The new 2019-2020 Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) season is the third and final installment of the “manifesto” trilogy designed by Joël Beddows, artistic director of the company. This exploration of the multiple definitions of a word heavy with meaning remains a call for continued exchange and debate about the place of art in society.
In 2017-2018, for its 50th anniversary, TfT offered a series of “Éclats manifestes” (We are outbursts!) to its audiences, celebrating the city of Toronto, a major inspiration for creators and a growingly important hub for francophone artists. The 2018-2019 season was conceived around a series of “Paroles manifestes” (We are speaking out!) and celebrated the unique approaches of the theatre creators affiliated with Ontario’s oldest French language theatre company.
During the 2019-2020 upcoming season, TfT offers a series of shows under the heading “Êtres manifestes” (We are manifest!). The season brochure is comprised of images of the individuals who create and make every theatrical event special: on the one hand, the artists, and on the other, the audience. Together, they make TfT much more than a theatre – they make it a real community in search of meaning. Because, like it or not, we live in a time when all French-language theatre is a “political affirmation”. It is a civic gesture infused with playfulness that must be preserved at all costs.
TfT: PROGRAMMING FOR GENERAL AUDIENCES
The season opens with La Cantatrice chauve (The Bald Soprano), a TfT production performed October 23 through November 3, 2019. Chanda Gibson (Dora Award Winner for Outstanding Direction, Theatre for Young Audiences) will have wicked fun immersing audiences in the absurd and hilarious world of the great Eugène Ionesco. This is Chanda Gibson’s first production for general audiences with TfT.
On December 4 and 7, 2019, the company will present the eighth edition of Les Zinspiré.e.s, directed for the first time by Krystel Descary, in which five teens draw an honest and illuminating portrait of society. A show written by today’s youth but whose relevance and purpose transcend the ages.
From February 5 to 9, 2020, TfT will present Exercice de l’oubli (Lesson in Forgetting) by Emma Haché, shortlisted for the 2017 Governor General’s Award in Theatre. This co-production with Théâtre populaire d’Acadie reflects on the very foundations of love. A man struck by amnesia following an accident only knows one thing: his love for his wife who visits him every day. The play is directed by Joël Beddows.
From April 15 to 18, 2020, Nombre (Number) by Krystel Descary, Claudiane Ruelland and Alexandrine Warren will be co-presented in collaboration with Crow’s Theatre at the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre. This participatory theatrical experience will remind us of the exquisite singularity of human exchange and the importance that an ordinary encounter can have in our lives. Through this show developed in part during a TfT residency, audiences find themselves literally transformed into a “community”.
Finally, from April 29 to May 10, 2020, emerging Franco-Ontarian director Dillon Orr will stage Le Club des éphémères (The Shadfly Club), the latest play by Alain Doom, recipient of the AAOF 2016 Emerging Writer Award. Developed during Doom’s playwriting residency at TfT and inspired by the story of the Dionne quintuplets, this incisive feminist comedy will be performed by an ensemble of exceptional performers: Hélène Dallaire, Marie-Helene Fontaine, Diana Leblanc and Diane Losier.
TfT: FAMILY PROGRAMMING
Because access to art is a right for all, TfT is presenting four plays for families. First, from October 21 to 24, 2019, Petite Sorcière (Little Witch) by Pascal Brullemans, directed by Montréal’s celebrated Nini Bélanger, will be offered to Toronto school groups. This beautiful fable intelligently approaches the themes of living together, parental responsibility and self-sacrifice.
On March 1st, families will be invited to embrace Les Routes ignorées (Off The Beaten Path)), a Russian fairy tale told through shadow puppets and pop-up book animation. Creators Maxime Després, Maude Gareau and Olivier Monette-Milmore retrace the adventures of the son of the Tsar who befriends a mythical creature, Gray Wolf.
On April 26, 2020, Les Mots secrets (Secret Words) by Louise Dupré, asks “what are the words we whisper to ourselves in our room”? A story about two young people who share their love of words in memories and letters in an extraordinary staging by award-winning Franco-Ontarian director André Perrier.
Finally, Andrée Poulin’s bestselling and beloved novel, La Plus Grosse Poutine au monde (The Biggest Poutine in the World), adapted for the stage by Pierre Simpson, plunges us into a quest that is both moving and funny, an exploration of cooperation, ambition and our sometimes difficult relationships with parents.
Please note that our programming for toddlers, to be presented as part of the WeeFestival, will be announced later in the season.
Emily Pearlman’s Avant l’archipel (Countries Shaped Like Stars), co-produced with Théâtre la Catapulte and l’Irréductible Petit Peuple (Québec), will tour next season throughout Québec. Alain Doom’s Le Club des éphémères (The Shadfly Club) will run two weeks at Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario (Sudbury) before coming to Toronto.
TfT: ARTS EDUCATION
TfT is continuing its collaboration with the Alliance française de Toronto (AFT). The two institutions are offering a new edition of Regards croisés, a film series presenting a film thematically related to each play making up the 2019-2020 season. TfT will also partner with AFT’s summer camps and will continue to offer theatre classes on Saturdays in its studio, affording young people the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of theatre in French.
TfT also continues its cultural mediation activities, offering workshops and conferences in schools and developing thorough study guides that teachers can use to help young audiences discover and understand the plays they see.
TfT: NEW PLAY DEVELOPMENT
As an engine of innovation and research, TfT continues to support the development of new projects, welcoming playwrights Lina Blais (L’Affaire de Juliette BB.), Bruno Gaudette (Rabbit’s Trail), Marie-Claire Marcotte (Flush) and Carline Zamar (an adaptation of the novel Matoubor Haïti by Cécile Marotte) with support adapted to their specific needs. Finally, TfT, together with Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario (Sudbury) and Théâtre la Catapulte (Ottawa), will provide support for Lisa L’Heureux (Rose, les deux pieds dans l’eau) and Sarah Migneron (Dans tous les sens) as part of the program “Dramaturgie en chantier” program. Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin will also work on his “performance” of Le Concierge during a residency at the TfT.
TfT: A CIVIC THEATRE
The current political climate in Ontario shows how important it is to make manifest our commitment to our culture and our language. TfT remains more than ever a gathering place for an entire community, an institution where creation, art and political commitment outweigh simple entertainment.
Details about productions, casts and subscription packages are available online at www.theatrefrancais.com.
- TfT continues to push the boundaries of the French theatre canon: after Corneille in 2018-2019, Ionesco finally makes an appearance in the company’s repertoire.
- Four productions will be directed by young Franco-Ontarian artists: Krystel Descary, Chanda Gibson, Dillon Orr and Pierre Simpson.
- As a testament to their talent, these directors will share the season with renowned creators such as Joël Beddows, Nini Bélanger and André Perrier.
- For the first time in its history, TfT has achieved parity between women and men as playwrights and directors.
- TfT is offering a wide variety of shows both for general audiences and for families and youth.
Photo: NOMBRE (NUMBER) created by Krystel Descary, Claudiane Ruelland and Alexandrine Warren co-presented in collaboration with Crow’s Theatre. Photo: Stéphane Bourgeois.