Deaf Performing Artist Recognized for His Leadership and Audacity
Performing artist Chris Dodd has been awarded the Guy Laliberté Prize by the Canada Council for the Arts in honour of his exceptional work in Deaf theatre. The one-time prize of $20,000 was donated to the Canada Council by Canadian businessman Guy Laliberté, who was presented with the Creative Leadership Award from the Council for Canadian-American Relations in recognition of his innovation and leadership in the arts.
Innovating with the SOUND OFF Festival
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Chris Dodd is a Deaf performing artist and playwright. In 1998, he became the first Deaf graduate of the University of Alberta’s Drama program.
After graduation, he discovered that acting opportunities were few and far between, which prompted him to found SOUND OFF, currently Canada’s only theatre festival devoted to the Deaf performing arts—his proudest achievement. He serves as the festival’s artistic director, and the 4th annual edition of the festival premiere is taking place in February 2020 in Edmonton.
Dodd has expressed gratitude for the support he has received from the theatre community and the Deaf community, saying, “It dawned on me early that this was not my own festival but rather something that Deaf artists from across the country could take pride in.”
Deafy and inclusiveness
Dodd’s most recent work, Deafy, which he wrote and performed, is a poignant and humorous storytelling piece that reflects on the experience of what it is like to be a Deaf person in a hearing world. In 2019, it premiered at the SummerWorks Performance Festival to critical acclaim.
For Dodd, Deafy served as a bridge between Deaf and hearing audiences, with lines from the play simultaneously being signed, spoken and displayed in surtitles. “I have always felt it is important for Deaf artists to welcome those from outside their own communities, so that Deaf culture can be appreciated and understood by those who may not have much knowledge of it.”
A remarkable career in the theatre
Chris Dodd was selected for this prize because he is considered a driving force in the Deaf and Disability arts community and an influential artist effecting positive change across Canada thanks to his work, vision and perseverance. His career spans over 20 years of working in Edmonton’s theatre community and across the country.
Dodd is an artistic associate and playwright in development with Edmonton’s Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre. His performing credits include “Queen Seraphina and the Land of Vertebraat” (Sum Theatre, Saskatoon), “Gravity” (Theatre Yes, Edmonton) and “Ultrasound” (Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto), during which he participated in the Cahoots Theatre’s creation of the Deaf Artists and Theatres Toolkit (DATT).
Visit our website to learn more about the Canada Council’s full set of prizes.