“I want to support Canadian playwrights. I prefer not to see plays that I’ve seen in other North American cities. I want to see something specific to Montreal, delve into the lives of people living here.”
Miriam Roland likes to learn. When she moved to Montreal from California in 1978, she was determined to absorb as much information, history and culture about Montreal and Quebec as she could—and going to the theatre was a great way to quench that thirst for knowledge about her new home.
The first play she saw at Centaur was David Fennario’s Balconville, one of her all-time favourite productions. She dove head first into working class French-Canadian culture that night and learned a lot from the play … and it kept her coming back for more great theatre ever since!
Aside from seeing lots of theatre, Miriam is a voracious reader and regularly attends lectures on a wide range of topics, but the theatre is her favourite way to broaden her knowledge. “A play takes less time than reading a book but is longer than a lecture, except when watching a performance time flies by because it’s entertaining. It holds my attention; at least I expect it to.”
A play’s content is the most important element of the theatre-going experience for Miriam. It provokes reflection and gives her a glimpse into other facets of society. She has to feel emotionally connected to the story and its characters. “I want to feel empathy for them, even if they’re nasty people.”
Experiencing the World Through Theatre
Miriam likes discovering the commonalities and uniqueness of characters. She enjoys finding what she shares in common with them and what is distinct about them; seeing how they confront their problems and how their ideas and actions inform her own life. Vittorio Rossi’s A Carpenter’s Trilogy illustrated how different Montreal-Italians are from Italians in San Francisco, where she used to live. Watching Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Miriam lived the deep disappointment and frustration of a hardworking Black family being held down by racism. From Annabel Soutar’s docu-drama, Seeds, Miriam felt the struggle of Canadian farmers drowning in a sea of domineering industrial farming operations.
The trials of a play’s characters teach Miriam and introduce her to people that she would not necessarily have the opportunity to meet, like the wonderfully colourful women of Michel Tremblay’s Les Belles Soeurs. Miriam also takes in theatre on her travels. She said she learned much more about life in Newfoundland from three plays she saw there during a short visit than she would have from reading a book or attending a lecture.
Miriam has countless outstanding Centaur memories including a night when the house lights came up after the second act and police came in to remove people from the row in front of her—and then the play carried on as if nothing had happened. That inquisitive mind of hers sure would like to get to the bottom of that little incident. She adored Michel Tremblay’s For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, translated by Linda Gaboriau. “Again, it taught me more about French-Canadian culture. I loved the way he described his mother; it was so beautiful. The story was universal, but also very specific, and had a very dramatic ending.” The most powerful play Miriam has seen at Centaur is Scorched by the Lebanese-Canadian playwright, actor and director, Wajdi Mouawad, also translated by Linda Gaboriau. “It was the only time in the theatre that I heard the audience gasp!”
Whenever she can, Miriam takes advantage of ancillary activities such as the lively post-show talkbacks with the cast. Her naturally curious mind just soaks those up with relish. As a long-time loyal subscriber, Miriam also appreciates the flexibility of being able to change the dates of her tickets on short notice.
Cementing Her Legacy
We’re very proud that Miriam decided to become a long-term legacy contributor to Centaur Theatre. Her reasons? “I want to support Canadian playwrights. I prefer not to see plays that I’ve seen in other North American cities. I want to see something specific to Montreal, delve into the lives of people living here. My legacy gift affirms my support of Canadian theatre and my faith that Montreal audiences will continue to go to Centaur for its broad choice of plays and high level of performance.”