This publication is produced in partnership with the University of Ottawa’s Department of Theatre.
Mickaël Girouard is 19 and originally from Welland, Ontario. He is part of the first cohort of acting students to take advantage of the Acting Conservatory program created in 2019 at the Department of Theatre at the University of Ottawa.
Mickaël is Franco-Ontarian. His parents left Hearst for Welland in the 1990s to become teachers. The family “always spoke French at home – it was unthinkable to speak anything else,” he says. Through friends, get-togethers, and student jobs at the Foyer Richelieu (a French language home for the elderly) or the Caisse Populaire de Welland, the young man maintained a lifelong taste for his mother tongue.
His passion for theatre began at the École primaire catholique Sacré-Cœur . Mickaël was fascinated by the student shows that began in Grade 6. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the troupe and flourished on stage. The young man also remembers joining the troupe at École secondaire catholique Saint-Jean-de-Brébeuf (formerly Jean-Vanier) where the drama teacher, Chantal St-Aubin, supported his ambition to become an actor. “She made us work on theatre that was traditional and accessible so that the whole community could enjoy it.” Through acting, the teacher managed to generate a real team spirit and Mickaël remembers a “magical, welcoming and warm atmosphere” that reinforced his determination to become an actor.
And so, after finishing secondary school, the young Franco-Ontarian let the wind carry him to the University of Ottawa. “Both my parents are graduates of U of O, my sister went there, and when it was time for me to decide it so happened that the Department of Theatre had introduced the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting (BFA),” and it felt as if a “god of the theatre existed.” For Mickaël the choice was obvious, so he decided to be part of the adventure and partake of this unique training, the only conservatory program in French Canada to offer a university degree. After auditions at the Théâtre français de Toronto, which take place every year for candidates from southern Ontario and the GTA, Mickaël was now one of ten students chosen to be part of the first cohort.
The program works particularly well for an aspiring actor who came to the theatre by working on stage rather than by simply studying texts. His first-year memories tumble through his head: “With the Theatrical Event course, we would go to see all kinds of productions that we would then analyze in class,” and he has been enjoying certain experiences: “seeing experimental theatre was a huge shock for me, but it also opened my horizons and let me discover authors and performers that I would never have been able to see in Welland.”
Mickaël is nourished by his passion on a daily basis. “Ours have been one of the few face-to-face classes during the pandemic,” and each course has offered him a new opportunity. The experience is as intense as it is enriching as “each teacher influences our knowledge and practice in a different way.” The young man notes in particular his discovery of contemporary dance, which he takes particular pleasure in practicing, even though it was not his cup of tea when as a young audience member he saw certain creations offered through the Contact Ontarois network. The program has “allowed me to refine my tastes” and to get a better sense of his future trajectory.
That future promises to be challenging but he remains positive: “I’ve been lucky to be at school during the pandemic. I imagine that it has been very hard for all the actors who overnight found themselves without work this past year.” Like the rest of the arts world, he hopes that theatres will be up and running and new productions will have opened by the time he gets his degree in the spring of 2022. He plans to move to Toronto to launch his career in both French and English.
The Théâtre français de Toronto will be delighted to welcome him!