Foon, Dennis

 Dennis Foon, writer, director, producer (born at Detroit, Mich 18 Nov 1951). Dennis Foon attained a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in religious studies and creative writing at the University of Michigan in 1973. He came to Canada in 1973 and in 1975 earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in playwriting from the University of British Columbia. Foon is a primary force, nationally and internationally, in the field of child advocacy theatre. His intelligent and emotionally charged plays, screenplays and novels challenge the notion that children and adolescents need a spoonful of sugar to help the message go down.

In 1975, he co-founded Vancouver's GREEN THUMB THEATRE for Young People, which continues to hold its position as a leader in the advancement of theatre for education and social change. Foon was the artistic director until 1988 and brought works to the stage that addressed childhood sexual abuse, racism, violence, delinquency, and physical and emotional bullying. A radical approach for the time, he drew his material from talking directly to young people. The work fosters creative and critical thinking in resistance to discrimination, peer pressure and powerlessness arising from societal disenfranchisement.

Foon was instrumental in the development of "Feeling Yes, Feeling No," a children's program for sexual abuse prevention. In conjunction with the Society for Children and Youth of British Columbia and Green Thumb Theatre, it was begun in 1980 and fully launched in 1983. It was the first of its kind in Canada and became a model for other programs throughout the world.

Foon was playwright-in-residence for the Young People's Theatre in Toronto during the 1983-84 season, and from 1988 until 1992 was a consultant for Sesame Street Canada. He has written more than 20 issue-driven plays. He has been honoured for both his writing and directing, with a CBC Radio Literary Award for The Short Tree and the Bird That Could Not Sing in 1985, several Jesse Awards (Vancouver) for best production for young audiences, a British Theatre Award for Invisible Kids (1986), two Chalmers Awards, a Career Achievement Award in 1998 from the Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance, and an International Arts for Young Audiences (AYA) Award in 1989. His plays have been produced in more than 30 countries and translated into several other languages including French, Cantonese, Danish and Hebrew. They are known for their entertaining, engaging and highly theatrical nature.

Foon also generates screenplays and develops and produces work for film and television. Torso won a Gemini Award for best movie in 2002, and a Writers Guild of Canada Top Ten Award in 2003. White Lies won the Robert Wagner Award at the Columbus International TV Festival in 1998, and an after-school special for CBS, Maggie's Secret, won a Scott Newman Award in 1990. Little Criminals received a Monte Carlo Grand Prize and an International Critics' Award in 1996, a British Columbia Film Leo Award in 1997, a Writers Guild of Canada Top Ten Award in 1996 and a Gemini in 1997 for best writing in a dramatic program. Foon also works in the industry as a script editor and consultant.

In 2000, with Double or Nothing, Foon turned his hand to novels for young people and has since written four. The Dirt Eaters has been acknowledged as a Red Maple Honour Book (2004) by the Ontario Library Association, and Skud received BC's Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize in 2004. Foon contributes articles, poetry and stories to a wide range of periodicals and anthologies.