It’s a busy time of year for Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop (BTW), which is gearing up for its annual Vision Celebration Gala.
BTW Canada’s oldest black theatre company has been hosting the gala for over 30 years.
The soiree’s purpose is twofold, according to BTW’s artistic director Quincy Armorer.
“It’s a fundraiser” he said, adding it’s what allows the company to continue creating great theatre in the city.
But more than that, the Vision Celebration Gala is about celebrating.
“It’s in the title,” Armorer said. “It’s a celebration, it’s a chance for us to pay tribute to some of the black artists in our country who have made really significant contributions to the performing arts.”
One such artist is Winston Sutton, this year’s recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. award.
Each year, the award is given to a black artist or cultural leader for their contribution to Canada’s cultural landscape.
Bestowing the honour on Sutton was an easy decision, according to Armorer.
Sutton is a man of many hats, he’s been an actor, director and even held Armorer’s position at the BTW in the late 80s and early 90s.
But it’s in the classroom that Sutton really shines. He’s been teaching in the drama department at Montreal’s Dawson College since 1991.
“As a teacher, he’s really contributed to the artists who are up and coming and who are going to be the theatre artists — and are the theatre artists — of our community right now,” Armorer said.”
Sutton admitted he was taken aback by all the fuss, but admitted he felt honoured.
“It was a bit of a surprise really,” Sutton said.
“I never thought that I could rate to be in the company of some of the others who have received it, so I’m not sneezing at it, but it was quite a surprise.”
Armorer reiterated the impact Sutton’s teaching has had on the artistic community across the country.
“I’ve hired several of his past students and you can always tell when people are properly trained. His contributions span the entire country.”
Over his 25-year career at Dawson, Sutton has witnessed many changes, among them an increasingly diverse student body.
“We have a really wonderful mix of students and it really helps in terms of understanding each other, in terms of learning to work with each other and getting rid of certain stereotypes.”
Sutton will be receiving his award Saturday night at the EVO hotel on Sherbrooke Street West.
Asked if he’d prepared an acceptance speech Sutton quipped he left acting because he had nothing left to say, adding that he might rely on his improvisation skills.
“I like to wing it a bit, but I’m sure at some point on Saturday I’ll put together something.”