Our theater is a fragile business

Just before the premiere of Cher Tchekhov by Michel Tremblay, fifteen young people invaded the room and attacked the TNM and its director.

Our theater is a fragile business

Just before the premiere of Cher Tchekhov by Michel Tremblay, fifteen young people invaded the room and attacked the TNM and its director.

Led by Hugo Fréjabise, these young "theaters" claimed 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 ten 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 18th century, but it was not until Les Compagnons de Saint-Laurent in 1937 that a real theater company existed in Montreal.

AT 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. Not easy in the circumstances to avoid any "complacency with power", another criticism of Hugo Fréjabise.

Our theaters also need the public. It assures them of a significant part of their income. Even though seats in our theaters are among the cheapest in the country, the public is not acquired for all that and the theaters must do a lot of advertising and promotion.

Despite appearances, our theater is a fragile business, which the pandemic has further weakened.

Despite the desire of some directors to take serious risks by presenting more original plays and daring spectacles, they have no choice but to temper their ambitions if they do not want to see the audiences dwindle to a trickle.

Like all other theater directors, Lorraine Pintal must offer the public a hybrid program consisting mainly 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, but they are not very well defined. They can even vary a lot in the same season! This is how the Rideau Vert can present a piece as demanding as Mademoiselle Julie and follow it with a crazy and absurd comedy like Vania, Sonia, Macha and Spike. At the TNM, next season, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night will precede The Dreamer in His Bath, a creation by Hugo Bélanger, an author who is far from traditional.

At the Jean-Duceppe Theater, we mainly presented adaptations of American plays, interspersed with a Quebec play. Gilles Duceppe, the son of the founder, abruptly renounced this vocation on the death of Michel Dumont, artistic director for 27 years. He dismissed his two sisters and installed Jean-Simon Traversy and David Laurin in place of Dumont. These have changed the vocation of the theater from start to finish with a success that is still far from assured.

It is not the TNM that Hugo Fréjabrise and his group must invade, but the office of the Minister of Culture.


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