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Akin, Philip

CTE photo
Philip Akin

Actor and director, born in Kingston Jamaica in 1950, one of five sons. His family moved to Oshawa, Ontario when he was five. Philip Akin attended Toronto's Ryerson Theatre School, and in 1975, he became the school's first acting graduate, performing in the Shaw Festival production of Caesar and Cleopatra. He has worked in the Canadian theatre community for over forty years.

Akin is a founding member of Obsidian Theatre Company in Toronto, and was the company’s Artistic Director from 2006 to 2020. At Obsidian, he has instituted a number of programs for young artists, including the Mentor/Apprentice Program and the Playwrights Unit.

In 2003, he played Othello at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. His performance of the role in 2007 at Stratford Festival was a powerful interpretation which eschewed emotional theatrics. According to Richard Ouzounian in The Star (3 June 2007): “Akin is a lean, saturnine Othello with a battle-scarred countenance that makes him slightly forbidding. You believe him both as a warrior and as a man who adores his newfound wife Desdemona with a great passion.”

Akin also played Crooks in Of Mice and Men at Stratford in 2007. For his role in Birdland Theatre’s production of Judas Iscariot he was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award. Other credits include Steven & Mr. Wilde (Theatre Calgary), Someone to Watch Over Me (Tarragon Theatre), and Coming Through Slaughter (Necessary Angel).

He has also acted extensively in film and television.

His directing credits include: Hip Hop (Who Stole the Soul) (3D Atomic Theatre); Born Ready and Pusha Man (Theatre Passe Muraille/Obsidian Theatre; Dust: A Romance, El Paso, and Toronto the Good by Andrew Moodie (Factory Theatre; Intimate Apparel (2008 at Canadian Stage/Obsidian, and 2009 at Citadel Theatre); Ruined (Obsidian 2010); Pat Darbasie's West Indian Diary (Ground Zero Productions) at the Stanley A. Milner Library in Edmonton in 2011; Topdog/Underdog (Shaw Festival 2011, Obsidian in 2012, for which he won a Dora Mavor Moore Award). For the Blyth Festival, he directed Wilberforce Hotel. For Obsidian/Factory Theatre, he directed The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble by Beth Graham. In 2016, he directed a critically acclaimed production of Master Harold and the Boys for an Obsidian/Shaw Festival production which won a Dora Award for direction. In 2017, he directed a Shaw production of 1837:The Farmers' Revolt by Rick Salutin. For the Harold Green Jewish Theatre and Obsidian, he directed a co-production of Actually by Anna Ziegler in September 2019. Back at Shaw in 2020, Akin directed Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress, which depicts "the rising tension in rehearsals for a play with an 'anti-lynching message' headed to Broadway" (J. Kelly Nestruck. Globe and Mail 27 Aug 2021) .

Among his many awards, in 2010, Akin was presented with the Silver Ticket Award for excellence in his career while also nurturing the development of Canadian theatre, presented by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA). In 2011 he was awarded the Mallory Gilbert Leadership Award by the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres/PACT for his advocacy of Canadian theatre, particularly in the promotion and development of the Black theatre community in Toronto and across Canada. In 2019, the Canadian Theatre Critics Association presented him with the Herbert Whittaker Award for Distinguished Contribution to Canadian Theatre.

Profile by Anne Nothof, Athabasca University

Last updated 2021-09-21