always, as was Dorinda Greenway, who again presented the Outstanding Actress Award.

Mark Brunnenmeir, Owner, Bud Gowan Formal Wear, who found himself stranded at the Toronto Airport in the late afternoon, was to have presented the Outstanding Costume Design Award, but had to cancel at short notice. A colleague stepped in and gave an excellent and heart warming tribute to the nominees and all who are involved in Costume Design.

In recognition of its impact on local theatre over the past ten years, The Natural Broadcasting Company for The Adventures of the Boneyard Man (created by Jayson McDonald) was this year’s Chris Doty Award recipient, the first time for a group. Jayson, Jeff Culbert, Jeff Werkmeister and Dean Harrison – on-stage playing the piano with his group for the Awards Ceremony once again – and Sookie Mei (one of many guest stars during the run of the Boneyard Man) accepted the award from Grant Doty, who was eloquent in describing the influence this series had had on his own theatre-going experiences. Missing unfortunately were Rachel Jones, who played Margery Road for many years, and Virginia Pratten of the many guises. In his acceptance speech, Jayson also acknowledged other past contributors to The Boneyard Man, including Dawn Penner and organist Scott Pinkerton.

To meet the expanding work of the Brickendens, the structure of the Brickenden Committee changed this year. Ashleigh Barney continued as Chair. The adjudication panel was divided into three separate groups: the core panel, the youth panel and the touring panel. The core panel was made up of Patricia Black (who returned when Sheila Martindale moved out to Calgary in May), Jim Cressman, Peter Janes, Susan Merskey, Dave and Irene Nicholls, Morgan and Mike van Holst. Jim Cressman, Brenda McDougall and Dave and Irene Nicholls made up the youth panel. Laurie Bursch, the ubiquitous Jim Cressman, the top-hatted and white-gloved Al Green, Lionel Morise and Diana Rodwell-Allen made up the touring panel. Between them, the panel members attended over 90 productions in 2008.

Attendance at the 2008 Awards Ceremony grew to 285. The after-party at Chaucer’s Pub was larger (and livelier) than ever — in fact, owner and Brickenden Award sponsor, Jerry Pribl had arranged to open up the adjoining Marienbad Restaurant and the jubilant crowd flowed back and forth between the two establishments.

2008 Brickenden Awards Night – January 26, 2009 | 2008 Winners and Nominees

2007 — The Sixth Year

Attendance at the 2007 Awards Ceremony reached 191, including guests, presenters, nominees and committee members, our biggest year yet. Jeremy John Dunton was MC for the second year and great music was again provided by the Dean Harrison Trio.

Grant Doty presented the first Chris Doty Award to Wally Duffield for his tireless volunteer work and contributions to the London arts community for over fifty years. Wally is still a familiar and welcoming figure to all London arts patrons, despite his 88 years. Tributes to Wally were read from several London arts luminaries.

A certificate of thanks was presented to Kathy Navackas for her years of devotion to the Brickenden Awards.

New adjudication panel members this year included Jim Cressman, Peter Janes and David and Irene Nicholls. Susan Merskey joined the Administrative Committee. Greg Hanbuch left the Adjudication Panel after giving sterling service for three years.

The post-ceremony bash was once again held at Chaucer’s Pub.

Public awareness of the Brickenden Awards increases with each succeeding year and the ceremony is an established annual highlight of London’s live theatre scene. Expanding media coverage of the ceremony and the Awards contribute to the continuing success.

2007 Brickenden Awards Night – January 28, 2008 | 2007 Winners and Nominees

2006 — The Fifth Year

This was a transitional year, following the tragic death of Brickenden Awards co-founder, Christopher Doty, four days after the 2005 Awards Ceremony. There was total commitment from all members to continue with the awards and awards ceremony, which had been Chris’s pride and joy.

Ashleigh Barney and Kathy Navackas continued to handle the expanding administrative work for the Brickendens, while Patricia Black, Laurie Bursch, Greg Hanbuch, Sheila Martindale and Lionel Morise continued as the Adjudication Panel.

The jovial MC for the 2006 Awards Ceremony was A-Channel Morning co-host Jeremy John Dunton, who succeeded in keeping the tone upbeat when all present were keenly aware of the huge hole created by Chris’s absence.

During her presentation of the Bravest Production award, Teresa Tarasewicz’s heartfelt and moving personal tribute to Chris was warmly received with laughter, tears and prolonged applause.

In a sensitive tribute, local actor/director Jeff Culbert presented the 2006 Curtain Raiser Award posthumously to Chris Doty; Grant Doty accepted on behalf of his late brother. On behalf of the Brickenden Committee, Greg Hanbuch announced that the award would be renamed the Chris Doty Award.

Attendance at the 2006 Awards Ceremony hit a new high and the party afterwards was held again at Chaucer’s Pub.

2006 Brickenden Awards Night – January 22, 2007 | 2006 Winners and Nominees

2005 — The Fourth Year

Chris Doty and Kathy Navackas, with the addition of Ashleigh Barney took on the administration of the burgeoning Brickenden Awards. Theatre writer Sheila Martindale and London Fringe Festival board member Lionel Morise joined the Adjudication Panel.

Host for the 2005 awards ceremony was well-known writer and former CBC host Erika Ritter.

Although Retreat from Moscow captured three key awards, no single production dominated the ceremonies. Repeat nominees Don Fleckser and Julia Webb took home the hardware for Best Director and Best Actress respectively. Jonathan de Souza scored a double win for his original musicals, You Kiss By the Book and Thomas and the Princess, while first-time playwright Stephanie Demas won for Best Original Script, with Blow This Popsicle Stand. Demas’s win included the new $500 cash prize for Best Original Script, generously donated by long-time Brickenden Awards benefactor, Nonie Jeffery.

Theatre mentor Art Fidler received the second Curtain Raiser award. Well-known actors Tom McCamus and Chris Potter, both former students of Mr. Fidler at Oakridge Secondary School, sent moving tributes. Ceremony highlights included Mike Van Holst’s on-stage proposal to his fiancée, Megan Morris.

2005 Brickenden Awards Night – January 30, 2006 | 2005 Winners and Nominees

2004 — The Third Year

For the first time, the voting was broken down into a nomination and winning period, in order to give theatre companies a chance to jockey for awards. The Adjudication Panel was expanded to five members – besides Chris Doty, Patricia Black and Kathy Navackas, the panel now included Laurie Bursch (writer), and Greg Hanbuch (A-Channel).

A new award for theatre promotion, Best Ballyhoo, was introduced. An expanded Brickenden website was also launched.

The second official awards ceremony proved to be an unqualified smash, doubling the attendance from the previous year. Caitlin Murphy cleaned up with awards for Best Comedy, Original Script, Production and Direction — a feat that left her speechless.

Don Fleckser received a special new Curtain Raiser award for more than 50 years of service in theatre, and a written tribute from former protégé Victor Garber. Media coverage of the event tripled and a documentary crew was on hand to record the festivities.

The awards ceremony was hosted by veteran actor and director, Bernard Hopkins. Mr. Bernard Hopkins has a 25-year history with the Stratford Festival. His ties to London, Ontario go back many years, and include his tenure as artistic director at the Grand Theatre during the early 1980s.

A new tradition of an after-ceremony party was launched at Chaucer’s Pub, a Brickenden Awards sponsor.

2004 Winners and Nominees

2003 — The Second Year

With three new members on the adjudication panel (theatre writer Patricia Black, UWO theatre organizer Maggie Wrobel and London Fringe Festival producer Kathy Navackas), the Brickendens assumed a more defined shape. An award was designed, new categories were added and the critic’s and people’s choices were merged into a single award.

The first official awards ceremony was held at the Wolf Performance Hall. Highlights of the evening included an opening address by Catharine Brickenden’s daughter, Dorinda Greenway; Rachel Jones’ emotional address after receiving the evening’s first award (for Best Actress) and Tyler Parr’s ecstatic acceptance speech by long-distance phone after learning he had copped the Best Actor award.

The ceremony was hosted by former London actor Paul Soles.

2003 Winners and Nominees

2002 — The First Year

In the summer of 2002, Christopher Doty, resident critic for the Theatre in London website, was inspired to wonder, “Why not compile a listing of the best shows of the year to serve as a recap for the year in London, Ontario theatre?” Jeff Culbert, the site’s co-founder with Sean Wilson, took matters one step further by turning the idea into a competition where nominees would be posted, followed by an announcement of the winners on New Year’s Day.

That December, Wilson created an on-line voting system where the public could vote on Doty’s nomination list and create two sets of winners: critic’s choice and people’s choice. The resulting awards (in name only) would be called The Brickendens, after the late local actress, director and playwright Catharine Brickenden.

The competition attracted marginal attention until Noel Gallagher published an article in the London Free Press on the Brickendens (or the “Bricks,” as they were soon nicknamed). The resulting publicity helped establish the awards as an annual event.

2002 Winners and Nominees