“Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) is a professional French-language theatre presenting repertoire as well as new work. While appealing to all lovers of French-language theatre, it contributes to the cultural and educational development of Toronto’s francophone community.”
In its forty-three years, Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) has become one of the most important French-language theatres outside of Québec, with nearly 240 productions to its name. Today, TfT has almost a thousand subscribers and welcomes nearly 11,500 spectators each season from all over the GTA and Southwestern Ontario. TfT’s season consists of five productions for the general public, as well as shows for adolescents and children. TfT has played at the Berkeley Street Theatre since 1990. It offers its francophone and francophile public a varied repertoire that includes new work, Canadian and international pieces, and the great classics.
TfT was founded in 1967 and named Théâtre du P’tit Bonheur after its first production. By 1970, under its first Artistic Director, John Van Burek, it established a continuing relationship with playwright Michel Tremblay.To mark its 20th anniversary, the company changed its name to Théâtre français de Toronto. Its 1992/93 season, under the artistic direction of Diana Leblanc, was a resounding success, with eight Dora Mavor Moore nominations. For its 30th anniversary season TfT passed the torch to Guy Mignault. Since then, TfT has reinstated its programming for children and created a playwright-in-residence program. Guy Mignault’s first musical creation, C’était un p’tit Bonheur, won a Dora award in 1998.
In the fall of 2004, TfT launched Nouvelles Générations with two shows created specifically for teens. During this time, the children’s play Grimm Grimm, completed its third year of touring schools in the province, to be seen by 16,500 young viewers. In 2005, TfT won a Dora Award for Outstanding Touring Production for Est-ce qu’on ne pourrait pas s’aimer un peu? by Théâtre Loyal du Trac from Brussels. That same year Portrait chinois d’une imposteure toured Ottawa and Sudbury.
In November 2007, TfT celebrated its 40th anniversary to much fanfare at Toronto’s Casa Loma. This important event for the community was presided over by Governor General Michaëlle Jean and numerous other distinguished guests.
In December 2008, TfT reached another important stage in its development with the opening of its Centre for Creation. This new space in the heart of Toronto brings TfT’s administrative offices, rehearsal hall, and wardrobe facility together under one roof. In a short time, the Centre for Creation has become an essential meeting place for artists and the francophone community. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable James Moore,visited the Centre for Creation in January 2009.
The 2008/09 season provided some great successes, such as Le Dîner de cons by Francis Weber and Une Maison face au Nord, a new work by Jean Rock Gaudreault. This co-production’s popular and critical acclaim has spread beyond Toronto, due to an outstanding tour which will visit more than 45 cities between 2009 and 2011. Une Maison face au Nord was even named Canadian Play of the Year 2009 and one of the Top 10 Canadian Productions of the Decade by Eye Weekly.
The 2009/10 season sees the start of an important collaborative project with Ottawa’s Théâtre La Catapult. This agreement, known as “5 ans de théâtre” (“Five Years of Theatre”), commits TfT to co-producing and touring one work a year for five years, in order to promote French-language theatre throughout Ontario and strengthen the company’s position as a leader of francophone creation. Les Médecins de Molière has started this process, followed in 2010/11 by Les Fridolinades by Gratien Gélinas.
Launched in April 2005, surtitled performances are now a major attraction that enables francophones to invite friends and family who do not speak French, as they give all theatre lovers an opportunity to discover French-language theatre. In April 2006, L’Avare broke box office records for the last ten years and two performances had to be added. The success of this production, directed by Jean-Stéphane Roy and starring Guy Mignault in the title role, was topped off by the Masque Award for Best Franco-Canadian Production 2006. This record was broken in 2008/09 by Francis Weber’s Le Dîner de cons, which beat all attendance records since TfT’s inception.
TfT supports creation and artistic expression in schools in the Greater Toronto Area with Les Zurbains, a show produced by Théâtre Le Clou in Montréal, from stories written by high school students in Toronto, Montréal, Québec City, and Ottawa. The writing competition encourages hundreds of young francophones to discover their talent in their own language. In addition, TfT presents rich and varied programming for young audiences at the theatre. Presentations for young audiences and adolescents, presented at student matinees and family performances, reaches almost 5,000 viewers every year.
In 2012, TfT launches is own writen contest: Les Zinspirés
The artistic vision, resulting from the mission and personal to TfT’s artistic director, guides the company’s choice of artistic material. The artistic vision proposed by Guy Mignault, Artistic Director of TfT, is as follows:
From comedy to tragedy, from new creations to the greats of the classical and modern repertoire, the reservoir of theatrical works in French from which TfT draws the pieces it presents is vast. An eclectic company, TfT produces and presents theatrical productions from both here and away. Original works occupy an important place in the company’s artistic process: they are a source of collaboration, discovery and reflection. TfT’s artistic choices are driven by the need to tell, surprise and move French theatre enthusiasts, be they children, adolescents or adults.
Because we believe in the impact that theatre can have on the community and artists, TfT’s programming must support and influence the artistic community and all enthusiasts of French theatre. In addition to presenting Canadian and international repertoire, TfT’s programming and activities must pay special attention in particular to young audiences, permit artists to develop their craft while living in French, encourage the greatest number of creators in Toronto, include original works so the public has a chance to discover new voices, and reinforce within its audiences a feeling of belonging.
- Increase the influence of theatre and Francophone culture: we want to continue giving our Francophone and francophile public access to the greatest number of varied theatrical styles and genres from diverse sources.
- Diversify artistic experiences: we also want to continue to give our audiences diverse shows with themes reflecting the spirit of our company, and to present the most stimulating theatre possible in Canadian and French-language repertoires.
- Engage young audiences: we want to continue to produce plays suitable for different age groups, recognizing that children and adolescents have their own concerns and interests. We apply the same standards of excellence and professionalism to shows meant for young audiences as we do to our adult programming.
- Continue producing original works: we strive to play a leading role in creating a corpus of new plays. New plays for general audiences, musical theatre and youth repertoire constitute a cultural wealth to which TfT must continue to contribute.
- Continue collaborating with other artistic companies: we want to keep developing long-term partnerships with theatre companies in Ontario and the rest of Canada.
- Develop Francophone artists: as many young Francophone actors and designers from different parts of the country have settled in Toronto in recent years, TfT has become a crucible for emerging as well as experienced artists. The company must help them work, grow and earn a living while practising their craft in their own language, to prevent them from leaving Toronto in favour of Montreal or Ottawa.
- Raise TfT’s profile: by producing vital, exciting theatre, we want to bring TfT to the forefront of Canada’s theatre scene. We want to be well-known among Francophones and francophiles in Toronto, in Ontario and in the rest of Canada as a company that does great work.
TfT plays a major role in the development of francophone artists. For the past seven years, many young francophone actors and designers from different parts of the country have settled in Toronto. TfT has become a crucible for emerging as well as experienced artists. TfT gives artists the choice to grow in their craft in French, whether or not this is their first language. It is of the utmost importance to support them as it is essential to prevent francophone artists from leaving Toronto in favour of Montreal or Ottawa.
Our productions for young audiences have one major objective: to introduce theatre to the upcoming generations in order for them to become familiar with it. By demonstrating the sense of joy and care for perfection with which we practise our craft in French, we can instil in young people pleasure and pride in the French language, as well as the pleasure of playing and living in French.
Théâtre français de Toronto has a large young audience. Most of its productions are presented as school matinées. TfT also tours in schools throughout the province with shows written specifically for children. Its creation, Bonjour, Monsieur de La Fontaine, toured for three years, as far as Geraldton and Red Lake, and was seen by approximately 18,000 students. TfT’s new play, Grimm Grimm, by Martin-David Peters and Sébastien Bertrand, toured throughout the province for the third consecutive year in 2005 reaching out to more than 16,500 children.Since the 2004-2005 season, TfT has presented theatre specifically geared to young audiences.
Each season, TfT also presents Les Zurbains in collaboration with Théâtre Le Clou. It is an original way to bridge the gap that teenagers often have with literature and the arts in general and it reveals how much talent teenagers have when given free rein to write their own stories. Les Zurbains is a year-long process with three components: first, a writing competition in francophone and immersion schools launched in Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto; then, workshops in dramaturgy; and finally, a professional production in French presented in the three cities.