REFLECTING AND EXPLORING LIFE IN 21ST CENTURY QUÉBEC (In English)
Infinithéâtre’s stages exciting, entertaining, relevant theatre that explores and reflects the issues, challenges and possibilities of contemporary Québec from the perspective of its diverse English-language minority. Our work is driven by the fundamental belief that theatre that speaks to and about the lives, the hopes and the tragedies of its home community has the best possibility of creating an electric connection between stage and audience that is the essence of great theatre.
Infinithéâtre is the one theatre in Québec (in French or English!) whose mission is to develop, promote, produce and broker only plays written or adapted by Québec writers and Indigenous writers from within the territory called Canada. We do this, because we believe fundamentally that producing our own writers will generate subject matter and themes relevant to Montréal and Québec and result in the strongest possible engagement and live interaction with our audience.
150 years ago, Montreal was the acknowledged centre of power and finance for all of Canada. Fifty years ago, with writers like Hugh MacLennan, Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen, Montréal was still the creative engine of the English Canadian Literary scene. The Quiet Revolution, the Québec independence movement, the great Anglo Exodus of 1970’s, the rise of Toronto as the metropolis of Canada and the financial bonanza of the hydrocarbon exploitation in the West, totally metamorphosed Canada and left English-language Montréalers wondering if we are outliers on the fringe of Mainstream Canada.
Who are we, the English-language writers and theatre workers of Québec, now? Increasingly we are culturally-diverse-minority-language-proudly-English-Québecker-Canadians. Infinithéâtre tries, with our work, to reflect this unique existential nexus.
Québec is our home. We are comfortable with, even proud to be part of, the distinct society of Québec. Infinithéâtre refers to itself as, ‘Le théâtre Québecois in English”. Just read the article I wrote for Le Devoir on this subject. Some of the Tsunami of comments my article provoked will illustrate how confusing it can be to be an English–language Québecker:
(The Montreal Gazette printed a translated version of the Devoir article.)
Infinithéâtre has, on occasion, crossed the language divide. The Jean Duceppe Theatre Company translated our world premiere of Trevor Ferguson’s play, “Long, Long, Short, Long” and produced it as, “Le Pont”, for the their subscription season in Place des Arts. More recently, when we premiered Alyson Grant’s play, “Conversion”, we ran French surtitles on some nights, attracting French-speaking audiences, a practice we would eventually like to normalize. This last spring, Howard Rosenstein, star of our long-running “Kafka’s Ape”, performed the Herculean task of learning the play in French so we could tour “Le Singe de Kafka” to French Maisons de la Culture in Montreal.
A second fundamental axiom in Infinithéâtre’s drive to stage exciting theatre is our belief that performing in non-traditional venues heightens and focuses the audience's attention and renders the whole experience more alive. A non-traditional venue gives a play both context and subtext.
Our focus on new plays has, of necessity, demanded we focus on script development. We have three separate tactics, methodologies of trying to discover, encourage and develop great new plays. Write-On-Q!, is our annual playwriting competition. With total prize money of $5,000 it is the single most valuable literary competition in English Québec. Many Québec playwrights now admit they synchronize their creative writing clocks to the Tuesday after Labour Day, the annual deadline for our competition. WOQ! has, over the years, delivered much of Infinithéâtre’s programming.
The Pipeline, our year-end public reading series, features the winning plays from WOQ! alongside the Artistic Director’s selection of other exciting unproduced plays. Public discussions follow each of the play readings, with the feedback and audience reaction helping us develop the plays and program future seasons.
With official endorsements from virtually the entire Québec English-language theatre community, Infinithéâtre has also inaugurated an in-house playwrights’ unit. The Unit has been a stunning success, with four of the seven plays developed in our first 2016 cohort given full productions by four other theatre companies.
A third fundamental axiom underlying Infinithéâtre programming is our conviction that we need to reach out to, and dialogue with, senior high school and college students. Action Infini is our highly-developed school outreach program with teachers’ kits and in-class and post show discussions. We also, when possible, take our work directly to schools. We think it is vitally important to build future audiences for theatre. This is Infinithéâtre:
--Great new plays that come from and speak to our community
--Non-traditional performance venues
--Reaching out to senior high school and college audiences.