Actor, musician, writer and director Richard Greenblatt had a triumphant night at the Dora Mavor Moore Awards on Monday night, the Toronto Alliance For Performing Arts’ version of the Tonys in New York.
Greenblatt, who had previously won seven Doras – four as a director, one as an actor and two as a producer – picked up the award for Outstanding Direction in the Theatre for Young Audiences division for his work on Roseneath Theatre’s The Incredible Speediness of Jamie Cavanaugh.
The show, by Canadian playwright Chris Craddock, is for students in grades 4 through 8. It follows Jamie Cavanaugh, a young girl with ADHD who’s struggling in school, with her friends and at home.
“She’s the hero of the story, and we love her as a hero, so we’re desperate to see her overcome these obstacles,” Greenblatt says.
This is the fourth time Roseneath has mounted the play. Yet it remains as relevant as ever, because ADD and ADHD are still important issues in Canadian society, especially among children.
At each show, Greenblatt notes, students with ADHD approach the actor who plays Jamie. “It [the show] puts marginalized kids in the centre of the story instead of in the margins. So it’s very empowering for them,” he says.
Greenblatt considers making theatre for young audiences incredibly important. But he doesn’t see it as a way to create future theatregoers. Rather, he knows it can have a lasting impact on kids.
“I feel sometimes that theatre for young audiences is the most political theatre that we have in Canada,” he says, noting that this genre often deals with complex social and political issues.
“You’re actually talking to an audience who is in the process of making up their minds about the world. You can actually effect change by doing theatre for young audiences.”
He’s already been recognized for his achievements in this field. In fact, he won the first ever Dora handed out for outstanding direction in the theatre for young audiences category.
Greenblatt says this type of theatre makes up about 30 per cent of his work-load. It also poses a unique set of challenges, because Roseneath, which specializes in theatre for children, teens and families, mounts its shows inside various schools, usually in gymnasiums.
Unlike in a theatre auditorium, students don’t have a direct point of focus, so Greenblatt has to direct a tight show that keeps kids fully engaged in the action unfolding in front of them.
This fall, however, The Incredible Speediness of Jamie Cavanaugh will leave Canada to go on an American tour, and instead of heading into schools, it will play at various theatres.
Along with this upcoming tour, Greenblatt, who co-created the well-known musical comedy 2 Pianos 4 Hands, has a number of projects in the works. He’s co-writing another piece and will be performing with the Art of Time Ensemble this fall.