Fall Tea Party with Centaur’s Artists
The sun was shining on a crisp fall day in September as members of Centaur’s Director’s Circle gathered at the beautiful Pub Burgundy Lion in St. Henri for our Thank-You Tea Party. This extraordinary group of supporters were joined by Artistic & Executive Director Eda Holmes as well as three wonderful artists involved in Centaur’s upcoming season—playwright Alice Abracen, actor Adam Capriolo, and director Rose Plotek. Thanks to some stimulating conversation and an elegant High Tea service replete with sandwiches, scones, and macaroons, a marvelous time was had by all!
Thank you very much to all those who attended and to every member of our Director’s Circle, whose generosity makes so much possible!
Centaur Stage with Marcel Jeannin
Marcel Jeannin, one of Quebec’s most beloved stage and voice actors, returns to Centaur Theatre as Jon Macklem in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes. Jeannin is a Centaur favorite, having first stepped onstage over three decades ago for Woman in Mind in 1989. Jeannin took time to chat with Centaur about his current production, and how things have changed (or not)!
After 12 productions, how does it feel to be back onstage at Centaur?
Short answer: It feels great! Although that feeling is mainly due to being back onstage after two years of doing theatre on Zoom and masked play readings!
TAKING SIDES by Ronald Harwood with Susan Glover, Marcel Jeannin Season 29 (1997-98)
RELATIVE GOOD by David Gow with Marcel Jeannin and Mikel Mroué photo Yanick MacDonald Season 39 (2007-2008)
VINCI by Maureen Hunter, Marcel Jeannin and Carrie Colak photo Yanick MacDonald Season 34 (2002-2003)
– Your last role was in Paradise Lost, which ran in our 50th season in 2019. This was a large cast with 11 actors while Sexual Misconduct… is a two-hander. How has this changed your approach to the production and your role?
– Nothing really changed in terms of my approach to a role, although I varied my preparation slightly. The biggest difference was my need to be “off-book” at the beginning of rehearsals. Usually, I prefer to learn my lines in rehearsal by osmosis: involving my body in the process of marrying the thoughts to the words and letting my body inform or inspire certain thoughts. For this production, I felt that process wasn’t an option because of the amount of text, and that much of that text is direct address to the audience: my de facto scene partner for a good part of the play with whom I felt the need to connect to as soon as possible. I consulted with dramaturg Maureen Labonté and implemented her method of close reading of a text. My habitual way of analyzing a script is from a motivational point of view, whereas hers is a strict structural analysis, which proved to be very useful on a piece like Misconduct, as it removes the actor’s “self-interest” from the first reading and takes a lot of preconceptions, prejudices and suppositions out of the initial appraisal of the work.
I also requested a few one-on-one script sessions with director Eda Holmes a few months prior to rehearsal. Speaking as a man, it is a very disquieting piece to be a part of, and I felt the production could possibly fall into a few traps I was keen to avoid. As the play is about Perspective, I wanted to be sure that the director and I completely understood each other’s point of view, the points of view of the characters, and agreed with what the play was saying
– As this is a small cast, you’ve gotten to work closely with your cast and crew. What was it like working with Eda Holmes? With Inès Defossé? What have you learned from them, as fellow creators?
– I last worked with Eda about twenty-seven years ago at NTS when I was only a few years into my career and she was making a career shift from dancing to directing. Her directing style at the time was very movement based and I subsequently incorporated elements of her process into my own and have used them ever since, so it was a thrill when she called to offer me the part. When we started working together again after more than a quarter-century, it felt like not a day had gone by. I am getting a kick of seeing how she has grown as an artist. Her direction, which was always very clear, has gotten even more concise, and she has since developed a laser-like succinctness when putting forth her ideas, which makes my job a lot easier. It also forces me to be clearer and concise in my own work and gives me a little extra drive as I try to anticipate her next steps, so that I feel I am always moving the process forward rather than bogging it down.
I met Inès at the audition, and it was the first time in a long while that I met an actor who was so open, available and honest in an initial meeting. It was also a shock because she is still relatively new to the business, but she brings in a confidence that belies her years. In rehearsal, she has only doubled down on those qualities, and her generosity as a performer forces me to make sure that I am constantly open and taking advantage of her wonderful offers, and that I am also pulling my own weight. She is a terrific stage partner.
It’s important to note that although it is a two-hander, there are actually quite a few people who have been in the room with us creating this piece, whose own work and input is an intrinsic part of the heartbeat of the play. To name just a few, Georgia Holland who is part of the Stage Management team is a fundamental part of the all-important tempo of the show. During rehearsal and run-throughs, she displayed a preternatural ability to anticipate needs with regard to props, scenery shifts, etc. Much of the flow of the show is in her hands. Chelsea Dab is our assistant Director who offered invaluable advice and insight during the process. Luciana Burcheri was adroit at navigating us through the relatively new process of Intimacy work with precision and conciseness, (crucial, when Time is a precious resource). Finally, Danielle Skene is at the helm throughout, safeguarding the integrity of the designers’ and director’s work (and even the actors’ own work at times, despite ourselves!) In the end, I’ve come to appreciate and value these aspects of a production more than ever. They are not only the net under the high wire, they are also the high wire itself!
– Looking back on your 12 productions, was there a landmark production or role of yours that you remember fondly?
– It’s hard to pick just one. God of Carnage and The Comedy of Errors are big favourites of mine. Besides being absolutely brilliant scripts to work on, I was surrounded in both instances by people I love, respect and admire, and perhaps most importantly, people with whom I have had a long, personal and professional relationship. The benefits of this are twofold: you all come in with an established working shorthand, which gives you the freedom to make choices or offers that are instinctively followed up on by the other actors, or allow you to intuit what idea someone else is trying and support it, all without ever really discussing anything (like good jazz musicians do). In the second instance, I believe you need people you can trust when working on a comedy. Rehearsing comedies is joyous, painstaking, exhilarating and brutal work, much like a good marriage. There are many moments where tempers fray or frustrations build, and it would be impossible to continue without feeling that forgiveness was always there in the room, if not instantly then at least by the end of the day. It is only with that trust that we can really begin to take risks, and it is only through risk that you get comedy.
GOD OF CARNAGE by Yasmina Reza with Mark Camacho, Ellen David, Janine Theriault and Marcel Jeannin Photo Lucetg.com Season 43 (2011-2012)
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS Stephen Lawson, Marcel Jeannin, Danielle Desormeaux photo Yanick MacDonald SEASON 41 (2009-2010)
– Since you’ve begun, how has Centaur changed? How has it remained the same?
– Centaur hasn’t changed as much as the neighborhood has! The other day on St-Antoine, I was given my first ever ticket for exercising a Montrealer’s Divine Right to jaywalk. To think, when I was working on The Stone Angel in 1995, I used to take my breaks at my then-girlfriend-now-wife’s loft around the corner on Le Moyne Street, where she was paying $500.00 a month for 3000 square feet! I remember driving my car to work and being able to park just about anywhere in Old Montreal. Now, when stopped at a red light, I’ll either get a parking ticket or someone will try to turn my Honda into a condo. I miss the quieter, simpler, (cheaper!), pre-gentrification days. I take comfort in the fact that Stash’s is still around!
As for the Centaur itself, I suppose what hasn’t changed is the underlying vibe of the place. I’ve seen many people move on or pass away over the years, yet I still feel their energy in the halls. People like Griffith Brewer, Mary Thomas and designer Michael Eagan to name a few (the latter giving me my best opening night gift ever: a piece of the Berlin Wall)! When I look at all the wonderful people who are running the place now, who are part of my professional “family,” I feel they continue in the spirit of those who have come before, insomuch as they are among the hardest working, caring, fun and down-to-earth artisans I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. If this sounds overly sentimental, it is partly because after two years of being deprived of close contact with these people, I am so grateful to be able to work with them again!
As to what has changed at the Centaur, I can say that it’s great to see so many young people attending the shows alongside the regular audience of subscribers that has supported the theatre over the years.
– The last time you were onstage at the Centaur was before COVID. How has the COVID-19 pandemic shaped your craft as an actor, and as a writer?
– Actors exist in one of two states: Working, or Looking For Work. The pandemic obliterated those two states, so for the first time in my thirty-odd years as a professional, being out of work didn’t come with the usual anxiety, as there was no work to be had. In a way, I felt a certain measure of peace with the idea that most of the world was in the same boat (i.e. not knowing what comes next). Like many, I used the opportunity to take stock and reevaluate certain lifestyle choices and habits, with the aim of improving my life and by extension, my work. I read the books I had always been meaning to read, saw the films I had always been meaning to see, and did my utmost to keep discovering or learning something new every day. I think in the end it has brought a little more focus and depth to my approach.
On the downside, as the health emergency is still not quite over, I live with the constant concern that a production may be shut down at a moment’s notice; that the sword of Damocles hangs over the whole process, because one positive test can postpone or close the show. I knock wood as I say this, because it is a great fear that the hard work of all the people in a production has the very real possibility of never seeing the light of day, which would be a real waste. The pandemic has made a fragile and ephemeral art even more evanescent.
– While in isolation, you made this hilarious video that you shared to your Facebook page: Marcel Jeannin. Can you explain more the thought process behind making The Lions Sleep Tonight, as well as your thoughts on the general response to the video?
– When the lockdown hit, many of us in my profession were forced to quickly set up ersatz voice studios in our homes to keep from missing out on the recording sessions that had suddenly become remote. If we wanted to eat, we had to learn to become sound engineers, videographers and editors almost overnight. I created this little project as an exercise to learn how to use and test all the new equipment and software I had been forced to purchase. I gave myself a small writing challenge by composing a little skit for four voices with a lot of overlapping dialogue (and some harmonizing), and then I gave myself a little film acting challenge by playing all four characters. This last bit proved to be a fun but daunting puzzle. As I had no actor other than myself to work off of (or anyone reading the other lines offstage for me), the trick was to play one character and keep all the lines of the other characters (and their timings) in my head, to react at the proper time and in the proper direction, and of course to say a particular character’s lines at the right moment. Multiply all that times four! As each character was shot in “one”, if my timing was slightly off at any point, the take became unusable. I shared the result with my friends on social media, and a few people got a good laugh out of it. There is a surreal, paranoiac, cabin-fever tone to the whole bit that I’m sure was a universal feeling for the first few weeks of the pandemic, and that most of my friends recognized.
The Lions Sleeps Tonight with Marcel Jeannin X 4
– Many of your past roles, including God of Carnage have been quite funny. How have you brought these comedic chops to this role? Jon Macklem has some self-aware, funny moments, but also a darker, complex psychology.
– Jon Macklem is an ordinary, hard-working, well-meaning man who has achieved some measure of success. One day, he finds himself in a “strange land” which threatens to destroy everything. There is a very simple maxim: “When playing tragedy, find the humour; when playing comedy, find the tragedy” (and play that tragedy for all it is worth)! While Kings and Gods are the subjects of Tragedy, the Common Person is the mainspring of Comedy. Paradoxically, the closer to the breaking point the Common Person is pushed, the better the comedy, and the funnier it is. When we did Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, director Peter Hinton gave me an invaluable and brilliant piece of direction for my character, who finds himself lost in a literal “strange land”: he told me to remember that from my character’s Elizabethan point of view, the inhabitants of this particular “strange land” were magical and dangerous. It was not a Disney “strange land”, where the inhabitants were benign talking crabs or singing teapots. It was a land where the charming person I was talking to could at any moment start vomiting frogs! I was to look at my surroundings as if I was trapped in a living nightmare, a Bosch painting, with no way out. How is that for being pushed to the breaking point! It’s fascinating to think about why the everyday person put into miserable circumstances in Drama is such an effective engine for laughter. Maybe it is as Mel Brooks says: “Tragedy is if I cut my finger. Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die.” Maybe laughter is our way of saying: “I’m so relieved it is you going through this and not me, ‘cause it could very well be me!”
– You have also participated in Urban Tales–a series of holiday-themed monologues. Did this in any way help you prepare for the longer monologues that Jon delivers?
– I think so, yes. Each one-character play, monologue or soliloquy is in essence, an actor in a one-on-one relationship with an audience, where the actor’s subtext is: “I’m going to tell you a story…” Start telling a story and you have an alchemical reaction: the actor and audience enter into a kind of dance where a singular experience is created. Almost everybody has an “Uncle Jim”. My Uncle Jim was a great joke teller. I never remember his actual jokes, but I remember vividly the experience of listening to him telling them. The experience of him telling the stories and us, his audience, listening to the stories was more complex and profound than the actual jokes themselves. I can’t help but think that with every kick at the can, an actor (hopefully) learns a little more about the mechanics and dynamics of storytelling and, at the same time, learns to become more empathetic and open to the audience, essentially putting themselves in their place. In the back of their mind, the storyteller always carries the weight of Diaghilev’s famous challenge to Cocteau: “Astonish me!”
URBAN TALES 2011 Marcel Jeannin photo Yvan Bienvenu
Welcome to the Party!
At long last, we are daring to dream that we will be back together in the theatre again. If you are reading this then it is likely that you are someone who is already at least a little bit familiar with Centaur Theatre – and I want to tell you how great it is to be back in contact! If you are completely new to us then I extend a warm welcome to the party!
I was talking to a friend the other day about the fact that this will be our first subscription season since the pandemic and she said that she loves being a subscriber because it is like being in a secret conversation with the Artistic Director. I asked her what she meant and she said that when she comes as a subscriber to see a show, she never tries to find out anything in advance but rather sits down in the darkened theatre and tries to glean what the person who programmed the show was trying to say, how one show relates to another and what story the whole season tells.
I was so happy to hear her say that because as I program a season, I am always trying to start a conversation with the audience. I try to create a “playlist” that will ask the kinds of questions that will open new doors to the world we live in. I know that some people will like some things more than others but I always hope that they will find a compelling narrative in the way the plays speak to each other – a narrative that I intentionally embed in the program as a whole.
All through the pandemic, the one thing that kept me inspired was the beautiful city of Montreal itself. Not only the physical beauty that extends from the natural grandeur of the mountain down to the charm of our own historic neighbourhood in Old Montreal but also the beautiful diversity of the people who live here.
I lived near Parc Jeanne Mance and every weekend I would see collections of people, families having picnics or friends slacklining or playing a strange game where four people bounce a small ball off a mini trampoline?! and I would hear not only French and English but also tones and rhythms of languages from all around the world. The fact that it is a bi-lingual city gives people so many more ways to connect with each other. After the pandemic, I have felt a voracious need to connect not only with my friends and family but with all the people I am finally able to cross paths with again as we all return to some kind of normal.
That notion runs through the programming for this season. It is not only embedded in the plays in the subscription series but also in everything from Dark Divas the fantastic jazz concert we are offering in December headlined by the extraordinary Ranee Lee to the collection of exciting work in the Wildside Festival to wonderfully wacky inventions of Ronnie Burkett and his merry band of marionettes in Little Willy.
There is also a secret within a secret in the programming of this year’s Brave New Looks installment by the exceptional young playwright Alice Abracen and her play What Rough Beast (March, 2023). If you are a subscriber I highly recommend you make sure to come and see this show as well because I think that there is a great conversation there waiting to happen!
Montreal Under the Stars
Centaur hosts an intimate fundraising soirée in celebration of the return of live theatre
There was nary a cloud in the sky on the sun-kissed evening of June 8th, as Centaur Theatre and its Board of Directors hosted MONTREAL UNDER THE STARS, an intimate fundraising soirée in celebration of the return of live theatre. The evening was filled with merriment and camaraderie and ended up raising almost $30,000 in essential funds for the theatre.
The organizers and stars: Co-Chairs Silvia Galeone and Anna Giampà, Centaur’s Artistic Director Eda Holmes, designer James Lavoie and playwright Steve Galluccio. Photo by Hector Rodriguez Neda.
Guests stepped off the historic cobblestone streets of Old Montreal onto the charming interior garden of The Burgundy Lion Group’s Pub Wolf & Workman, an elegant British-style eatery just around the corner from Centaur. In addition to donors, patrons, and other Centaur associates, the evening was also graced with the presence of six stars of the Montreal theatre scene who served as the evening’s special guests. These included multidisciplinary artist and performer Laurence Dauphinais, playwright Steve Galluccio (creator of the hit play Mambo Italiano), set and costume designer James Lavoie, as well as actors Marcel Jeannin, Richard Jutras, and Antoine Yared. The first of many toasts of the night was to everyone’s good company and to the thrill of being able to finally gather in-person once again with a close community of theatre artists and theatre lovers.
Actors Antoine Yared and Laurence Dauphinais. Photo by Michael Cooper.
Once guests sat down to enjoy a delicious three-course meal featuring dishes cooked to perfection by the skilled and gracious staff of Wolf & Workman, Centaur Board members Silvia Galeone and Anna Giampà, Co-Chairs of the Event Committee, thanked everyone in attendance for their generous support, in particular corporate patrons Fednav Ltd. and Manulife/Manuvie. The mic was then passed to Centaur’s Artistic & Executive Director Eda Holmes, who gave an exciting, top-secret sneak peek of Centaur’s upcoming 54th season. Ooh’s and aah’s could be heard around the room as Eda teased the audience with information about some of the projects that will be gracing the floorboards of Centaur’s stages later this year.
Event Co-Chairs Anna Giampà and Silvia Galeone, with Centaur’s Artistic Director Eda Holmes. Photo by Michael Cooper.
As the twilight hour approached and the libations continued to flow, the night kicked into high gear with the exciting live auction, stewarded by auctioneer extraordinaire Marcel Jeannin. Centaur’s generous patrons pulled out their wallets to bid on some enticing prize packages, including an all-included weekend staycation in the Old Port, round-trip train rides to Halifax and Stratford, and a pair of bottles of some of the most coveted and critically acclaimed wines in the world. Everyone was so caught up in the excitement and Mr. Jeannin was such a convincing salesman that some guests were even bidding against themselves! The final prize of the night, and the cornerstone of the auction, was an intimate evening with Mr. Steve Galluccio, won by two of Centaur’s luckiest patrons.
Guest Michael Cooper and actor Marcel Jeannin. Photo by Hector Rodriguez Neda.
The night wrapped up with more drinks, more toasts, and lots of laughs. As they picked up their parting gifts on the way out, many guests commented on how nice it was to finally be able to gather once again in-person and to mingle with the actors and artists who bring Montreal theatre to life. Centaur and its Board of Directors were proud to host such a lovely and well-received soirée and are excited to do it again soon. Vive le théâtre!
Yves-Patrick Rusuku and Marie Achille of Manuvie. Photo by Michael Cooper.
Steven Wright and Anastasia Nakis of Schwartz’s. Photo by Michael Cooper.
Guests Miriam Roland and Nancy Rosenfeld. Photo by Michael Cooper.
Guests Mary Rana, Thao Phan, and Arlene Bratz Abramowicz. Photo by Michael Cooper.
Playwright Steve Galluccio and actor Richard Jutras. Photo by Michael Cooper.
Centaur’s Board of Directors with the stars of the evening. Top row, from left: Board member Silvia Galeone, actor Antoine Yared, Board members Anna Giampà, Robert Yalden, and Susan Da Sie; designer James Lavoie; Board member Guillaume Saliah, and actor Laurence Dauphinais. Bottom row, from left: playwright Steve Galluccio, Artistic & Executive Director Eda Holmes, and actors Richard Jutras and Marcel Jeannin. Photo by Michael Cooper.
Silvia Galeone and Anna Giampà, Board Members, Centaur Theatre Company
What They’re Saying
ONE MORE WEEK! Centaur’s final show of the season is a timely and urgent play that tackles climate and environment in a tour de force performance by award-winning actor Warona Setshewalo. Now playing until May 15, 2022, A Play for the Living… sets the stage for engaging and thought-provoking theatre.
Scroll through for a round up of quotes and reviews. Centaur staff takes your health and safety seriously – read more on our protocols here. We are thrilled to be back making theatre – and we couldn’t do it without YOU!
A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction
Read the reviews
“A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction is sobering yet hopeful”
“For Those Who Care About the Environment or Enjoy Excellent Theatre”
“English Theatre: Miranda Rose Hall’s «A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction»: Swan Song”
“Wake-Up Call At Centaur’s A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction”
“The Climate Crisis Takes Centre Stage at the Centaur Theatre”
Montreal Gazette Review
“The Heat is On…”
Montreal Gazette Preview
“Centaur Theatre Goes Green with A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction”
Video – Playwright Miranda Rose Hall
CBC interview with Director Rose Plotek
Thanks to CBC Montreal “Our Montreal” for the in-depth interview with director Rose Plotek. In the interview, we learn the approach the play takes is one of care – care for each other, for the creatures with whom we share this planet, and care for the Earth itself. This holistic point of view is highlighted by the collective nature of theatre, Plotek explains. View the interview here.
Take part in an immersive experience between audience and performer that rejuvenates the spirit and sets the stage for hope for each other and our planet. See you at the theatre!
Imagining the Future
Imagining the Future: Theatre, Magical Realism, and Global Warming
by Adjani Poirier
Climate change frightens me. Like a monster lurking in the shadows, it feels ominous and scary. It’s a BIG situation that merits BIG reactions, often leaving me feeling helpless, unsure of what to do, stuck.
Will the ocean rise and wash me away? Maybe… Will the ocean rise and wash me away less if I buy the correct energy-efficient light bulb? It’s hard to say…
Figuring out what to do in reaction to a catastrophe that’s so much bigger than myself is not an easy feat. When faced with this overwhelm, I look to storytellers to try and make sense of the world.
To quote queer science fiction writer Nalo Hopkinson,
“Marginalized people need a better world, we all do, but people who are on the fringes of it very much need a better world, and in order to figure out how to get there, we first have to be able to imagine it.”
Aha! I love this sentiment; as a queer woman of colour, it rings so true!
Nalo Hopkinson: Who gets left out of the future? from TED Ideas on Vimeo.
This idea is relevant to the discussion of global warming because a) marginalized people are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change and b) figuring out how to navigate the complexities of climate change requires a lot of imagination.
So, How Do We Imagine the Future?
As a playwright, I use my craft to imagine what the future could be through stories on stage.
Theatre has always been my preferred method of understanding history, of untangling challenging questions, and of working through difficult emotions.
In my play Still Gay When I’m Not In Love, I use magical realism to explore global warming and what might happen if the Earth chose to teach humanity a lesson:
“THE EARTH HAS HAD ENOUGH! Her words, not mine. But I’m inclined to agree. Or rather I would be, if I were not impartial, which I am. She could no longer tolerate the abuses she was suffering at the hands of humanity, so she set fire to herself. To her entire planetary body. The fires will burn for 24 hours, and then: SHE WILL BEGIN AGAIN!”Still Gay When I’m Not In Love, Adjani Poirier
These are the words spoken by the character Angel of Death, a beautiful celestial bureaucrat. They are addressing the entirety of humanity, who has been violently thrust into a kind of purgatory because our lovely home planet decided she was fed up with the environmentally destructive shenanigans we humans were getting up to.
The idea is that when people return to the new “phoenix risen from the ashes” version of Earth, they’ll have the opportunity for a do-over — new forms of society, new ways of creating community, new people in charge. The big question the play asks is: in the face of the ongoing climate crisis, how do we build a better tomorrow for future generations?
Spoiler alert: the play doesn’t have all the answers. But it raises a lot of questions that contribute to an ongoing discussion around people’s thoughts, feelings, fears, and ideas around issues related to climate change.
The beautiful thing about theatre is that it’s a collaborative art form; it requires many artists with a variety of different skill sets to come together and create something. And then it invites audiences to witness and experience the work together. The very act of telling stories through theatre allows us to access an understanding of life on Earth that is connected, playful, and thought provoking. It’s the perfect antidote to the stress imposed by the neoliberal notion that our individual behaviours will make or break the future of our planet.
Stories shape how we think about tomorrow. They move us, change us, wake us up, and beg us to ask difficult questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. They plant seeds of ideas for what is possible and provide roadmaps for how to get there — as well as what to look out for along the way.
Telling stories through theatre makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself.
Theatre is like an electric current, carrying us from one place to another and igniting a spark in our imaginations.
And I do truly believe that imagination is a key element in figuring out how to work toward a future that will hold us well.
Adjani Poirier is a queer theatre maker who currently lives and writes in her hometown of Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal where she studies playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada. Her plays include Scorpio Moon, which was featured in Centaur Theatre and Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal’s 2022 Queer Reading Series; Celebrity Dogs, part of Boca del Lupo’s national project Plays2Perform @ Home; Still Gay When I’m Not In Love; and On Life and Living: A History of AIDS Community Care Montreal. She curated the 2021 edition of QueerCab with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Centaur Theatre invited Adjani Poirier to contribute her thoughts on climate change and theatre-making in relation to the play, A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction, playing April 26 – May 15, 2022 at Centaur Theatre.
Featured banner image: Adjani dressed up to participate in a May Day parade and performance. Photo by Kristen Brown.
Celebrating World Theatre Day 2022
March 27 is World Theatre Day
Every year on World Theatre Day we like to take a moment to celebrate theatre and all those who make it possible for us to make our art every day.
Just as the days are beginning to stretch longer than the nights, our outlook is brightening every day. We’ve had so many encouraging words and such steadfast support over the last two years that we can’t help but feel optimistic about what the future holds. Every note you send and every kind word you share stays with us and we take them all to heart!
We’d like to share with you some of the kind words we’ve received from our donors.
-Haleema, Liana and Scott, Centaur’s Development team
“We are proud to support Centaur Theatre. In high school, I saw A Streetcar Named Desire at Centaur. I felt the energy of the live performances, I was hooked for life!”
Puneet Mehta & Rosamaria Koppes
Without our wonderful and generous supporters, not to mention all the theatre-lovers who have been waiting patiently for us to reopen our doors, it would not be possible for us to continue to put great stories on stage.
“I have so enjoyed Centaur performances over many years and cannot see a future without this temple of theatre open to Montrealers.”Linda Serpone
It’s been a momentous year of emotional ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns but we made it and you were there with us through it all, letting us know how important Centaur Theatre is to you.
“[Je donne] pour garder ce beau théâtre ouvert 😍 La culture est primordiale dans notre société!”
World Theatre Day Messages
Read or listen to the inspiring words from theatre makers representing Quebec, Canada, and our international communities.
Rébecca Déraspe, QUÉBEC
Message québécois pour la Journée mondiale du théâtre
Peter Sellars, USA (International)
World Theatre Day Message 2022
Makambe K Simamba, CANADA
Banner image: Photo of Maryline Chery in The Portico Project: The Exchange by Vanessa Rigaux
Residencies and Development
by Rose Plotek
This year the Wildside Festival turns 25. After 25 years of celebrating and showcasing bold and brave artists from Montreal and across Canada, we wanted to extend our commitment to these artists; to go beyond simply presenting their work to supporting its creation.
Even if we were not able to present the festival we wanted, we are happy to have been able to work with two great companies and give them the opportunity to further develop their productions.
This year’s festival was to feature two shows created by some of Montreal’s most exciting artists. Each company was given a two-week technical residency in the theatre in which they will perform. They were given free licence to create, explore and dig deep into their work. A technical residency is a vital part of the creation process. It is a time when all the elements can come together and creators fully see what they are making.
I spoke with a lead artist from each company to hear a bit about their residency process and what audiences can expect when they meet the work. – Rose Plotek, Curator of 2022 Wildside Festival and Centaur Associate Artist.
HUSH co-director and designer
“The importance of a technical residency cannot be understated. It is integral to this kind of creation process. When it comes to a work in progress it means you get to create for the specific space, and use that space for everything it has to offer. You can progress slowly; you don’t have to make all the decisions at once. You actually get to see the storytelling in all its elements. As a creator I am not able to simply squint and imagine what a work will look like. I get a kind of writer’s block if I don’t have a reasonable number of the components in place.
Our focus during this residency was first and foremost to rig up a set piece that hangs in the air. This set piece receives light,and is intended to make several movements throughout the performance, which have a metaphorical role. This was something we have only ever been able to imagine doing in previous workshops. So we had to verify how we could do that, how we could do it simply, and most importantly: did it mean what we thought it meant when we were finally able to do these manipulations.
When this work, which is still in progress, meets an audience, the big question we are asking ourselves is how do they receive the kind of storytelling that we are proposing? With this piece, stylistically, we move around within modes of presentation; there is not one consistent form of address. Dramaturgically, I believe that is the force of the piece, but we are still trying to understand how we can make those kinds of shifts and how willing people will be to follow us. How well will they understand what those choices signify or how they support the storytelling?”
Deer Blood co-creator and performer
“As an independent producing company the opportunity to develop work in actual theatre space is such a gift and very impactful to our storytelling. Integrating technical support and design elements like lights, projections, and set are crucial steps in the creative process. This is especially true when dealing with more expressionistic, abstract work. These design elements really establish the artistic landscape we are playing in and gives our audience a lot of information about how we want them to experience the piece.
So getting to work with these elements, getting to build them progressively as a team, really helped us develop, understand and deepen the story we are telling, and to better frame the piece. For multidisciplinary, multimedia work, to have as many of the components as possible as early as possible, helps make the piece more complete and more cogent. This allows us to actually understand how our show is functioning.
We are really looking forward to how the work will meet an audience. What most excites us about this encounter will be how they interpret the show. What are they taking away from it? The piece is purposefully open to interpretation and so we are very curious to hear people’s thoughts and feelings about it. To hear what it provokes in them and what questions they have. At the end of the day this work is for them, and is incomplete without an audience. So we are eager to hear what they make of our offering.”
Wildside Remix performance schedule:
Wildside REMIX runs from March 2 to March 12, 2022.
Centaur Theatre will host Logic of the Worst by Étienne Lepage and Frédérick Gravel (March 2 – 4 @ 7PM) and 1, 2 maybe 3 by jean & syd, (March 9, 10 ans 11 @ 7PM), two productions that were to run at La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines.
Confabulation: Good Date, Bad Date — stories of romance and regret, organized by Matt Goldberg, will be on Friday March 4th @and a musical celebration of the 25th anniversary of the festival will be led by singer/songwriters Sarah Segal-Lazar, Lucy Earle, and Vienna d’ Amato Hall on March 5th in the gallery.
Reopening our doors: A year full of cheer
As we start seeing familiar faces at Centaur once again, it is encouraging to review the year that was filled with hybrid performances and a return to the stage. With everyone’s health and safety top of mind, we are thankful for our audience support and look forward to our upcoming live theatre productions of Wildside and Kisses Deep in January 2022!
Here are some highlights of a year that was a brave new world, and taught us more about resilience and theatre than we knew!
Wildside 2021 launched us into 2021 and went digital and totally FREE for the whole month of January. As Montreal locked down, Wildside artists delivered in-home entertainment that was experimental and edgy as could be.
We also hosted online interviews with curator Rose Plotek and Wildside artists and presented two Catalyst readings of new works from new voices in January.
The return of MOB! A socially-distanced mini-run
After more than a year we opened our doors to put on 8 presentations of MOB, the sold-out, META-winning hit that we had to shut down in March 2020. It was very emotional for the audiences and for all of us, even before the lights went down and the play started! 😉
Thanks to all those who came for putting their confidence in us. With all of the new safety protocols in place, everyone felt safe and was able to enjoy the long-awaited return to live theatre.
Remember summer? We do! Centaur staff and friends met to test drive the newly released box set of Boca del Lupo’s Plays2Perform@Home. Pic nic not included 😉
The Quebec Box Set is still available for purchase at Centaur Theatre or online.
1st Indigenous Artist Residency Centaur
We met Ange Loft and collaborators Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo and Iehente Foote in August 2021. The Collective will develop a new site-specific theatrical performance that includes historic research, music, Kanien’kéha language, large scale imagery/puppetry, verbatim text, and traditional Indigenous, as well as contemporary dance for a new work entitled Talking Treaties Tio’tia:ke.
Look forward to the return of our online interview series, Saturday Salons, set for Saturday January 8th with Eda and Ange.
The Portico Project: The Exchange
Eda Holmes handed the reins over to Julie Tamiko Manning, Eo Sharp, and Nalo Soyini Bruce to create an outdoor performance that spoke to the moment of reconciliation, representation, equity and inclusion. The 2nd edition of the Portico Project (September 2021) continued the tradition of opening a new season with outdoor theatre for all to see. Photos by Nalo Soyini Bruce.
The beautiful portico was lit in jewel tones and performers Maryline Chery, Corrina Hodgson, Sandra Kadowaki, Kayin Queeley and Ainsley McNeaney created tableaux’s for masked audience members and passers-by, beating drums and creating rhythms for the onlookers and neighbouring residents. We’re back!
With stage manager Trevor Barrette, co-creator & director Julie Tamiko Manning; dramaturg Rose Plotek; performer; co-creators & designers Eo Sharp and Nalo Soyini Bruce.
OKINUM by Émilie Monnet
Presented in September by Centaur Theatre as a part of Brave New Looks, this Onishka and Imago Theatre co-production, created and performed in the round by Émilie Monnet, was a powerful, immersive experience in three languages: English, French and Anishnaabemowin.
A first collaboration with TNM
The TNM kicked off its 70th season with Embrasse, a new play by Michel Marc Bouchard. The reviews are in and our audience has much to look forward to, with Eda directing the English version, Kisses Deep, at Centaur January 25th – February 12, 2022.
“Michel Marc Bouchard is a thrilling playwright to work with. His poetic voice, steeped in the unique culture of Quebec, is universal in its exploration of human passion. Having directed several of his plays before in English, it is a dream come true to have the privilege of presenting the world premiere of this play in French at the illustrious TNM and then remounting it in English here at Centaur. I believe we are building a brilliant future for culture in Montreal with these kinds of creative bridges.”Eda Holmes, Kisses Deep Director & Centaur Theatre Artistic and Executive Director
All I Want For Christmas
We decked the halls early and ushered in a holiday season full of laughter. Rebecca Northan’s latest script gave us a dose of good cheer and some tips on how to give – and receive – the spirit of Christmas. It was a fun-for-the-whole-family kind of show, and it felt SO good to be back on stage.
Our production staff had fun building Santa’s Workshop too, take a peek at this time lapse of Centaur’s elves at work!
A BIG THANK YOU to our donors this year!
Donations enabled us to stay connected with patrons and artists as we rode out the storm together in a rich conversation about who we are as a community. It was a turbulent yet valuable year that has inspired us to return to the stage with even more energy and care.
Happy New Year!
Centaur Theatre partnered with Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui + Transistor Media on a one-time podcast event called Bâtarde/Bastard, written by Laurence Dauphinais. As well, Boca del Lupo is introducing a four-part podcast series – Dialogues for the Vaccine Hesitant and Those Who Love Them. Four playwrights from four Canadian cities wrote four short plays around this current hot-topic issue and Montreal’s/Centaur’s contribution is Omari Newton’s Vaxx Pass.
The internationally acclaimed actor, writer, director and musician, Laurence Dauphinais, is one of two creators of next season’s Cyclorama, a unique, never-before-attempted theatre experience that we can’t wait to share with you.
You can listen to this fascinating origin story as told by Laurence and her mother.
Bâtarde / Bastard follows the quest of Laurence Dauphinais, a child conceived through artificial insemination by donor sperm in the 1980s.
Historically, gamete donation has been anonymous in Canada leaving children to their own devices regarding questions about their origins. Twelve-year-old Laurence was consumed by imagined images and personality traits for her birth father until something changed: DNA testing … new, accessible information that had the power to open locked doors and take her on a journey of self-discovery.
The original podcast was presented December 9, 2021 at Cinema Public in collaboration with Le Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui and Transistor Média.
Another podcast project that we are proud to co-present with Boca del Lupo is Dialogues for the Vaccine Hesitant and Those Who Love Them.
Montreal-born actor, slam poet and playwright, Omari Newton, is the author of Vaxx Pass, in which a group of Hip Hop dancers discover that one of their troupe hasn’t been vaccinated mere hours before a televised dance competition. The audio recording was produced last week at Centaur and is available to listen to on Boca del Lupo’s website.
Vaxx Pass, featuring Dakota Jamal Wellman, Justin Johnson, Jeremy Cabrera and Espoir Segbeaya, was read and recorded at Centaur Theatre in December. Directed by Eda Holmes and Sound Recording by Laurier Rajotte.
Vancouver’s Boca del Lupo Theatre has partnered with the Dr. Peter Centre to produce four short scripts from Canadian playwrights to explore different root causes of vaccine hesitancy. They range from fear of needles or reducing the harm of spreading mis-information, to the understandable wariness in racialized communities when it comes to government mandated procedures.
Inspired by Boca del Lupo’s national Plays2Perform@Home project, free digital book versions of these plays will be available for all to read and share.
These scripts are meant as practice dialogues for people who might find themselves in any number of difficult conversations, especially as folks gather for the holidays.
Boca del Lupo worked with four theatre companies across the nation to record the plays and are releasing four podcasts to accompany the digital books. These podcasts include readings of the plays by professional actors, as well as interviews between Boca del Lupo’s Artistic Director, Sherry J Yoon and the playwrights along with special guests and experts.
The playwrights from coast to coast are: Omari Newton, Yvette Nolan, Mary-Colin Chisholm, and Karen Hines.
Other partner theatres are Eastern Front Theatre (Halifax), Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg) and One Yellow Rabbit (Calgary).
Rebecca Northan, writer and director of All I Want for Christmas, has spent her career being serious about comedy.
Centaur audiences will remember her hit show, Blind Date, from the 2019 season, but this Renaissance artist has many successes under her belt. What each of Northan’s creations has in common, whether scripted, fully improvised, or a hybrid of what she deems ‘spontaneous theatre,’ is a message of love, empathy, playfulness, and misbehaviour all wrapped in a comedic bow.
Northan’s theatrical roots can be traced back to the Loose Moose Theatre in Calgary, Alberta, where she took her first steps on stage in the improvised format, Theatresports, invented by Keith Johnstone. She also attended the University of Calgary where she studied classical theatre with Stratford Festival alumna Pamela Brook. It is this simultaneous steeping in both improvisation and Shakespeare that Northan credits with her ongoing obsession with works that are highly structured improvisations (like Blind Date).
“Pamela and Keith’s offices were side by side at the U of C, and each of them posted quotes on their doors meant to inspire. Pamela’s door had a famous quote from Hamlet, ‘the readiness is all,’ while Keith had posted ‘Don’t be prepared’ on his. I realize that ‘young me’ internalized both these quotes and they have become a guiding principle in my work.”
When Northan’s most widely recognized production, Blind Date, first started touring in 2010, she was approached by an audience member in Winnipeg who wanted to know what this style of theatre was called. At the time, Northan had no name for it, but eventually settled on the term ‘spontaneous theatre’, which has since become the name of her production company.
“I wanted a term that would reflect the writing and narrative rigour that goes into a production, while also indicating that improvisation remains a huge piece; ‘spontaneous theatre’ seemed to capture that. When I’m working on something fully scripted, like All I Want for Christmas, I still want there to be a sense of spontaneity; often I will invite actors to find their own moments to improvise something slightly different each night. I find it keeps things electric and an audience can feel it.”
This alchemy seems to be paying off. Northan has had many successes over the last decade. Undercover—in which an audience-member-turned-rookie-detective is tasked with solving a murder—has toured three major companies in Canada (Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, Calgary’s Vertigo Theatre, and the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton).
Legend Has It, a family-friendly fantasy adventure, premiered at Alberta Theatre Projects’ playRites Festival and went on to play the prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. Had the world not been shut down by COVID, Northan’s newest creation, An Undiscovered Shakespeare, would have had its world premiere at the Stratford Festival in 2020.
While many refer to Northan as the “Improv Queen of Canada,” it’s a title that she’s not quite comfortable with.
“Canada is full of amazing improvisers. So many. No kings, no queens! And, I’ve never been just an improviser. I’m always striving to bring both sides of my training to the foreground. I act, I improvise, I direct, I write, I produce—well, let’s be honest, I’ll do anything in the arts that pays me a dollar! But, as I get older, I find that I am enjoying the writer/director mantle.”
Northan’s scripted works bear her signature brand of humour and heart. Her first play, Kung Fu Panties, an ode to all-female action movies, was so popular during its Calgary run that posters were stolen from the marquee in front of the theatre.
“Slipper and Zorro were so much fun, because I was co-creating those with two of my oldest, dearest friends: Bruce Horak and Christian Goutsis. We all started our careers around the same time and have been in lots of productions together. We share a similar sense of humour, and have a shorthand that keeps the work fast and fresh. I tend to write the drafts of the script, Bruce and Christian help punch up the jokes, then they collaborate on sound design and composing. We really want the script and the music to be a full package—it makes the comedy better. We like to call ourselves “The Giggle Gang.”
“Bruce and I met in 1995 doing Shakespeare in the Park. He is my favourite human to work with, and yeah, we were even married for a short stint. We’ll always work together – he is quite possibly the most talented person I’ve ever met, and I feel so grateful that we continue to be best friends and collaborators. He’s been my sounding board on All I Want for Christmas since its inception, so I am thrilled he was available to design sound. Comedy is music, and Bruce is a genius at it. He’s going to hate me putting so much pressure on him like this, but too bad!”
All I Want for Christmas is the result of Northan seeing a 2020 Facebook post by Cape Breton artist Wesley Colford, Artistic Director of the Highland Arts Theatre. They were looking for a holiday comedy that fit these criteria: “three actors or less, preferably Canadian, preferably written by a woman.” While several replies suggested ‘no such play exists,’ Northan messaged Colford immediately offering to write something for them.
Christmas was my mom’s favourite time of year
“We were in the middle of our second lockdown, so the timing could not have been better. Christmas was my mom’s favourite time of year—she passed away in 1996—so the character of Marge is named for her. I like to put all kinds of personal truths in my plays. I won’t tell you ALL of them—I’ve got to keep some secrets—but things like Marge working at an answering service in high school or numbers making her cry, those are things that are absolutely true about ME. The audience can have fun guessing what else might be true… or not true!”
“I feel a bit guilty as the director. These actors are so good, so skilled, so FUNNY, I feel like I really don’t have to do much at all. I make the tiniest suggestion and they run with it. I spend all of my time in rehearsal wiping tears out of my eyes, I’m laughing so hard… until I’m weeping a bit because they’ve moved me so deeply. They’re amazing.”
Northan will return to Montreal in February to teach at the National Theatre School of Canada. This will be her second year offering a section on improvisation to the first year students. When asked about future plans, she offers, “I’m doing a bit of online teaching for the Stratford Festival, and I’m writing a new one-woman show, called Burning Down the House, about how the women of GenX are dealing with menopause.
Eda Holmes has been mentoring me and once I cough up a draft, she’ll dramaturg and direct… I hope! Beyond that, who knows?! Some film and TV if I’m lucky. Only the theatre gods know for sure.”
We’re Back … Live @ Centaur!
We are thrilled to finally be back and offer an actual season of theatre. We have two mainstage plays as we introduce a new and convenient way to enjoy a year of live theatre through the new Go Live @ Centaur membership program. Associate Artist, Rose Plotek, will direct a third mainstage production and we hope to announce a fourth play, once the season is underway. Stay tuned for those exciting announcements.
Loads of Laughs for the Holidays
From November 16 to December 5, the mischievous Rebecca Northan directs her latest play, All I Want for Christmas. Settle in for hysterical holiday humour as the smooth-running North Pole is thrown into chaos when an unexpected “outsider” breaches Santa’s mailroom on a young elf’s first night on the job.
Centaur Makes Theatre History
From January 25 to February 13, Centaur Theatre collaborates with the prestigious Théâtre du Nouveau Monde for the very first time to co-produce English and French productions of Michel Marc Bouchard’s new play, Kisses Deep, translated by Linda Gaboriau. Centaur’s Artistic Director, Eda Holmes directs both productions in this touching story about a young man who worships Yves St-Laurent. A devoted son, he knows he can design the perfect outfit to redeem his mother’s character for her day in court.
The 2021 Brave New Looks Selection
September 2 to 11, the Imago Theatre/Onishka co-production of Okinum, kicks off the 53rd season. Indigenous writer, co-director and performer, Émilie Monnet presents a captivating, immersive experience as she learns how to trust in the power of dreams and intuition. In English, French and Anishnaabemowin. Very limited seating; click HERE for tickets.
The Portico Project Returns for a 2nd Year
We liven up St-François-Xavier with our second annual outdoor event. This year’s iteration presents a dynamic 20-minute, multi-disciplinary event from September 23 to October 2,
exploring the nature of reciprocation, resulting in the celebration of what we can each bring to the table.
AND, Boca del Lupo partners with us again with 5 Box sets of short, homegrown Plays2perform@Home with friends and family. The Montreal Box Set, featuring 4 local playwrights, is available for purchase at Portico or you can buy all 5 sets online.
Have You Got Your Membership Yet?
Memberships are the best and most flexible way to save big, have first choice of the best available seats along with other great perks! Adults pay $75, Seniors (65+) $62 and Under 30s only $40 for the season and that includes FREE admission to your first play selection!
Click HERE to purchase your membership today.
But Wait, There’s More …
Sign up for our Newsletter and follow us on social media for news about upcoming Saturday Salons, the TD Saturday Morning Children’s Series, staged play readings and more.
Plus … the Wildside Festival turns 25 this January so you know that’s going to be a blow-out celebration of ground-breaking theatre! Be on high alert for Wildside 25 updates.
What else can we say except that we can’t wait to see you again for the long-overdue return to theatre … LIVE @ Centaur!
Top banner image illustration by Matt Gagnon 2021.