Artword's Ron and Judith Harolded!

The ninth annual Harold Awards were held on May 12, 2003 at Hugh's Room, a hip and comfortable club at  2261 Dundas W., just off Roncesvalles. These are Toronto's alternative theatre awards, where the theatre community honours its own. Fourteen awards are given each year, and the following year the recipients of last year's awards get to name their successors. No committees, no popularity contests. The recipients also have to plan next year's party. It's also tradition that the recipients not know they are receiving the awards, so their friends resort to all sorts of ruses to make sure that they'll be there.

The awards are named for Harold Kandel, a fixture on the Toronto theatre scene for many years. He went to almost everything, and voiced his opinions loudly and raucously during the performances. Many times he was asked to leave, but now his memory is cherished, and preserved by the award named in his honour.

This year's recipients included Ruth Madoc-Jones, Ross Manson, Donald Carr, Djanet Sears, Andy McKim, Jim Garrard, Derrick Chua, Lyn Joyce, Grant Ramsay, Jini Stolk, Mary Jo Carter Dodd, Shanna Miller -- and Artword's Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford. The Ken McDougall Director's Award went to Rebecca Brown.

Ron and Judith's award was bestowed by Jon Kaplan, theatre critic for NOW Magazine, and a recipient of last year's award. His presentation follows:

Harold Presentation to Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford

May 12, 2003 at Hughís Room
9th Annual Harold Awards

My Harold is a two-headed, four-armed, four-legged beast, passionate about the theatre and brimming with energy to make it work on all sorts of levels. No fantasy world here, though  ó Iím Harolding a pair of people who are involved as writer, director, designer, artist and all-around theatre enthusiasts. Enthusiasm is a key word to describe them, I think. Iíve known the work of one since the mid-80s, and Iím happy that this person reappeared about eight years later in a more permanent role on the local scene. The other person is always working in close tandem with the first, and itís rare to see one without the other. These are people who offer a home to people in all areas of the arts ó theatre, dance, music and the visual arts. They are passionate people who encourage new as well as established companies, giving artists a chance to show their creativity in a supportive environment.

At one point a few months ago, visiting artists in a festival werenít happy with the venue they were assigned; my Haroldees spent the night before opening moving everything from the assigned tehatre to the lobby, accommodating the artists, putting them first.

I guess these are two people who welcome artists and audiences into their space as if it were their home, which in some way it is. Thereís a smile on their faces, a caring for everyone who passes into the theatre. By now youíve probably figured out that my two Haroldees are the pair who run Artword Theatre, one of the busiest alternative venues in town. It owes its success to the caring and enthusiasm of Ron Weihs and Judith Sandiford.

Jon Kaplan