Montreal, Wednesday, May 18, 2022 — The Conseil des arts de Montréal (CAM) and Théâtre ESPACE GO, in collaboration with members of the Award Development Committee, are pleased to unveil the winner of the third edition of the Jovette-Marchessault Award, which this year recognizes women playwrights: Marie Leofeli Romero Barlizo. This award, which recognizes and showcases the contributions of women to Montréal’s theatre scene, comes with a $20,000 grant to be awarded by the Conseil to the winner.
The finalists of the first three editions will receive an airfare to Paris courtesy of Air Transat.
“ Tiohi:ake is my home and where my heart is.
This land holds the stories of so many people who have not been recognized in our history, in our theatres and in our media.
The contributions of Filipinos in Canada and in the province of Quebec have been dismissed for too long.
They inspire me with their courage and their hard work.
They are my heroes.
They are the reason I keep writing.
Their stories need to be told.
This award means so much to me. ”
– Marie Leofeli Romero Barlizo
THIRD EDITION – PLAYWRIGHTS:
WINNER: MARIE LEOFELI ROMERO BARLIZO
Marie Leofeli Romero Barlizo is a trailblazer with a special talent for building bridges among communities. In 2002, she proudly became the first visible minority to graduate from the National Theatre School of Canada’s English Playwriting Program. It took significant courage and determination for the Filipino-born playwright to follow her heart and become a storyteller. Barlizo’s parents relocated to Montréal when she was five years old and made great sacrifices to help her succeed. However, an artistic career was not among their plans for her. Nevertheless, Barlizo studied psychology and history before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Theatre from Concordia University in 1999 and a master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of British-Columbia’s Creative Writing program in 2013.
With a dozen plays to her name, she has overcome numerous challenges on her journey, often self-producing workshopped versions of her plays at festivals. Various theatre companies were won over by the richness and power of her writing as well as her authentic artistic approach that brings a physicality and spirituality to the stage. In 2017, her play UNANG PASKO SA MONTREAL was performed at the Centaur Theatre as part of the popular Urban Tales event. THE LITTLE MIGHTY SUPERHERO, a show for young audiences inspired by Filipino mythology and created for the Geordie Theatre, went on a major virtual tour across schools during the 2020–2021 season. Her play LUCKY, earlier versions of which were performed at the Festival St-Ambroise Fringe in Montreal and the Next Stage Theatre Festival in Toronto, will begin a Canadian tour in May 2022 at the Upintheair Theatre’s rEvolver Festival in Vancouver. LUCKY is a bold and challenging work involving a tense encounter between a former skinhead and a young woman of Filipino origin.
It explores the overwhelming expectations that children from Asian families must contend with coming from a “model minority” burdened with the belief that Canadians and Americans of Asian origin should be more successful other minority groups. Barlizo believes these stories must be shared and the struggles portrayed to humanize this community and broaden people’s understanding of what it means to be Asian Canadian.
Barlizo’s Filipino and Chinese roots serve as a rich source of inspiration for her work. The playwright is all too aware of the importance of sharing the stories of the Asian minority, who are underrepresented on Canadian stages, and seeks to reflect their realities through her plays. She strives to lay bare their challenges and create complex characters who defy stereotypes. Her work portrays these little-known social realities and issues with raw candour, adding a unique and invaluable perspective to Quebec’s theatrical landscape.
Barlizo is not afraid to confront sensitive topics such as shame, mental illness and addiction. The writer also has the courage to delve into her family history and personal background. During her residence at the Imago Theatre, she wrote THE WARRIOR, a play based on the tragic story of her great-uncle’s family, who were victims of atrocities committed by the Japanese army during the Second World War. The play offers an uncompromising look at the question of how far people—women in particular—are willing to go in order to survive in such dreadful circumstances? THE HEALING, a play commissioned by Toronto’s Carlos Bulosan Theatre, was reworked into a lengthier form with backing from the Centaur Theatre, resulting in her first autobiographical piece and her solo debut. In this production, Barlizo explores her challenging relationship with her father and their reconciliation after he nearly died from COVID-19. This piece, steeped in searing honesty, exposes the artist as never before, with the playwright taking on the added challenge of performing it herself.
Not only does Barlizo pursue her own singular path and create her own theatrical work, but she also helps shape the works of others and bring them into the world. Numerous companies and various productions over the years have benefitted from her input as a dramaturg, particularly at the Black Theatre Workshop. She has been a part of this company’s Artist Mentorship Program since 2015, sharing her knowledge and experience with new playwrights to help them launch their careers. In 2020, she also became a professional mentor in the Playwriting Program at the National Theatre School of Canada, her alma mater, where she now trains apprentice playwrights.
Marie Leofeli Romero Barlizo’s significant involvement in the theatre community contributes to the emergence of essential and diverse voices, ensuring that they will be heard.
This award created by the Conseil des arts de Montréal was named for Jovette Marchessault as a tribute to a great “tuner of the soul,” whose body of work reflects her desire to bring women’s culture out of the shadows, to reshape History, and to forge a collective memory that allows women to be role models for any gender. The 2022–2023 edition of the Jovette-Marchessault Award marks the start a new cycle of disciplines, with directors taking centre stage. The call for applications will begin in fall 2022.
Director of Communications