At Monday night’s Robert Merritt Awards—the biggest celebration of Nova Scotian theatre—betting on Neptune’s 2022 production of The Rocky Horror Show felt like playing with house money: The ritzy-and-risqué production led the pack of award nominees with nine nods overall. It was also one of the year’s most buzzed-about productions, drawing crowds for its cult-classic status and the fact that it starred last year’s Merritt winner for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role, Allister MacDonald, as Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
But like a good second act twist, a new play emerged as the hero of this story: Parrsboro seasonal stage Ship’s Company Theatre’s production Dayboil—an exploration of the fragile relationship of two sisters—took home seven awards last night, including Outstanding Performance for an Ensemble.
Other winners of the night included Josh MacDonald’s #IAmTheCheese, an adaptation of a classic YA novel which nabbed top honours in the production design and new Nova Scotian adaptation categories and the Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Independent Production winner Samqwan, a multi-disciplinary show created and choreographed by Eskasoni artist Sarah Prosper about the value of water. Gale Force Theatre took home Outstanding Emerging Production for its adaptation of history-making lesbian Gentleman Jack’s boarding school years, the coming-of-age Crypthand.
Then there's the peerless, indomitable multi-hyphenate shalan joudry, who saw recognition for the success of her play KOQM, which was staged twice in the 2021-2022 season: A quilt of stories about the lives of fictional L’nu women, it won Outstanding New Nova Scotian Play at last night’s awards.
The Merritt Legacy Award, meanwhile, was given to the luminous, legendary Walter Borden, a playwright and actor probably best-known for his ever-evolving one-actor show The Last Epistle of Tightrope Time, which opened Neptune’s current season last September. His famous, semi-autobiographical play is forever splunking his own past, dredging up from the muck of memory the types of characters that’d populate a Toni Morrison novel to addictive, emotive results. Borden’s Merritt win isn’t the only recent example of the icon being given his flowers: Last fall, Neptune renamed its green room after him.
A full list of this year’s Merritt Award winners is shown in the PDF below: