Jordan Tannahill just can’t stop. The Toronto-based theatre artist, who also co-helms Videofag gallery with his partner, William Ellis, has just been nominated for another award. And this time it’s big, as in Governor General’s Award big. His collection of plays Age of Minority, which was produced by Roseneath Theatre in 2010, has just received the nod in the drama category. We chatted with Tannahill about how he feels about the nomination and what exactly he’ll do with another award if he wins it.
Xtra: It’s not often a writer gets nominated for the very first book they publish. How does it feel knowing you occupy that unusual demographic?
Jordan Tannahill: It is indeed my first book, so it holds a special place in my heart. The thing with theatre is that it’s an intensely collaborative art form. While I wrote these plays and get to put my name on them, they would never have come to fruition without the input and hard work of a lot of people. The idea for rihannaboi95, for instance, was born during my time spent facilitating drama workshops in a Rexdale youth shelter with the theatre company Project: Humanity and further spurred along by an evening of Sissyboy YouTube Videos curated and screened by my friend Jon Davies at Videofag. Once they were complete, I sent drafts of the plays to Annie Gibson at Playwrights Canada Press and she said, “Yup, let’s make these into a book!”
How did you find out you’d been nominated? With the Governor General’s Awards I always imagine it’s a Mountie arriving at your door in full regalia or something.
They really ought to consider it, on horseback, ideally. I’d actually gone this morning to a café to get some writing done and purposely be away from the internet. Then I got a call from a friend, wishing me congratulations. “For what?” “Haven’t you heard?” And so on. I tried very hard not to make a scene in the café.
I’ve done some preliminary searching and I believe if you were to win, you’d be the youngest person ever to win the Governor General’s Award for drama. How does that feel?
I know Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman was nominated for Scratch when she was ridiculously young, but in terms of winners, it’s possible. While I realize I’ve benefited from it, I generally find the art world’s preoccupation with youth to be misguided and ultimately distracting from the work. For me, it’s more interesting Age of Minority may be the first time a play or collection of plays for young audiences has been nominated. Prizes often tend to hold work for adults in higher esteem than that for youth, so I think that’s maybe a more exciting change.
Videofag, which isn’t the largest living space, must be getting pretty full with awards. Any thought on how and where you’ll hang the Governor General’s if you get it?
We keep my Dora in the kitchen. It’s made a great banana holder. I believe the Governor General’s comes with a little medallion. I actually received a GG medallion for academic achievement when I graduated high school, and it sits in a cabinet at my dad’s house in Ottawa. So I suspect if I win, it’ll go into that cabinet, which is probably for the best. If it stays at Videofag, it might end up as a paperweight.