Barnaby Dixon – puppetry
As many of you know, I am nutso for puppetry and have somehow managed to know some amazingly talented puppeteers. But as much as I adore my friends, one fellow blows me away not just for his skill as a puppeteer, but also as a puppet designer.
For a guy that looks like he’s 12—I’m over 50, so you all look 12 to me—Barnaby Dixon seems ancient in his craft and wisdom. From the very first YouTube video I watched, he has dazzled me with his love of the art form, his ability to bring the inanimate to life, and his presentation style that draws you in and makes you feel like this is a private conversation. Stellar!
Baram & Snieckus – comedy
I know, I know. I have to get past my addiction to these beautiful sketch and improv wunderkinds. But I can’t help myself.
Apart, Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus are wonderfully funny and vulnerable and endearing, but together, they rocket off the charts.
As I have reviewed previously (see below), Baram & Snieckus are to the modern era what Stiller & Meara and Nichols & May were to theirs, people who express the challenges and wonders of social awkwardness, allowing us to laugh at the things that frighten us in our daily lives.
No one is more neurotic than Matt…until Naomi erupts in her own mental mushroom cloud.
And that this husband-and-wife team are beautiful, friendly, giving, caring people is an absolute bonus.
Filippa Levemark – visual arts
As a photographer, I adore nature. As a writer, I adore bizarre or interesting juxtapositions. Thus, I had no choice but to fall in love with Filippa Levemark’s work.
With the seemingly simplest of compositions, Filippa combines nature and human infrastructure to powerfully demonstrate that the two worlds are one and the same. Try as it might, humanity cannot hold itself as distinct from the wildlife that surrounds us, nor should it.
Her work is beautifully approachable and yet is rife with meaning, offering depths that may be missed at first glance.
Based in Sweden, my greatest hope is to find a way for her to bring her works to Canada.
Irene Carl Sankoff & David Hein – musical theatre
As a student at Toronto’s Second City Training Centre several years ago, I had the great fortune to meet and do improv with a gorgeous and talented actress named Irene Sankoff, a truly giving performer.
Years later, I heard that Irene and her husband David Hein had created the somewhat autobiographical stage musical My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, which played to wonderful reviews in Toronto. What I didn’t realize was that the musical would explode in the theatre world both in Canada and abroad, setting these two up as a creative force of nature.
And just this past year, they have repeated (and likely surpassed) that success with a new musical Come From Away, based on events in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11 when hundreds of air passengers found themselves suddenly grounded.
The musical just completed a spectacularly successful run in Toronto and begins Broadway previews on Feb 18 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York, where it is sure to sell out quickly.
But like my Baram & Snieckus comment above, what makes these two particularly special is that they are genuinely wonderful people and have such love for their craft and for the people who come see the show.
Recently, on a frigid Toronto morning, the pair brought coffee and donuts to fans waiting for rush tickets to their final Toronto performance (Toronto Star article). The pair and performers from the show entertained the small crowd, singing songs and chatting with the chilled throng. That is simply beautiful.