The People Behind the Award


Elinore Siminovitch Biography
Lou Siminovitch Biography


Elinore and Lou Siminovitch

The truth is, the late Elinore Siminovitch never walked in anybody's shadow; not once in her life; not ever. Those who knew her well knew that for certain about her. They also knew that very few people cast longer shadows than Lou Siminovitch, her husband and one of the key figures in 20th-century medical science.

She chose a life of quieter brilliance, a life rich with great books and great plays, and critical, deep and creative thought; a life she defined and designed for herself; and a life that she succeeded at by her own definition.

To say that there would be no Elinore and Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre without Elinore is more than just a statement of the obvious. For one thing, her husband would not lend his name unless hers was there as well. And while it is true that love of theatre ran as deeply in one as the other, this was a world in which she felt especially at home - a world she understood, in heart as well as mind.

On the most symbolic of levels, the marriage of Elinore and Lou Siminovitch - a true story of lifelong love and exquisite companionship - was indeed a wedding of the arts and the sciences. Here was quite literally living proof not just of mutual co-existence but of a full-fledged embrace; of how the artist and the scientist complement one another.

In the scientist part of his life, Dr. Louis Siminovitch played an instrumental role in some of the most important medical discoveries of the century - the genetic causes of muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis, for example - and made critical contributions across a spectrum of human genetics and cancer research.

He co-founded and co-developed three of the most outstanding research labs in Canadian history. He taught medical biophysics at the University of Toronto, and later chaired both the Department of Medical Biophysics and the Department of Medical Genetics. He has taught and influenced at least two generations of biomedical researchers and is widely appreciated as a superb mentor who challenges all around him to strive for excellence. He has been honoured by his peers - a Flavelle Gold Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, a Wightman Award from the Gairdner Foundation - and by his country: an Officer and then a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Elinore was in her late 30s when she judged the three Siminovitch daughters to be grown up enough to more or less make their own way in life, and took up the craft of playwriting for herself. She would write some 30 plays in her time, nearly all of them focused on sociopolitical issues, and written from a feminist perspective. A number of these works, not surprisingly, are drawn from the lives of some of the most outstanding but unsung women in history.

A few of those plays have been performed and continue to be performed on high school and university stages, but Elinore Siminovitch would never achieve anything approaching commercial success. And yes, that was disappointing. "My mother wrote for the sheer joy of writing," the middle daughter, Kathy Siminovitch, says in a short memoir, and she honestly wasn't interested in fame. "But like any artist, she would have loved a much greater opportunity to see her plays come to life."

As a result, Kathy says, her mother "would have been delighted to see not only excellence in drama being recognized, but also a newcomer in the field of drama being afforded the opportunity to see their work recognized and brought to the public eye."

One of the things Elinore Siminovitch understood in her heart and her mind was that those who choose the theatre largely resign themselves to working far too hard for much too little remuneration and much too little recognition. And that they deserve a lot more of both. This is captured in and reflected by the Elinore and Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre - an award, in Kathy's words, "that respects the ideals of both of our parents."