National Philanthropy Day – Portrait of Claudia Lebeuf
I am often asked the question, “What interests you most about private funding?” I always respond philanthropy. The word “philanthropy” means, in ancient Greek, “friend” and “human.” Philanthropy refers to the human commitment to a cause and how it can, at the local level, transform our society. Every day, I have the chance to talk with people about their commitment to TfT’s mission and how together we can grow the francophone culture in Toronto and strengthen the company’s activities.
As the main contact for TfT donors, for more than three years, I have seen the evolution of donations and how benefactors appreciate the impact of their gesture on the company. Each year more than 60 volunteers and 200 donors deeply support the company. They are invested in it; they believe in our mission and share its values. Some have given for the first time to help the artists during the pandemic; others have given for several decades. Some are Francophones, Francophiles, Anglophones, and all have a shared love of theatre and the Francophonie.
This is the case of Madame Claudia Lebeuf, a loyal TfT donor since 1993. This doyenne of the Ontario Francophonie moved to Toronto in 1972 from the land of Molière “with the firm intention of integrating into French Canadian culture.” She found, by chance, a second family in 1979 with the dedicated team of what was then known as Théâtre du P’tit bonheur.
To talk with Claudia is dive right back into the history of our company: “From 1979 to 1989, I was the administrative director of Théâtre du P’tit Bonheur, today Théâtre français de Toronto. I loved collaborating in turn with the artistic directors, Eugène Gallant and John Van Burek. I always loved the artistic world (from much experience in France), so it was a unique opportunity to get involved. Théâtre du P’tit Bonheur had 30 subscribers when I arrived and 1200 when I left.”.
More than donations, it is a strong commitment and desire to advance French-language theatre that characterizes Claudia Lebeuf’s identity. She is one of the first donors to have agreed to make a planned gift to the company: “TfT has to finally have its own building, after 50 years of existence. It’s on this SOLE condition that it can develop new projects while pursuing what it does very well today.” A mark of trust that allows her to leave more than a moral heritage but a mark of lasting social and cultural engagement.
Her sponsorship of some shows has allowed the company to exert its influence widely across the country. “TfT is a great promoter of French-language culture in Toronto. It is known not only in Toronto but in Canada, through its many tours, and this must continue,” she tells me.
On this National Philanthropy Day, TfT thanks deeply Claudia and all its donors, volunteers, and patrons. Those who give $20 as well as those who give $2000, those who make single donations, and those who make major gifts.
In line with the etymology I referenced above, all are philanthropists, all are friends of our theatre.