Essays on Modern Quebec Theater

By Joseph I. Donohoe Jr.; Jonathan M. Weiss | Go to book overview

From "Homespun" to "Awesome": Translated Quebec Theater in Toronto

Jane Koustas

I n an article describing the 1986-88 Canadian theater scene, Alan Filewood, noting Toronto's keen interest in Quebec theater, concludes, "Montréal seemed closer than it had in years."1 His comment underlines the importance and extent of exchange between Canada's two largest theater communities and suggests that this was a new development: Toronto audiences had had the opportunity to see Quebec theater in translation for several decades but it was not until the 1980s that Quebec productions in Toronto fostered a greater understanding of the "Other" culture and a feeling of proximity. The present study considers critical response to professional Toronto productions of translated Quebec theater from 1951 to 1988 and concludes that despite its long history, theater transfer did not draw the communities closer until very recently. This article argues that theater exchange failed to bridge the "two solitudes" not because of a shortage of productions, for indeed Quebec theater became "a staple of the Toronto season,"2 but because of the perspective from which Quebec plays were viewed and reviewed.

Until the arrival of Michel Tremblay on the Toronto English theater circuit in 1972, an average of only one Quebec play in translation was staged a year, Gélinas and Languirand being the most popular playwrights. However, from 1972 to 1980 Toronto audiences had the opportunity to see usually two, if not three, professional productions, at least one of these being a Tremblay play. The 1980s witnessed not only an increase in the number of plays staged but the introduction of many new playwrights representing a wider

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