Actress and puppeteer, Mary-Lynn Bernard won the 2016 Rhonda Payne Theatre Award this week. The annual award celebrates women theatre artists in Newfoundland and Labrador and winners receive a $500 cash prize. 

Bernard accepted the award in the main theatre at the LSPU Hall following a performance of Kate Crackerberry, directed by Lois Brown, adapted for stage by Ruth Lawrence.

“Kate Crackerberry is a fabulous show, it was a packed house and the kids were totally engaged. I love puppeteering so it was wonderful to be in that audience and receive the award there,” Bernard said.

Bernard began her theatre career in Prince Edward Island, shortly after finishing high school she landed her first role in a production of The Importance of Being Earnest. That production marked the beginning of a life long love of cracking audiences up.

“I’ve been in lots of tragedies too but I really love comedies, I love acting in a show where you have to pause and wait for the audience to stop laughing,” Bernard said.

Bernard has been playing an important role in the St. John’s theatre scene since the early eighties. She has acted in countless plays including;”Beyond Therapy” (by Christpher Durang); “The Christmas Mummers Play ” (by The Mummer’s Troupe);  “The Marriage Proposal” and “The Bore” (both by Anton Chekhov) and many others.

She is especially well known for her powerful performance in the television mini-series Random Passage. She was also part of the writing collectives that wrote and performed the plays; “Six Gums Headed For Tulsa,” “The Boys Who Cried Wolf,” and “Dancing on The Roof.”

More recently Bernard has begun puppeteering with the touring show “Queen of Paradise Garden.” She says she loves the life that being involved with theatre allows her to lead. She loves that touring with “Queen of Paradise Garden” has brought her to tiny places she might never have seen otherwise, some of which are only accessible by boat.

The Rhonda Payne Theatre Award is managed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council (ArtsNL), the winner is chosen by the peer assessment committee for theatre during the fall granting session.

“Mary-Lynn Bernard has worked hard in a variety of film, television, and stage projects throughout her career – everything from being a puppeteer to character performances,” said Reg Winsor, executive director of ArtsNL. “It’s a pleasure to congratulate Mary-Lynn as she receives a well-deserved award that recognizes the challenging roles she has had so far in her career.”

Previous winners of the Rhonda Payne Theatre Award include; Willow Kean, Berni Stapleton, Megan Coles, Tara Manual, Lois Brown, DarkaErdelji, Nicole Rousseau, Michelle Rex Bailey, Sara Tilley, Ruth Lawrence, Sherry White, Joan Sullivan, and Wendi Smallwood.

“It’s an honour to win this award and be recognized along with all its previous winners because I know most of those women and they’re all brilliant,” Bernard said.