Quebec video artist and set designer wins $100,000 Siminovitch Prize

Video Designer/Set Designer Stephanie Jasmin is seen in an undated handout photo. Jasmin has been named the winner of the 2018 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, National Arts Centre

Quebec video artist and set designer Stephanie Jasmin has won the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre.

The co-artistic director of Montreal’s UBU creative company was praised by the jury for “beautiful and highly original visions.”

The 38-year-old gets $75,000 and the right to choose a protege to receive $25,000. Jasmin chose emerging set designer Max-Otto Fauteux, with whom she has collaborated on past UBU productions.

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Celebrated playwright and novelist Tomson Highway hosted an awards ceremony Monday at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Canada’s most prestigious theatre prize rotates on a three-year cycle to celebrate a director, playwright or designer whose work is considered “transformative and influential.”

Other finalists included Montreal-based sound designer and musician Alexander MacSween; Toronto-based designer Camellia Koo, who has worked in theatre, opera and dance; and Itai Erdal, the artistic director of the Vancouver’s Elbow Theatre and an award-winning lighting designer, writer and performer. They each receive $5,000.

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Jasmin said she was grateful to be in such auspicious company and said the lucrative award will give her “wings to continue and to go further and further.”

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“It’s rare to have that kind of prize for mid-career recognition,” Jasmin said by phone Monday as she arrived in Ottawa by train for the gala.

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“Normally, a big prize like this would be for lifetime achievement and I found that it’s so right to (be awarded) when things begin to be interesting and you have more and more work and you experiment more and more. It’s a very beautiful time to have some encouragement.”

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Jasmin said she may use the prize money to realize a longtime dream to visit Japan, hoping it could inspire future multimedia works.

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Born in Neuville, Que., just outside Quebec City, Jasmin moved to Paris at age 19 to study art at the École du Louvre, and then Montreal to study film at Concordia University.

Jasmin said she sees her theatre work as a seamless integration of both words and images, rather than separate elements that are made to fit together.

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“It’s really, really connected for me — you have to work in a sort of (harmony), to be linked even to the breath of the actors on the stage who are speaking,” she said.

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While technology has its place, it also has limits.

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“We have nice tools now, it’s very accessible so we can play a lot with those but it’s not an end in itself. I have a vision first, and after that I find the right tools,” she said.

“I’m interested in looking at the world and finding some details and some landscape that can be a little bit worked, and edited, transformed. But it’s really (about) beginning with the reality for me.”

Jasmin said this next generation of set designers have embraced technology and mixed-media in exciting ways that are transforming the craft.

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That includes viewing various elements of a stage production — such as lighting, video and set design — as inextricably linked from the beginning of the design process, she said.

“I think it could be interesting because it will be more integrated.”

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