Just before the premiere of Dear Chekhov by Michel Tremblay, fifteen young people entered the room and attacked the TNM and its director.
Led by Hugo Fréjabise, these young “theatres” claimed that the Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde “is dying… that it no longer offers anything new… that it has become complacent”. Towards the end of the “reign” of Olivier Reichenbach, who led it for 10 years, other young people had also infiltrated the TNM. They had made exactly the same arguments.
While the theater community claims that we have nearly as many options in Montreal as we have in Paris, nothing could be further from the truth. There are more than 80 active theaters in the French capital, while Montreal has barely a dozen. The Odéon and the Comédie-Française opened at the end of the 18th centuryand It was not until the 19th century, but with Les Compagnons de St-Laurent in 1937, that there was a real theater company in Montreal.
ON THE HOOK OF THE STATE
Most Parisian theaters are not subsidized. They live off their audience. Without the substantial grants from our governments and the various arts councils, without the annual fundraising campaigns generously donated by philanthropists and corporations, none of our theaters could survive. In these circumstances, it is not easy to avoid any “complacency with power”, another criticism of Hugo Fréjabise.
Our theaters also need audiences. It secures them an important part of their income. Although the seats in our theaters are among the cheapest in the country, they are not guaranteed audiences and theaters have to do a lot of advertising and promotion.
Despite appearances, our theater is a fragile business that has been further weakened by the pandemic. Despite some directors’ desire to take serious risks by presenting more original plays and daring performances, they have no choice but to rein in their ambitions if they don’t want audiences to shrink to a trickle. Like all other theater directors, Lorraine Pintal has to offer the audience a hybrid program consisting mainly of safe works and one or two risky performances.
KNOW WHERE TO MEET
Every theater has its territory, in the words of Lorraine Pintal, or, if you prefer, its vocation. These “territories”, theater lovers know them, but they are not very well defined. They can vary wildly even in the same season! This is how the Green Curtain can present such a challenging piece Miss Julie and follow it up with a wacky and absurd comedy like Vania, Sonia, Masha and Spike. At TNM next season Twelfth Night by Shakespeare will precede The dreamer in his batha creation of Hugo Bélanger, an author who is anything but traditional.
At the Théâtre Jean-Duceppe we showed mainly adaptations of American plays, interspersed with a play from Quebec. After the departure of Michel Dumont, artistic director for 27 years, Jean-Simon Traversy and David Laurin, who replaced him, changed the vocation of the theater to present more daring plays and, above all, more original Quebec plays with risks that such a change involves brings.
In Quebec, the situation for the theater has never been easy. Much depends on the generosity of governments. So it was not the TNM that Hugo Fréjabrise and his group had to invade, but the office of the Minister of Culture.