Emergence of New Kinds of Theatre in French Ontario
Department of Theatre
- Limits of staging as an autonomous language
- Connections between theatre and other art forms (poetry, music, visual arts, etc.)
- Role of myth and the historical referent in Franco-Ontarian practice
- A comparative study of francophone theatre in Canada in relation to practices developed in similar contexts elsewhere
- A history of drama writing in francophone Ontario
The complex new francophone identities emerging in Ontario and in Canada as a whole that are clearly different from the stereotypes of earlier times – or the gradual detachment of certain artists from these identities – can be discerned within and behind the increasingly more evolved forms of art that are currently being produced. These particularities need to be studied because the twin factors of the demographic constraints to which francophone communities are subjected and Canada’s geography continue to systematically affect the entire gamut of these communities’ activities. Some creative artists still use these identities as a principal source of inspiration; others deliberately ignore them when conceiving their works.
Emergence of new kinds of theatre in French Ontario
Since the early 1990s, a phenomenon of mutual “contamination” involving theatre and other art forms has turned theatre – traditionally script-based, and the privileged form of Franco-Ontarian artistic expression – upside down. Some of the highly-praised and award-winning examples of this change include the pieces based on Patrice Desbiens’ poetry that have been produced by Théâtre la Tangente, Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario and, most recently, Théâtre de la Vieille 17. At the same time, a number of contemporary francophone playwrights, such as Stephan Psenak and Patrick Leroux, have created forms of writing that are inspired principally by visual art and photography, and companies, such as Corpus have created movement theatre.
Within the context of a proliferation of exploratory approaches favoured by a theatrical institution now more concerned with innovation than with its role as community standard bearer, Joël Beddows will produce a series of theatre labs. Their aim will be to delve into the “identity/cultural affirmation/community development” connection that has long served as a benchmark for theatrical price, so as to highlight the universality of scripts from the Franco-Ontarian repertory, as well as scripts developed in the lab. He will consolidate the director’s new role as orchestrator of theatrical experiences, in which the directors’ writing is just as important as that of the authors.
The recent experience in the creation of the piece Exit(s) by Luc Moquin has demonstrated a new approach to theatrical creation. In this endeavour, a team of creators and researchers from various parts of francophone Ontario set itself the challenge of blending objectives previously considered to be totally incompatible by most Franco-Ontarian companies, namely aesthetic innovation, community development and reaching out to new audiences. This “theatre of the absurd” piece took shape as the result of a series of residencies in Hearst, Penetanguishene, Kingston and Paincourt, during which audience members were invited to participate in creating the piece through a series of discussions and workshops. This innovative creative approach was the subject of a documentary on the TFO television network.
Awards and Accomplishments
- Artistic director, Théâtre la Catapulte, Ottawa
- The Ontario Arts Council’s John Hirsch Prize in 2005 for the outstanding integrity and discipline of his work in exploring the staging possibilities of bold and demanding dramas – the first time this prize has been awarded to a francophone artist
- A “mask” for the best French-Canadian piece from the Académie québécoise du théâtre and a Jesse Richardson Award for the best young audience piece during the 2004–2005 season – for Cette fille-là by Joan MacLeod
- Personality of the week selected by the CBC and the newspaper Le Droit for his major contribution in developing theatre in the Greater Ottawa-Gatineau area.
- Le Droit jury award for his staging of Testament du couturier by Michel Ouellette and the rigor of his work as artistic director
- A “mask” for best French-Canadian piece from the Académie québécoise du théâtre for the production of Testament du couturier by Michel Ouellette