Stage Door News

Toronto: Anita La Selva awarded 2019 Gina’s Prize for Emerging Female Directors

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Gina Wilkinson Prize Committee is pleased to announce that Anita La Selva of Toronto, Ontario is the recipient of the eighth annual Gina Wilkinson Prize for an Emerging Female Director.  This annual prize of $ 5,000 honours female theatre artists transitioning to directing.

About Anita La Selva
Anita La Selva is a director, dramaturg, actor and teacher. She recently created and directed Stones, an inter-disciplinary inter-cultural theatre odyssey about women and violence (Stones Project/Aluna Theatre).  Previously, she directed Perdida(Danceworks/Co-works), The Mill on The Floss (Sheridan College/UofT Mississauga), an all female Glengarry Glen Ross(Jet Girls Productions) and Memento Mori (Soulo Theatre). Anita was nominated for the Pauline McGibbon Award for Emerging Director and her production of Look Back In Anger(Fevergraph Theatre) won awards for Best Independent/Regional Director and Best Production (My Entertainment World Awards). She holds an MFA in Directing from York University and has directed/dramaturged dozens of workshops for new plays. In May she will direct Bella Donna, a dark comedy about the Borgias.

"Gina Wilkinson was more than just a female director. She was a visionary who had a fierce desire to forge a new path for herself as an artist in this country," says Anita La Selva. " Sometimes, when we choose to – or rather are driven by that unseen creative force inside us – to explore new terrain, the path can be daunting. And yet we persevere. This prize is a beautiful acknowledgement of women theatre artists who are passionate and committed to creating a new path for themselves. I am so deeply honoured to be the recipient of this year’s prize and in the company of my predecessors. For me, it is an affirmation that I do have a place in this community, that I am supported and encouraged; which in turn deepens my desire to carry this forward through my own support of future generations of women artists. With immense gratitude. Thank you, Gina, for creating the portal.”

Shortlisted Nominees
Ms. La Selva was selected from a short list that includes Erin Brandenburg, (Toronto), Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster, (Toronto) and Janelle Cooper (Calgary). Each shortlisted nominee will receive $1,000.

Erin Brandenburg  is a director for theatre and performance projects and a playwright originally from Essex County, Ontario. Based in Toronto, she often works with a collective of artists under the name Kitchenband. She is a graduate of the directing program at the Soulpepper Academy, a winner of the Enbridge Emerging Playwrights Award, participant of the Stratford Festival Playwright Retreat, The Banff Playwright Lab, the VR workshop with Spiderweb show and the University of Waterloo Games Institute and an upcoming Artist in Residence with the Toronto Public Library.

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster  is an actor and director from Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Her recent directing credits include The Wolves (Howland/Crows), Cannibal (Scrap Paper/Next Stage), 52 Pick-Up (Howland) and Gray (Inamorata). Courtney has performed in seven seasons with Soulpepper Theatre, mostly recently in Idomeneus and Innocence Lost. Other acting credits include roles with Public Recordings, Canadian Stage, Citadel Theatre, Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Tarragon Theatre and the 2019 Shaw Festival season. She is currently an instructor with the Paprika Festival and a mentor with the AMY project.

Janelle Cooper is a Storyteller who passionately shares her call to creation through service as an Actor, Director, Writer, Educator. She is a vessel for the ones who came before, unearthing and delivering the stories of her people by uniquely employing multiple storytelling conventions to a single narrative. Janelle most recently directed Once On This Island at Lower Ossington Theatre in Toronto, and wrote/directed UNGANISHA for Woezo Africa Theatre in Calgary. Janelle is the AD of Afrocentric theatre company Ellipsis Tree Collective, a 2015/2016 NAC Ensemble Member, an honoured recipient of the Making Black Calgary Award, and multi-award-winning Actor.

Nominations and Selection Committee
The Committee received nominations from across the country and was thrilled by the calibre of the artists vying for the Prize. The nominations spoke to an incredibly diverse, intelligent and passionate group of artists who, as emerging directors, are clearly dedicated to creating not only a lively, rigorous and positive environment for theatre-making but also to providing audiences in their communities with theatre experiences of the highest order.

The Gina Wilkinson Prize was established through the generous support of Gina's colleagues and admirers from across the country. The Committee (Micheline Chevrier, Bonnie Green, Krista Jackson, Tom Rooney and Bob White) extends its heartfelt thanks to all those supporters. Through their incredible generosity, the spirit of Gina lives on.

About the Award
Gina's Prize honours a Canadian female theatre artist who is transitioning from one theatre discipline (acting, stage managing, playwriting, administration, etc.) to that of directing. The Prize pays tribute to actor/playwright/director Gina Wilkinson, who passed away in 2010, and whose dedication, vision and indomitable spirit imbued her work and her life. An actor for over twenty years, Ms Wilkinson began turning her attention to both writing and directing and, in the last few years of her too-short life, established herself as a daring, strong, inventive director and collaborator in the Canadian theatre. In the spirit of Ms Wilkinson's appetite for life, the Prize of $5,000 is a gift to be used in any way the recipient chooses.

The Ontario Arts Foundation manages the endowment that funds the Gina Wilkinson Prize.  Anyone wishing to donate may do so at

Past recipients of Gina's Prize include Tanja Jacobs (2018), Kimberley Rampersad (2017), and Kelli Fox(2016).

Photo: Anita La Selva.