painting of Harold Kanel

The Harold Awards: The Toronto Theatre Party

Toronto is a city filled with theatre. Filled with theatre that many people don't know about. If you're a casual follower of theatre you will know about the Dora Mavor Moore awards, they get a fair bit of press, but unless you're in the theatre industry there's a good chance that you don't know about the Harold Awards, which take place this Monday, May 26, 2008.

Erika Hennebury, one of the organizers of this year's Harold Awards, describes them as "The awards are always riotous and debauched. A kind of anti-Dora's. Super fun." So, whereas the Doras are a formal affair, a gala of massive proportions, the Harolds are a place where people in the theatre industry let loose. When you get a bunch of theatre folks together in a room and let them let loose, well, that's a sight to behold.

Unlike the Dora's, where you register your show for consideration, at which point a a selection committee goes to a million different shows throughout the year and chooses from those; the Harolds are peer-nominated, and the nominees haven't a clue that they have been nominated.

There is much fan-fare around the Dora's, including press conferences ahead of time to announce nominees, whereas the Harold Awards tend to stay off the radar, and award recipients have no idea that they are receiving an award. Tradition is that if you have nominated someone you are responsible for convincing them to show up, which is easier than getting someone to come to their own surprise party, because at least you can be honest about that you're going to, even if you can't explain the exact reason.

So, why the heck are they called the Harold Awards? Well, they're named after Harold Kanel, a man passionate about theatre in a no-holds-barred way. Harold showed his passion by attending productions and tirelessly and frequently heckling. When Harold (born in 1906) died in 1994 a group of 13 theatre artists created an annual event to celebrate the spirit of dedication, commitment and passion of Toronto's vibrant theatre community, and of course the undying spirit of Harold.

At $10 a ticket it's a far less expensive way to get a taste of the community than the $60 Dora ticket. So, if you're looking for a different kind of theatre experience, check it out this evening of surprise, pride and serious celebration.

May 26, 2008, Doors at 7:30pm, Show at 8pm
The Blue Moon Pub, 725 Queen St East (at Broadview), Toronto, ON, Canada
Tickets available in advance at TO TIX
$10 advance/$12 at the door

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