Academic journal article Theatre Research in Canada

Building Bridges: English & French Theatre in New Brunswick

Academic journal article Theatre Research in Canada

Building Bridges: English & French Theatre in New Brunswick

Article excerpt

On ne peut pas vraiment parler d'un systeme de theatre au Nouveau-Brunswick. Il y a la deux mondes de theatre, distincts et independants : le theatre de langue anglaise et le theatre de langue francaise. L'histoire, le style, le repertoire et l'infrastructure different profondement de l'un a l'autre. C'est avec un peu d'ironie, peut-etre, qu'on constate que c'est la minorite francophone, qui constitue a peu pres 33% de la population de la province, qui a cree les compagnies et la dramaturgie dominantes et produit les artistes les plus importantes. le me propose d'explorer dans cet article les contextes uniques de la creation theatrale au Nouveau-Brunswick. Je ferai une comparaison detaillee des cinq compagnies theatrales professionnelles : deux compagnies de langue anglaise (Theatre New Brunswick et Live Bait Theatre) et trois compagnies de langue francaise (Theatre populaire d'Acadie, Theatre l'Escaouette et Collectif Moncton Sable). A latin, j'offrirai une tentative d'hypothese pour expliquer les differences importantes entre les deux mondes de theatre. Tout cela donnera le contexte pour une evaluation de quelques spectacles recents en langue francaise.

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In 1996 Mary Vingoe commented about how far Atlantic theatre had come since the 1970s when "[a]nything else worth looking at came from elsewhere. Most people wanted to be elsewhere. [...] We are deaf if we live in a place where the voices of our own artists are not heard. In the Maritimes, we have begun to cast off our deafness--life is a great deal richer because of it" (21). While Vingoe's outlook might be true for Nova Scotia where a number of professional theatre companies produce a range of innovative and original plays, the same cannot be said for English-speaking New Brunswick; however, there is change on the horizon.

It is impossible to speak "generally" of theatre in New Brunswick; there are really two distinct theatre worlds here: English-language and French-language theatre. The histories, styles, repertoires, and infrastructures are strikingly and, perhaps sadly, different and separated. What is perhaps ironic at first glance is that the demographic minority, the francophone population which comprises approximately 33% of the New Brunswick total, has produced the theatre companies, artists, and repertoire with a greater presence than those of the English-speaking majority. This paper will explore the unique conditions of contemporary theatre production in New Brunswick as context for a closer look at several recent French-language plays. The conclusion will reveal a few hopeful signs in English-language theatre activity in the province.

French-language theatre in New Brunswick is currently driven by three professional companies. The oldest is Theatre populaire d'Acadie (TPA) which has been based in Caraquet in the north-east corner of the province since 1974. With over 100 productions to its credit, TPA's repertoire, while including important original Acadian creations, has tended to emphasize an international and classical repertoire. TPA has developed a strong tradition of collaboration with Quebecois and international theatre companies.

Theatre l'Escaouette was formed by a few of the first graduates of the drama program at the Universite de Moncton in 1978 and has been based in Moncton ever since. Dedicated originally to works for young audiences which it toured to schools across the province, Theatre l'Escaouette has shifted to works for a more general audience in the past dozen years, but has not diluted its mandate for creating original plays. The repertoire has been dominated by new works by Hermenegilde Chiasson, but has also been enriched by frequent co-productions with companies from central Canada such as the National Arts Centre, Theatre Vieille 17 and Le Theatre du Nouvel-Ontario. The company does some touring, particularly in Quebec and central Canada. For example, its remount production of Chiasson's Pour une fois was performed in Toronto (February 2004) in a co-production with TPA. …

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