PROFILE

Hosanna

By Barbara Ford

Mike Payette.  Photo: Mathieu Perron

Mike Payette

Centaur Stage: How did the 2015 Tableau D’Hôte Theatre (TDHT) production of Hosanna come to be

selected for Centaur’s 49th season?

 

Mike Payette: After the TDHT premiere, we were so fortunate to be gifted with several Montreal English

Theatre Awards for the work. I believe that, paired with the merit of the original production, caught the

attention of Roy Surette, who was in negotiations with Just for Laughs to co-present an Anglophone play

during the festival’s theatre programming for Montreal’s 375th. Unfortunately, the partnership dissolved,

but Roy generously honoured his commitment to giving the production another life by slotting it into his

last season.

 

CS: What initially inspired TDHT to produce the Montreal English-language premiere of this 1973 play?

 

MP: TDHT produces and develops shows written by emerging and established Canadian playwrights that

have never been given the spotlight for Montreal English audiences. We were surprised to discover that

Hosanna had never been done in English in the playwright’s hometown, where the story is set, even though

it had been done countless times in many languages all over the world. TDHT’s mission is to introduce

great Canadian works to audiences here at home, and in doing so, further the conversation about what

defines Canadian theatre. We saw Hosanna not only as an opportunity to give that to the public, but to see

where the evolution of the play had taken us by employing a contemporary lens, while still appreciating

its historical context.

On a more personal note, I have always been encouraged and inspired to investigate the human condition and I love how theatre explores that within a heightened state. Theatre allows us to delve deeply into the sometimes raw psychology of the individual in order for us to reflect upon ourselves and the world we live in. Hosanna and Cuirette are complex individuals who are navigating within an even greater complex ecology. How they pursue their positions within their relationship at home and within their community is one of the journeys I appreciate so much in the story. That pursuit is always heated, urgent, and extremely messy; I find that an intriguing human adventure on which to be taken.

 

CS:  What are the pros and cons of remounting a play?

 

MP: Mostly pros really. Very rarely do we get an opportunity to look at what made a production work, investigate the areas in which we can go deeper, and actually have another go at it. Eloi and Davide really adopted these roles, and now they have more years of life and work experience that will inherently evolve their already strong interpretations—as do I. I’m curious about aspects of the play that may not have been as concrete in the previous incarnation and I see certain thematic questions that I wish to explore further. A lot has happened in a short amount of time for the whole team but it’s a gift to work together again. There is always a risk of remounting a successful production within the same community (in this case, Anglo); an expectation to simply repeat what we found previously. But there are enough differences in TDHT’s and Centaur’s audiences, the venues themselves, and of course in time, that help us stay true to, and further develop, the essence of what we created three years ago.

 

CS: Are there any major changes?

 

MP: We are fortunate to have the exact same team, so the biggest difference is space. We cast the MainLine Theatre space as part of the original production because its location, intimacy, and playful grittiness informed our production’s environment on another level. For the remount, we are working hard at creating that feeling of being in Hosanna and Cuirette’s apartment in the larger Centaur space. It goes without saying that the support from Centaur, in terms of technical resources, fosters a natural evolution of aspects of the design as well.

 

CS: There has been some controversy about the play in the LGBTQ+ community. Considering over four decades have passed since the play first appeared, how does it stand up in 2018?

 

MP: When TDHT produced Hosanna, it was important for us to look at the play within the time it was set as well as encourage dialogue about the evolution of how the text and the characters exist now. I think there are valuable conversations that continue surrounding the script relating to how much our society has progressed. Without contradiction, I think most agree that art is inherently subjective. How you experience a story may be different from the person sitting next to you. How one artist interprets will be different from another. But no matter what we present or create, we have a responsibility to support stories in respectful ways and to help build bridges to communities that are undeniably marginalized, while maintaining artistic integrity. Whether in the form of round tables, talkbacks, or reaching out to those strongly affected by aspects of a piece, we must ensure that all voices are encouraged to be in the room to debate and that everyone present listens. Initiatives that offered platforms for discourse that supported TDHT’s production were as important to us then as I believe they are now for Centaur.

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