With the 2014/2015 professional theatre awards in Vancouver set to be given away in June, the board of the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Society has announced changes to the criteria governing award eligibility for the next season.

“We’ve been talking about changes for a while now,” says board president Andrea Loewen. “Especially in the small theatre category where our jury has been overworked for some time, as it was become very crowded with so many collective and small producers.”

Highlights of the changes include bumping a number of theatre companies from the small theatre to large theatre category by lowering the annual operating budget threshold to $300,000 from $350,000. As well, a production will only be eligible if at least two-thirds of participating artists are paid a minimum living wage of $325 per week and/or are members of a theatre artists’ association. Previously this number was set at just 51 percent.

Jury members in the various categories will also be required to book tickets to eligible shows before the show opens, and deadlines for registering a production will now be strictly enforced.

Having explored other more radical changes to the Jessie Awards such as creating a separate indie theatre category or even reducing the number of awards, Loewen says that those, undoubtedly more controversial changes, were simply too complicated to implement for the coming season.

“For now we’re going to make these changes to help, and we will spend more time looking at longer-term solutions through additional consultation with the theatre community,” says Loewen.

Spending time consulting with their membership over the last months through a survey and a town hall, Loewen is confident the changes will help to better support Vancouver’s professional theatre industry.

“I don’t think it will be a surprise that changes have happened as we are constantly reviewing the award guidelines,” says Loewen. “Everyone has different opinions and some may be surprised by how big or little these changes are this year, but it was pretty clear to most people that we were looking to make adjustments for the coming theatre year.”

Vancouver’s equivalent to the Tony Awards, the Jessie Awards began in 1983 and takes its name from Jessie Richardson, one of Vancouver’s theatre pioneers.  The annual professional theatre awards acknowledge excellence in large, small and young audience theatre categories.

Nominations for the 2015 Jessie Awards will be announced at a ceremony on May 19 with the winners announced at the award ceremony on June 22. Visit http://jessies.ca for tickets and information.