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TAPA Announces Gender-Neutral Performance Awards For 2019

TAPA Announces Gender-Neutral Performance Awards For 2019At a press conference held today at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) announced a major change to performance categories for the Dora Mavor Moore Awards that will be implemented for next year's 40th Anniversary Dora Mavor Moore Awards in June 2019.

All performance categories for the Dora Mavor Moore Awards beginning with the 2018-19 season will be gender neutral with all binary male and female designations eliminated and replaced with gender-inclusive "Outstanding Performance" categories as applicable.

TAPA is a leading arts service organization that represents and advocates for 188 professional theatre, dance and opera companies in Toronto. It produces the annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards which celebrate and honour excellence on stage. The Doras are the oldest and largest theatre, dance and opera awards in Canada.

As per its commitment to review the Dora Awards every five years, the TAPA Board of Directors struck a Dora Review Working Group that undertook an extensive 14-month review process.

In the wake of the Dora Review Working Group's unanimous recommendation, the TAPA Board adopted a gender-neutral policy for all Outstanding Performance awards in the General Theatre, Independent Theatre, Musical Theatre, Opera and Dance Divisions beginning with the upcoming 2018-19 season which runs May 1-April 30.
In making this announcement, TAPA Board President Régine Cadet said, "TAPA strives to be responsive to the changing cultural environment of our times and to the evolving needs of the TAPA membership. Most of the current performance award categories recognize 'Outstanding Performance of a Male / Outstanding Performance of a Female.' During the consultation process by the Dora Review Working Group, this gender-based binary was revealed as an area of great concern as it prevents access to recognition for performers identifying as non-binary or gender non-conforming individuals. Today, we are proud to announce a new gender-neutral policy for the Dora Mavor Moore Awards."
Chris Goddard, President of Performing Arts Information Services (PAIS), the charitable arm of TAPA, noted, "The manner and spirit with which the Dora Awards review process was conducted involved layers of assessment and discussion in a positive collaborative process. Our society, and the arts in particular, is recognizing more and more that there are not only two genders and that some individuals identify neither as male or female. TAPA aspires to honour all narratives and all gender identities. This new gender neutral policy is a proactive step towards inclusivity and equity in the Toronto performing arts community."

Margo Charlton, Chair of the Dora Review Working Group, noted, "The Dora Review Working Group was tasked with evaluating the existing Dora Award Divisions and Categories and included members of the TAPA Board of Directors, the staff support team and TAPA membership. The Dora Review Working Group has been working on this since the spring of 2017 through extensive research that included five Divisional Town Halls, as well as numerous community convenings and consultations that gave an opportunity for members of the performing arts community to discuss potential changes to the awards. We also looked at responses from Dora juror surveys collected over the last three years. All this work has informed the changes to the Doras that are being presented today. The Working Group was impressed with the community's interest in embracing change and it became clear that moving to gender-neutral performance awards is an accessibility and inclusivity issue."

Jacoba Knaapen, Executive Director of TAPA, added, "We recognize that adopting a gender neutral policy is an extraordinary and bold step. But the arts are - and should be - in the vanguard of accepting and promoting change and social justice. This change levels the playing field for male, female and gender non-conforming artists who will now be judged solely on the basis of their performance, regardless of how they identify. The Doras will continue to celebrate excellence, regardless of expressed or unexpressed gender identity. As the first professional theatre, dance and opera awards in Canada to adopt this trailblazing policy, we are proud to institute and celebrate this precedent-setting step forward."

TAPA also announced that it will partner with Egale Canada Human Rights Trust to provide training to all of the incoming 65 Dora jurors for the 2018-19 season to increase awareness of gender issues. Egale promotes and fosters the human rights and equitable inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex and Two-Spirit people (LGBTQI2S). At the press conference, the Executive Director of Egale, Helen Kennedy, noted, "It is wonderful to see the addition of training to this initiative. I commend the Doras; they are doing the work that needs to be done to create real systemic change for gender inclusion within the performing arts industry."

Below is a roundup of the changes relating to the new policy that will be instituted beginning with the 2018-2019 season:

All gender qualifications for performance awards will be removed, eliminating Outstanding Performance Male and Female awards in all Divisions and replacing them with simply Outstanding Performance where required.
As a result of the institution of gender-neutral performance awards, the following new strategies and policies will be implemented:

- The number of nominees for Outstanding Performance awards in all divisions will be increased to eight from five, thereby increasing the total number of performance nominees per Division to 16 (currently 15).
- TAPA will introduce anti-bias training for volunteer Dora jurors on issues of equity, diversity and gender-inclusivity. TAPA will continue to practice strategic casting of volunteer Dora Jurors, aiming for balance of gender, gender identity, sexuality, age, artistic discipline / background / experience and ethnicity.
- TAPA will track and analyze the statistical results of nominees and recipients by gender identity, adding voluntary disclosure to the Dora registration form. Findings will be reported back to the TAPA Board for informed decision-making in the next review process.

*** The above new policies and changes impact the 2019 Dora Mavor Moore Awards. They do not affect the 2018 Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards which take place on Monday, June 25 at the Winter Garden Theatre of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre.

As previously announced, the 39th Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards are hosted by Canadian actor Astrid Van Wieren, currently starring in the Broadway run of the award-winning Come >From Away. Ms Van Wieren originated the role of Beulah in this smash-hit Canadian musical.

TAPA will announce the nominees for the 2018 Dora Mavor Moore Awards at a press conference at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on May 31 where the Leonard McHardy and John Harvey Award for Outstanding Leadership in Administration will also be presented. Tickets for the 39th Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards go on sale that day at 12 noon and will be available by calling 1-855-622-ARTS (2787) or online at http://tapa.ca.

For information visit http://tapa.ca

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