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Canadian actors

Denise Pelletier | Jean Duceppe | Gilles Pelletier | Jean-Louis Roux | Hélène Loiselle |
Monique Mercure | Gabriel Arcand | Marc Béland | Pascale Montpetit |Sylvie Drapeau

Denise Pelletier (1923-1976)

© André Le Coz
Denise Pelletier (left) playing the title role in Iphigénie by Jean Racine, NCT, 1964. Also on the photo: Françoise Graton and Anne Lauriault.

Title: Iphigénie

Playwright: Jean Racine

Production: Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale, 1964

Director: Georges Groulx

Set and costumes: François Barbeau

Lighting: Gatien Payette.

Denise Pelletier participated in the emergence of our major national theatres.  An actress with a proud bearing, she studied acting at the Montreal Repertory Theatre and quickly got parts on stage and in radio dramas.  She was part of the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde adventure, acting in its very first play alongside Jean Gascon in L'Avare by Molière (1951).  An ardent supporter of the classical and modern repertoires, she is one of the rare actresses of her day to perform both in French and in English. She left an indelible mark with her interpretation of Mère Courage (1966) by Brecht, and Winnie in Oh! les beaux jours (1972) by Beckett.  On television, she was featured in many series, including La Famille Plouffe.  On stage, she played leading female roles such as Phaedra and Marguerite Gautier (the famous Lady of the Camelias) and participated in the creation of Bonjour, là, bonjour (1974) by Michel Tremblay and Le Temps des lilas (1958) and Les Beaux Dimanches (1965) by Marcel Dubé.  In 1977, the Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale, founded by her brother Gilles, was renamed Théâtre Denise-Pelletier in her honor; the performing arts prize awarded annually by the Quebec government also bears her name.

About Denise Pelletier:

  • Denise Pelletier ou la folie du théâtre, Micheline Lafrance, Éditions Scriptomédia.

Featuring Denise Pelletier at the NFB:

  • Côté cour, côté jardin… (1953), Roger Blais, 25 min.; documentary, excerpts from L’Avare by Molière at the TNM; also featured are Jean Gascon, Jean-Louis Roux, and Jean Duceppe.
  • Night Cap (1974), André Forcier, 36 min.

In repertory cinema, Denise Pelletier plays:

  • Germaine in Ti-Coq (1953), René Delacroix and Gratien Gélinas, 104 min.
  • Madame Gendron in Bingo (1974), Jean-Claude Lord, 113 min.

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Jean Duceppe (1923-1990)

© François Brunelle
Jean Duceppe playing Willy Loman in Mort d'un commis voyageur (Death of a Salesman) by Arthur Miller, Compagnie Jean Duceppe, 1973-1974 season.

Title: Mort d'un commis voyageur (Death of a Salesman)

Playwright: Arthur Miller

Translation: Éric Cahane

Production: Compagnie Jean Duceppe, 1973-1974 season

Director: Paul Hébert

Set and costumes: Paul Bussières

Lighting: Denis Mailloux.

Born to a Montreal family of 18 children living in a working-class neighborhood, Jean Duceppe became the most beloved of Quebec actors.  At the age of 17, he was hired by the Troupe de l'Arcade; in the following years, this workaholic played a plethora of characters – around 160 – including the unforgettable Willy Loman in La mort d'un commis voyageur by Arthur Miller, which he played five times between 1962 et 1983, and Duplessis in Charbonneau et le Chef (1971, 1973, 1986) by John Thomas McDonough.  During his early theatre days, it was not unusual for him to play 14 shows per week!  With the arrival of television in 1952, he participated in countless television dramas, shot live, and in many series, including La Famille Plouffe.  He hosted over 100 variety shows and radio shows, gaining a reputation as a brilliant polemist.  En 1971, he played the lead in Mon Oncle Antoine, Claude Jutra’s cinematographic masterpiece. As well as being president of the Union des artistes from 1957 to 1959, he founded the Compagnie Jean Duceppe in 1973, which settled into the Théâtre Port-Royal of Place des Arts. In 1991, the hall was renamed Théâtre Jean-Duceppe.

About Jean Duceppe:

Featuring Jean Duceppe at the NFB:

  • Mon Oncle Antoine (1971), Claude Jutra, 110 min.
  • 150 par jour (1953), Donald Peters, 26 min.; dramatized documentary.

In repertory cinema, Jean Duceppe plays:

  • Victor in Les Beaux Dimanches (1974), directed by Richard Martin, written by Marcel Dubé, 93 min.

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Gilles Pelletier (1925)

© André Le Coz
Gilles Pelletier as Joseph Latour in Un simple soldat (An Ordinary Soldier) by Marcel Dubé, during the play’s remounting at the Comédie Canadienne in 1967. Also on the photo: Élisabeth LeSieur.

Title: Un simple soldat(An Ordinary Soldier)

Playwright: Marcel Dubé

Production : Comédie Canadienne, 1967

Director: Jacques Létourneau

Set: Jean-Claude Rinfret

Music: Claude Léveillée.

Gilles Pelletier has contributed in a major way to the development of Quebec theatre. While enrolled in the navy, destiny stepped in and led him, in 1945, to the theatre company L'Équipe, directed by Pierre Dagenais.  He went on to perform over 100 roles in plays as diverse as Britannicus (1949) by Racine, La Nuit des rois (1956) by Shakespeare, and À toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou (1974) by Michel Tremblay.  On télévision, he played key characters such as Capitaine Aubert in Cap-aux-sorciers and Xavier Galarneau in L’Héritage by Victor Lévy-Beaulieu.  In 1964, along with Françoise Graton and Georges Groulx, he founded the Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale whose primary vocation was to produce theatre for students.  It is also where Gilles Pelletier made his directorial debut.  Among his most memorable roles is that of Joseph Latour in Un Simple soldat (1967) by Marcel Dubé, a major work in Quebec dramaturgy.  He played the lead role twice in Dom Juan (1966 and 1972) and was an admirable Max in Le Retour (1992) by Harold Pinter, at the Théâtre de la Veillée.  He appeared in numerous movies, notably the famous I Confess, filmed in 1953, in Quebec City, by Alfred Hitchcock and in Jésus de Montréal (1989) by Denys Arcand.

Featuring Gilles Pelletier, in video stores:

  • Révérend Leclerc in Jésus de Montréal (1989), Denys Arcand, 119 min.

At the NFB:

  • Anticosti - Au temps des Menier (1999), Jean-Claude Labrecque, 50 min.; dramatized documentary.

In repertory cinema, Gilles Pelletier plays:

  • Pierre in Bingo (1974), Jean-Claude Lord, 113 min.
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    Jean-Louis Roux (1923)

    © Robert Etcheverry
    Jean-Louis Roux (centre), Marc Béland, and Jean-Louis Millette in Le Roi Lear (King Lear) by Shakespeare, TNM, 1992.

    Title: Le Roi Lear (King Lear)

    Playwright: William Shakespeare

    Translation: Jean-Louis Roux

    Production: Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, 1991-1992 season

    Director: Jean Asselin

    Set design: Danièle Lévesque

    Costumes: François Barbeau

    Lighting: Michel Beaulieu

    Props: Jean-Marie Guay

    Music: Bernard Bonnier.

    With a 60-year career in theatre, Jean-Louis Roux is a history book unto himself! Past member of the Compagnons de Saint-Laurent, he and his colleagues Jean Gascon and Guy Hoffman founded the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde in 1951; he was its artistic director from 1966 to 1982.  Known for his impeccable diction and his classic style of acting, this versatile actor has played Louis Lane in L'Échange (1956) by Paul Claudel, Vania in Oncle Vania (1983), Titus in Bérénice by Racine (1968), and a convincing Géronte in Les Fourberies de Scapin (1986).  He is also a translator and director and has staged over 50 shows, including Bois Brulé (1967), his own text about the heroic life of Louis Riel.  Some will also recall his portrayal of Ovide in the television series, La Famille Plouffe. He has held many key positions within the country’s cultural organizations, such as director of the National Theatre School of Canada (1987-1982) and chair of the Canada Council for the Arts (1998-2003).  He has also played an important role on the political scene: he was a senator from 1994 to 1996 and, briefly, Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec in 1996. 

    By Jean-Louis Roux, his autobiography:

    • Nous sommes tous des acteurs, Éditions Lescop, Montreal, 1997.

    Featuring Jean-Louis Roux at the NFB:

    • Tinamer (1987), Jean-Guy Noël, 87 min.; adaptation of L’Amélanchier by Jacques Ferron.
    • Salut Victor (1988), Anne-Claire Poirier, 83 min.; adaptation of the short story Matthew and Chauncey by Canadian author Edward O’Phillips.

    In repertory cinema, Jean-Louis Roux plays:

    • Père Prenant in Éclair au chocolat (1979), Jean-Claude Lord, 107 min.

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    Hélène Loiselle (1928)

    © André Cornellier
    Hélène Loiselle playing Marie-Lou in À toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou(Forever Yours, Marie-Lou) by Michel Tremblay, Théâtre de Quat’ Sous production, 1971.

    Title: À toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou(Forever Yours, Marie-Lou)

    Playwright: Michel Tremblay

    Production: Théâtre de Quat’ Sous, 1971

    Director: André Brassard – Set design: Paul Buissonneau – Lighting: Marcel Gosselin – Costumes: François Laplante.

    Since 1945, Hélène Loiselle has pursued her career with continuing artistic commitment. She began her acting training under the masters of that period, such as François Rozet and Jan Doat, before joining the Compagnons de Saint-Laurent. In 1952, she travelled to France to perfect her art.  She took part in several major Quebec creations such as Bousille et les justes (1959) by Gratien Gélinas, Les Belles-Sœurs (1968) and À toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou (1971) by Michel Tremblay, in which she played the devastating Marie-Louise alongside her husband, actor Lionel Villeneuve.  She has performed on all the great stages of Montreal, from the TNM to the Rideau Vert. She is also very keen about participating in new works: she played in the daring Rêves (2001) by Wajdi Mouawad, in Larry Tremblay’s solo play La Leçon d'anatomie (1992), and in the dance-theatre performance of De Julia à Émilie 1949 (2002), directed by choreographer Estelle Clareton.  On screen, she appeared in Les Ordres by Michel Brault, among others.  She was an unforgettable Albertine in the premiere of En pièces détachées (1969) by Michel Tremblay and acted in Les Chaises by Ionesco (2000), directed by Paul Buissonneau.

    Featuring Hélène Loiselle, in video stores:

    • Madame Faucher in Post Mortem (1999), Louis Bélanger, 92 minutes.
    • Yvonne in La Bouteille (2000), Alain Desrochers, 107 min.

    At the NFB:

    • Marie Boudreau in Les Ordres (1974), Michel Brault, 109 min.
    • Madame Poulin in Mon Oncle Antoine (1971), Claude Jutra, 110 min.
    • Françoise Durocher, waitress (1972), André Brassard (screenplay by Brassard and Michel Tremblay), 29 min.; also featured are Monique Mercure and many other outstanding Quebec actresses.

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    Monique Mercure (1930)

    © André Le Coz
    Pierre Curzi and Monique Mercure – playing Anna Fierling – in Mère Courageet ses enfants (Mother Courage and Her Children) by Bertolt Brecht, NCT, 1984.

    Title: Mère Courage et ses enfants(Mother Courage and Her Children) – Playwright: Bertolt Brecht

    Translation: Gilbert Turp

    Production: Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale, 1983-1984 season

    Director: Jean-Luc Bastien

    Costumes: Michel-André Thibault

    Set and lighting: Pierre Labonté

    Music: Pierre Moreau.

    Monique Mercure, a woman who would devote over 40 years to the performing arts, started off her career as a concert cellist.  An autodidact, she completed her training in schools, such as Lecoq’s (1957-1958), and through her work with various directors.  She has performed the classical and modern repertoires as well as Quebec playwrights. She played in Les Troyennes (1993) by Euripides at the TNM and Émilie ne sera plus jamais cueillie par l'anémone (1981 and 1883) by Michel Garneau.  One of the rare actresses to have played all three roles in Jean Genet’s Les Bonnes over the course of her career, she has also performed in many plays in both French and English, notably the works of Brecht, such as L’Opéra de Quat'Sous which she did three times (1960, 1961, 1991).  She forever touched the imagination of Quebecers with her brilliant portrayal of Albertine at age 70 in Albertine en cinq temps (1995 and 2000) by Michel Tremblay, directed by Martine Beaulne.  Her impressive film credits include movies with greats such as Altman, Chabrol, Jutra, and Simoneau.  She directed the National Theatre School of Canada from 1991 to 2002. 

    Featuring Monique Mercure, in video stores:

    • Mireille in Dans le ventre du dragon (1989), Yves Simoneau, 100 min.

    At the NFB:

    • Rose-Aimée Martin in J.A. Martin, Photographe (1976), Jean Beaudin, 101 min.
    • Alexandrine in Mon Oncle Antoine (1971), Claude Jutra, 110 min.

    Repertory cinema:

    • Barbara in À tout prendre (1964), Claude Jutra, 99 min.

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    Gabriel Arcand (1949)

    © Guy Borremans
    Gabriel Arcand playing the title role in Moi, Feuerbach by Tankred Dorst, Théâtre de La Veillée, 1995.

    Title: Moi, Feuerbach

    Playwright: Tankred Dorst

    Production: Théâtre de la Veillée, 1995.

    Director: Théo Spychalsky

    Set design and lighting: Volodymir Kovalchuk

    Costumes: Gilles-François Therrien.

    Gabriel Arcand’s journey can be seen as a true quest - indeed, this great actor has not followed a conventional career plan. In 1967, he made his debut with La Roulotte, a travelling theatre directed by Paul Buissonneau.  He then completed a master’s degree in philosophy before setting off for Marseille where he studied with Antoine Bourseiller to perfect his training. A man of theatre deeply influenced by the ideas of Grotowski, he took a workshop at the Polish Laboratory Theatre, in 1973.  In 1974, he founded the Groupe de la Veillée which, since 1984, has owned its own space, renamed Théâtre Prospero in 1999. With this company, Arcand has directed plays, including Crime et Châtiment (1991) by Dostoïevski, and performed major roles: Prince Mychkine in an adaptation of L'Idiot (1983) by the same author, the protagonist in Le Roi se meurt by Ionesco (1994), Till l’espiègle / Le Journal de Nijinski (1982), Artaud / Tête-à-tête (1990), and the lead in Moi, Feuerbach (1995) by Tankred Dorst.  An major screen actor, he has appeared in over 25 films, notably Le Crime d’Ovide Plouffe (1985) by his brother Denys Arcand.

    About Gabriel Arcand:

    • “Le territoire de l’intuition”, interview by Josette Féral in Mise en scène et jeu de l'acteur, tome 2, Éditions Jeu-Lansman, 1998, p. 253-256.

    Featuring Gabriel Arcand, in video stores:

    • Ghislain O’Brien in Post Mortem (1999), Louis Bélanger, 92 min.
    • Mario in Le Déclin de l’empire américain (1985), Denys Arcand, 101 min.

    At the NFB:

    • Ovide Plouffe in Le Crime d’Ovide Plouffe (1984), Denys Arcand, 106 min.
    • Alain Courtemanche in L’Affaire Coffin (1980), Jean-Claude Labrecque, 107 min.
    • Hervé in L’âge de la machine (1978), Gilles Carle, 28 min.
    • Ovide Plouffe in Les Plouffe (1981), Gilles Carle, 227 min.

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    Marc Béland (1958)

    © Bruno Braën
    Marc Béland (right) in the title role of Caligula by Albert Camus, NCT, 1993. Also on the photo: Jean Petitclerc.

    Title: Caligula

    Playwright: Albert Camus

    Production: Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale, 1992-1993 season

    Director: Brigitte Haentjens

    Set design: Stéphane Roy

    Costumes: Ginette Noiseux

    Lighting: Michel Beaulieu

    Music: Claire Gignac.

    A major actor of his generation, Marc Béland completed his acting training at the Lionel-Groulx cégep in 1978. His career took off when he played the lead in Victor ou les enfants au pouvoir (1980) and Hippocanthrope (1979), both directed by Jean-Pierre Ronfard at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. Preferring art to success, he then travelled to the Orient. Upon his return, he was hired as a dancer in the company La la la Human Steps, directed by Édouard Lock, from 1984 to 1989.  On stage, he participated in the remounting of Being at Home With Claude (1988) by René-Daniel Dubois.  He took on the role of Hamlet twice: in the classic Shakespeare version at the TNM, in 1990, and in Heiner Müller’s cutting-edge Hamlet Machine (2001), directed by Brigitte Haentjens.  His artistic encounter with Haentjens was a defining moment in his career; she directed him in Quartett (1996) by Müller, Bérénice (1992) by Racine, and Caligula (1993) by Camus, a true triumph for the actor.  Marc Béland played in the irreverent collective piece Cabaret neiges noires (1992), one of the most influential shows of the 1980s.  As well as having worked with prestigious directors like André Brassard, Robert Lepage, Lorraine Pintal, and Denis Marleau, he himself has directed, notably Règlement de contes (1995) by Yvan Bienvenue and Dévoilement devant notaire (2002) by Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf.

    Featuring Marc Béland, in video stores:

    • Prince Guillaume in Alice Tremblay (2002), Denise Filiatrault, 102 min.
    • Soldat Loïc in La Veuve de Saint-Pierre (2000), Patrice Leconte, 112 min.

    At the NFB:

    • The dealer in L’Éternel et le brocanteur (2002), Michel Murray, 38 min.

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    Pascale Montpetit (1961)

    © Richard-Max Tremblay
    Pascale Montpetit and Pierre Lebeau in Quelqu'un va venir (Someone is Going to Come) by Jon Fosse, NAC, and Ubu, compagnie de création, 2002.

    Title: Quelqu'un va venir(Someone is Going to Come)

    Playwright: Jon Fosse

    Production: National Arts Centre French Theatre and Ubu, compagnie de création, 2002

    Director: Denis Marleau

    Set design: Denis Marleau

    Music: Denis Gougeon

    Costumes: Daniel Fortin

    Lighting: Stéphane Jolicoeur.

    A figurehead for a generation of actors launching their careers in the 1980s, Pascale Montpetit has performed over 30 roles on stage.  Shortly after graduating from the Conservatoire d'art dramatique de Montréal in 1985, she began working with major directors such as Gilles Maheu in Hamlet Machine (1978) and Le Dortoir (1988-1989), Denis Marleau in Cantate grise (1990) by Samuel Beckett, André Brassard in Des Restes humains non-identifiés... (1991) by Brad Fraser, and Serge Denoncourt in Le Temps et la Chambre (1995) by Botho Strauss.  At the Nouveau Théâtre Expérimental, she took part in the creation of À Beloeil ou ailleurs (1986) and Les Mots (1998), to name a few; she has been directed by the late Robert Gravel and the late Jean-Pierre Ronfard. With her characteristic childlike and determined air, she launched herself into the universe of Réjean Ducharme in Ines Péré et Inat Tendu (1991), and put her personal stamp on the lead role in Marie Stuart by Darcia Maraini (1999).  On screen, she is known for her work with Charles Binamé in Eldorado (1994), Le Coeur au poing (1997), and La Beauté de Pandore (1999).

    Featuring Pascale Montpetit, in video stores:

    • Henriette in Eldorado (1994), Charles Binamé, 104 min.
    • Charlotte in L’invention de l’amour (2000), Claude Demers, 87 min.
    • Loise in Le Cœur au poing (1998), Charles Binamé, 97 min.

    At the NFB:

    • Ceci n’est pas Einstein (2003), Catherine Fol, 52 min.

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    Sylvie Drapeau (1962)

    © Yves Renaud
    Sylvie Drapeau playing the lead in La Locandiera by Carlo Goldoni, TNM, 1993.

    Title: La Locandiera

    Playwright: Carlo Goldoni

    Translation: Marco Micone

    Production: Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, 1993

    Director: Martine Beaulne

    Costumes: Jean-Yves Cadieux

    Set design: Claude Goyette

    Lighting: Michel Beaulieu.

    Sylvie Drapeau is one of the most important Quebec actresses of her time.  She has succeeded in becoming well-loved by a large audience while continuing to practice her art without compromise.  Director René Richard Cyr was the first to hire her upon her graduation from the National Theatre School of Canada, in his production of Donut (1986) by Jean-François Caron. Since then, Cyr has directed this Baie-Comeau native over a dozen times, notably in two memorable Michel Tremblay  productions: Bonjour, là, bonjour (1987) and En pièces détachées (1994).  She starred in Elvire Jouvet 40 (1988), took part in the creation of La Répétition (1990) by Dominic Champagne, and played in Traces d’étoiles (1992) by Cindy Lou Johnson.  Another important artistic encounter for Drapeau was with Martine Beaulne who offered her two choice roles: the lead in La Locandiera (1993) by Goldoni, where she took on the comedic genre with gusto, and 30-year-old Albertine in Albertine en cinq temps (1995) by Tremblay.  In Bérénice (1992) by Racine, she worked with Brigitte Haentjens who also directed her in Oh! les beaux jours (1990) by Beckett – where she successfully took on the challenge of performing a monologue, just as she did again in La Voix humaine (1999) by Jean Cocteau, directed by Alice Ronfard.

    Featuring Sylvie Drapeau, in video stores:

    • Henriette De Lorimier in 15 février 1839 (2001), Pierre Falardeau, 120 min.
    • Marie-Madeleine in Les Fantômes des trois Madeleine (2000), Guylaine Dionne, 81 min.

    At the NFB:

    • Michèle in Le Sexe des étoiles (1993), Paule Baillargeon, 103 min.

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    On a final note, here are some other actors and actresses who could be added to the list we have presented to you:

    Gabriel Gascon, Jacques Godin, Gérard Poirier, Jean-Louis Millette, Gilles Renaud, Michel Dumont, Robert Gravel, Paul Savoie, Guy Nadon, Normand Chouinard, Rémy Girard, Pierre Lebeau, Alexis Martin, François Papineau;

    Yvette Brind’amour, Janine Sutto, Françoise Faucher, Andrée Lachapelle, Monique Miller, Rita Lafontaine, Louise Marleau, Luce Guilbault, Louise Turcot, Élyse Guilbeault, Marie-France Marcotte, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Isabelle Blais.