The Bob Couchman award for Outstanding Play of 2010-11, and two other top awards, went to the Gwaandak Theatre production of Café Daughter.

Métis actor PJ Prudat won the award for Outstanding female Performance for her solo role as Yvette Wong – and a host of other characters in Wong’s early life – in the Kenneth T. Williams play.

Former Whitehorse resident Yvette Nolan, now of Winnipeg, was named Outstanding Director for the same production.

The award for Outstanding Male Performance went to Wayne Ward for his work in Nakai Theatre’s production of The River, written by David Skelton, Joseph Tisiga and Judith Rubakoff.

This is the second year for the Bob Couchman Theatre Awards, sponsored by What’s Up Yukon in memory of long-time Whitehorse and Atlin actor-writer Bob Couchman. The awards were presented last Thursday at the Yukon Arts Centre.

The judges selected from seven local productions: The Boys, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Into the Woods (Guild Theatre), Speed-the-Plow (Whitehorse Theatre Ensemble) and Noises Off (Moving Parts Theatre), as well as The River and Café Daughter.

The Ramshackle Theatre production of Syphilis: A Love Story [see review, page 3] and the Art-Lequin Theatre Association’s bilingual production of 12 Angry Men [see page 4] were scheduled too late to be included in this year’s selection.

In choosing the outstanding play, the judges called Café Daughter “a terrific night of theatre, moving and engaging from start to finish.”

Director Nolan, they said, “pulled all the elements of this beautifully-written story into a finely-crafted piece of theatre.”

In the title role of a young girl of mixed Cree-Chinese heritage, Prudat rendered an “unforgettable” performance, they said.

“She moved seamlessly from one character to another, to another … using her voice, her face and her whole body with subtlety and precision to make every character unique.”

Other female performers nominated were Moira Sauer (The Beauty Queen of Leenane), Barbara Pollard (The River), Bronwyn Jones and Erica Bigland (both in Into the Woods).

Of Ward, they wrote that he was “beautifully cast and completely believable” in the The River.

“His strong stage presence provided an anchor to the whole play … a play that made you look at things you didn’t want to look at.”

Also nominated in the outstanding male performance category were George Maratos (The Boys), Telly James (The River) and Winluck Wong (for both Noises Off and Into the Woods).

The judges also made a number of special mentions for outstanding achievements in what they termed a “very rich” theatre season:

Stephanie Lambert’s “naturalistic, beautifully-detailed” set for The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Emma Barr’s “whimsical, imaginative and completely functional” playground set for Into the Woods.

Nakai Theatre and the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition for presenting an “important piece of social theatre” that provided a “courageous and thought-provoking portrait of Whitehorse, through the voices of people at the margins of society.”

The Guild Theatre and Moving Parts Theatre, for taking on “large, challenging productions” that engaged “so many people who volunteer countless hours to make community theatre such an important part of our lives.”

The evening also included the presentation of the tenth Conrad Boyce Award to an individual who has worked “without thought of personal recognition or gain” to make a lasting contribution to the performing arts.

This year’s recipient is singer-songwriter Steve Slade, described by award presenter Mike Ivens as an “unsung hero” in the Yukon arts community.

Ivens said the committee especially wanted to recognize Slade’s ongoing work with children and youth in rural communities throughout the territory.

Apart from his role as a musician and mentor, Slade is also the co-ordinator of the annual Arts in the Park series, which began its 2011 season this week.