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Actress Andrea Martin among Governor General's Performing Arts Award winners

TORONTO — Comedian and actress Andrea Martin is no stranger to the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, though this year she'll be watching from a different vantage.

The 77-year-old "SCTV" alumna will receive a lifetime achievement award at the June ceremony, seven years after attending to toast her old colleague Martin Short, who was receiving the same prize.

"I'll never forget standing on that stage in Ottawa and looking out at the beautiful audience and looking up above in the balcony and seeing all the recipients of the awards, and it was so dignified. Oh my gosh, it was an honour just to speak for Marty," she said by phone from New York.

"But now, to be up in the balcony and not have to speak, that's the greatest thing."

It's humbling, she said, to be recognized for a career that feels like a reward in itself.

"The fact that I've been employed all these years is like the first thing that I think about and then to be singled out when there are just millions of people that, obviously, are deserving of an award," she said.

Martin's first love was theatre, she said, but she's dabbled in basically all of the performing arts at this point. She won the Tony Award for best actress in a featured role in a musical twice, 20 years apart, and has two Emmys for writing on SCTV.

But even 50 years into her career, she has no plans to slow down.

"I hope this isn't the end," she said. "This isn't the kiss of death, is it? Please let this be the intermediate step of 20 more years of wonderful opportunities."

The annual Governor General's Performing Arts Awards go to artists who have made "an indelible contribution" to the culture.

This year's class of lifetime artistic achievement award winners also includes rap pioneer Maestro Fresh Wes. The recording artist and actor, born Wesley Williams, is often referred to as the godfather of Canadian hip hop.

Puppeteer Ronnie Burkett, known for his marionette shows for adults, and soprano Measha Brueggergosman-Lee will also receive lifetime achievement awards, along with songwriter Diane Juster.

Meanwhile, Melanie Demers will receive the National Arts Centre Award. The multidisciplinary artist, choreographer and director founded the Montreal-based contemporary dance company MAYDAY.

The Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts goes to Jenny Belzberg, who helped shape the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity into the institution it is today.

The awards also feature a mentorship program. This year's mentor is Inuk singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark and the protege is singer-songwriter Angela Amarualik.

This year's laureates will be feted at the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Gala in June. Tickets go on sale to the public Thursday at 10 a.m.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2024.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press