Playwright is first Canadian to win prestigious Yale award

Playwright is first Canadian to win prestigious Yale award

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Hannah Moscovitch won Yale’s Windham-Campbell prize.
Hannah Moscovitch won Yale’s Windham-Campbell prize.

What would you do with $150,000 (US)?

For playwright Hannah Moscovitch, that question’s now a reality because she just won one of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes.

Yale University announced the nine massive prizes on Feb. 29 this year, awarding artists who “have left their mark on the world of literature and theatre or have been judged by their peers as exceedingly likely to do so.”

Moscovitch, an Ottawa native, is now the first Canadian woman and first Canadian playwright to get a Windham-Campbell, a prize Yale established in 2013. But when she found out, she didn’t believe it right away.

“My son was asleep on my lap – he’s eight months old. I listened to the audio-file sent to my phone as a message and I thought it was telemarketing,” she says, noting how it sounded like one of those pre-recorded “you’ve just won a free cruise!” calls.

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“I nearly didn’t respond. And I called them and I asked them if it was real,” she continues with a laugh.

She didn’t even know she was up for a prize because the whole Windham-Campbell process is rather secretive.

After receiving that fateful voicemail, she learned Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre – where she’s the playwright-in-residence – and Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary both nominated her for the award.

But despite the thrill of winning, she’s not sure exactly what she’s going to do with her unrestricted grant yet.

“I do think it means I’ll work on projects on my bucket list,” she says. And that may include writing a play based on the Jewish gangsters who ruled Montreal back in the 1920s and ’30s.

Before she does that though, her latest play, Bunny, will premiere at the Stratford Festival this summer, and in January 2017, Tarragon will remount her Dora Mavor Moore award-winning show, Infinity.

Off-stage, Moscovitch writes for CBC’s World War II spy thriller X Company – Season 2 is airing now.

Moscovitch, who’s currently based in Halifax, has received multiple Dora Awards and is the first playwright ever to win a prestigious Trillium Book Award.

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Her most recent accolade will be a huge help as she continues to move forward in her career.

“It does make a big difference if you’re a freelancer and you don’t know where money and work are coming from,” she says. This prize is a sort of safety net. “It means I’ll be less afraid, and I hope that means my work will be stronger.”

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