Victoria took centre stage when the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Achievement were announced Thursday.
Two of the five recipients — actor R.H. Thomson and actor-director Diana Leblanc — appeared on a national live feed from the Belfry Theatre.
Thomson, who lives in Toronto, is rehearsing for the Belfry’s upcoming production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Montreal-born Leblanc is directing Pacific Opera Victoria’s Madama Butterfly, which opened Thursday.
Victoria-raised director Atom Egoyan was also honoured with a lifetime achievement award, as were composer Walter Boudreau and singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan.
The awards were announced from Montreal’s Phi Centre. Each winner receives $25,000 and a medal.
“The money’s nice — now I can get out of debt,” Leblanc said jokingly in an interview. “It’s the highest recognition this country affords. Unfortunately, I don’t get to be called a ‘dame.’ ”
Thomson said he will use part of his award to assist young artists in financial need.
“It’s really awful for them,” he said after the awards announcement.
“Some of us will get together and say, ‘Let’s throw a little bit of money in the pot and say to them, ‘Here’s a perpetual loan, don’t pay it back. If you do, that’s fine, too.’ ”
Thomson — a respected stage, film and TV actor — said he thought “they’d made a mistake” when he first learned he was to be a recipient. “It’s a huge honour. It’s epic huge.”
The 2015 laureates will be honoured at various events in Ottawa in May, culminating with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Gala at the National Arts Centre on May 30.