Just before the premiere of Dear Chekhov by Michel Tremblay, fifteen young people invaded the room and attacked the TNM and its director.
Led by Hugo Fréjabise, these young “theatricals” affirmed that the Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde is “dying… that it no longer offers anything new… that it has become complacent”. Other young people had also invaded the TNM towards the end of the “reign” of Olivier Reichenbach, who led it for 10 years. They had invoked exactly the same arguments.
Even if the theater community claims that we have almost as many choices in Montreal as in Paris, nothing could be further from the truth. There are more than 80 active theaters in the French capital, while there are barely a dozen in Montreal. The Odéon and the Comédie-Française opened their doors at the end of the 18and century, the longer we had to wait for Les Compagnons de St-Laurent, in 1937, for a real theater company to exist in Montreal.
AT THE HOOKS 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 that give generously from philanthropists and big business, none of our theaters could survive. Not easy, in the circumstances, to avoid any “complacency with power”, another criticism of Hugo Fréjabise.
In the halls also need the public. It assures them of an important part of their income. Even if seats in any theater are among the cheapest in the country, the public is not acquired for as much and the theaters must do a lot of publicity and promotion.
Despite appearances, our theater is a fragile business, which the pandemic has further weakened. Despite some directors’ desire to take serial risks by presenting more original plays and daring performances, they have no choice but to temper their ambitions if they do not want to see helps reduce like a trickle. Like all other theater directors, Lorraine Pintal must offer the public a hybrid program consisting of safe works and one or two high-risk performances.
KNOW WHERE TO HIT
Each theater has its territory, in the words of Lorraine Pintal, or, if you prefer, its vocation. These “territories”, theater lovers know them, the more they are not very well defined. They can even vary a lot in the same season! This is how the Green Curtain can present a room as demanding as MissJulie and follow it with a crazy and absurd comedy like Vania, Sonia, Masha and Spike. At the TNM, next season, Twelfth Night by Shakespeare before The dreamer in his batha creation by Hugo Bélanger, an author who is far from traditional.
At the Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, adaptations of American plays were presented, interspersed with a Quebec play. 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, hatching, more original plays from Quebec, with the risks of such behavioral change.
In Quebec, the situation of the theater is never simple. It depends a lot on the generosity of governments. It is therefore not the TNM that Hugo Fréjabrise and his group have invaded, but the office of the Minister of Culture.