Micheline Chevrier, Artistic and Executive Director
In developing a new work, or in analyzing a play, I often do the following exercise : if I remove this scene or this character, what is lost? This often helps me discover the function, or the importance, of that scene or that character. It helps me understand why the playwright chose to create this character, or include this scene. By removing something, I am reminded of what it contributes and why it is needed. In short, without it, the story would not be complete.
I feel that way about art in our society. Without art, we would not be whole. Our story would not be as strong.
We are in the middle of an election in the province of Quebec. The Conseil québécois de théâtre has launched a campaign called, If I were Minister of Culture. The CQT has invited many well-known québécois artists to imagine themselves in this role and to share their thoughts on what they would do. Carole Fréchette, one of my favourite playwrights, and one with whom I have often worked, has written a most compelling letter, one that talks about the kind of world it would be if culture were to be absent. I invite you to read it. It reminds me of the importance of art, of theatre, on this day of celebration.
Happy World Theatre Day.
Read Carol Fréchette’s letter HERE
Joy Ross-Jones, Artistic and Administrative Associate
I recently saw a show that captivated me fully, gripping my heart from the singer/story teller’s first note to the final closing bow. I wept more times than I have fingers and talked about the show for the rest of the week, boasting to my friends that it was “the best show I’d ever seen.” It was War Horse, directed by Marianne Elliott, screened live from the National Theatre in London.
The play is based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel of the same name, and was interpreted for the stage using life-sized (mountable) horse puppets, exquisitely built by the Hand Spring Puppet Company of South Africa. The puppets invite the audience to suspend their disbelief and enter the rich world of wartime World War I, and what a ride, literally, it is.
The show hit a 10 / 10 for its potent directing, clean set and lighting design, brave acting, wonderful music, and a delicately crafted, unforgettable story.
Watching this production was the equivalent of going on a roller coaster, including the characteristic flying and plummeting sensations. I love how alive I felt, and how the story moved me so deeply that it felt like my insides were being massaged. I loved witnessing the deep love between the boy and his horse and believing that it was just as valid as love between humans. I loved sharing this experience with my friends and talking about it at length after. I loved all of it.
This is evidence of theatre’s enormous power. Audience members consent to being held captive in a dark space to lend their eyes, ears and hearts to the storytellers. In this vulnerability lies the power, which is a privilege to receive. On National Theatre Day, I thank human history for this incredible medium, which bends and moulds us in intangible, unimaginable ways. I also send a shout out to everyone who has made storytelling their life’s work. Onwards and upwards.
Watch the trailor HERE
PS: Go see War Horse…It’s the best show I’ve ever seen.
Cynthia Hammond, Advisory Board Member
My earliest memory is of a theatre. It was the summer of 1973; I was three years old, and my parents had taken my two sisters and myself to Tuscany, on the invitation of Adam Pollock, a London interior and theatre designer. Adam had bought the ruin of a 20-bedroom, 17th-century monastery on one of the hills near Batignano, a tiny village near Grosseto. This large ruin in a tiny place was magical to me. The whole family slept in a king-sized bed that had somehow ended up in an open loggia – the breeze, the rain, and the sun all simply swept across us. There were no windows anywhere, in fact, as well as no electricity or internal plumbing; we bathed in enormous flowerpots in the garden, with a hose. Every morning, however, someone managed to bake bread, and to this day the scent of filone collapses the passage of time between now and then.
What my three-year old self did not quite grasp was that the group of beautiful young people who played and laughed with us were not on holiday, as we were, but rather were in the initial stages of planning a site-specific theatre. The following summer Adam launched the Batignano Opera Festival. The audience would encounter the ruins of the monastery, the chapel, the wine cellars, and garden as they experienced the performance. As-yet unknown singers and performers made the journey to Batignano, as we had done, and started to build their careers. Local residents watched Don Giovanni, Dido and Aeneas, but primarily the venue was for never-before performed works, or rare and rarely-seen works. The space became a threshold for many women performers, conductors, and designers, such as Lesley Garrett, Jane Glover, and Maria Björnson.
Eventually water, electricity, and windows became part of daily life at Santa Croce, and by the time I returned in 1997 I found Adam still there, in preparation for a new season. Sadly I never saw an opera performed there, but as Adam told me about how the audience moved through the 400-year old vineyard to the chapel, still open to the sky, and lit with hundreds of candles, I felt as though I had. The magic of the place that I knew when I was three was now amplified by each remarkable creative act that had transpired there, as if the spirit of the place was now deepened with the generosity, skill, and resourcefulness of hundreds of artists, performers, and the local people who supported this small miracle. The Batignano Opera Festival ended in 2004, after the 30th anniversary performance. But the wonderful story of place, people, and potential lives on in me and everyone else who had the beautiful privilege of knowing that theatre.
Ross Rogers, Secretary of the Board of Directors
We spend so much time isolated in front of our relentlessly blinking computer screens. To me, there’s something very satisfying about a night of theatre in a packed house and feeling the buzz and excitement of a live production. I think it’s important that we encourage playwrights to express themselves in original works that take our breath away. One of the most memorable scenes in a play for me is La Licorne’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane when the enraged daughter throws boiling oil at her mother. It was intense. People were squirming in their seats but totally engrossed by the story. I talked about it for five days straight! When theatre moves us this way, we just want more!”