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Produced by National Arts Centre Théâtre français

Canadian directors

Jean Gascon | Paul Buissonneau | Jean-Pierre Ronfard | André Brassard | Gilles Maheu |
Brigitte Haentjens | Lorraine Pintal | Denis Marleau | Robert Lepage | Serge Denoncourt

Jean Gascon (1921-1988)

© TNM, photo by Henri Paul
Jean Gascon in L'Avare (The Miser) by Molière, TNM, 1963.

Title: L'Avare (The Miser)

Playwright: Molière

Production: Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, 1963

Director: Jean Gascon

Set: Mark Negin

Costumes: François Barbeau.

Regarded as a pioneer in the history of professional theatre in Quebec, Jean Gascon is among the founders of two of the most important theatre institutions in Canada. A medical student and amateur actor with the Compagnons de Saint-Laurent troupe, Jean Gascon pursued his training as an actor in France after the war at the École du Vieux Colombier. He returned to Montreal in 1951 and founded the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (TNM) along with Jean-Louis Roux, Éloi de Grandmont, Gabriel Gascon, Georges Groulx, and Guy Hoffmann. The TNM quickly gained acclaim and the plays that Gascon directed, especially those by Molière, like La Jalousie du barbouillé (1955) and Le Malade imaginaire (1958), toured in France. Gascon, an actor with a deep, basso voice often acted at the TNM – notably in L’Avare and Richard II – and mounted some of the classics by Shakespeare, Tchekhov, and Claudel.  In 1960, he co-founded the National Theatre School, which he directed for three years.  From 1968 to 1974, he was the first Canadian to run the Stratford Festival in Ontario where he directed over 25 productions, establishing the Festival’s national and international reputation.  From 1977 to 1984, he was the director of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Comparible with Jouvet in France and Laurence Olivier in England, Jean Gascon will be remembered as an important figure in Canadian theatre.

© TNM, photo by Henri Paul
Jean Gascon and Jean-Louis Roux in Richard II by Shakespeare, TNM, 1962.

Title: Richard II

Playwright: William Shakespeare

Translation: Jean-Louis Roux

Production: Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, 1962-1963 season

Director: Jean Gascon

Set and costumes: Robert Prévost

Music: Gabriel Charpentier

Fight director: Georges Carrère.

Featuring Jean Gascon:

  • Côté cour, côté jardin… (1953), Roger Blais, 25 min.; documentary, excerpts from L’Avare by Molière at the TNM; also featuring Denise Pelletier, Jean-Louis Roux, and Jean Duceppe.

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Paul Buissonneau (1926)

© Christian Desrochers
Paul Buissonneau

Paul Buissonneau could be considered the father of contemporary stage-directing in Quebec.  Born in France where he trained under Léon Chancerel and Hubert Gignoux, this larger-than-life individual arrived in Canada in 1950 with the Compagnons de la chanson.  For a generation of television viewers, he will always be known as Picolo, a whimsical character influenced by the commedia dell’arte. Buissonneau is also known for La Roulotte, a travelling theatre that launched the careers of many talented artists such as Yvon Deschamps, Clémence Desrochers, and Gabriel Arcand. In 1955, he co-founded the Compagnie du Théâtre de Quat'Sous which, in 1965, moved into an old synagogue on Pine Avenue in Montreal. An imaginative director, Paul Buissonneau was positively daring in his approach to the stage; his love of theatre and creative playfulness were brought to life in his treatment of Orion le tueur (1955), La tour Eiffel qui tue (1956, 1976), Théâtre de chambre (1977) by Jean Tardieu, Faut tuer la vieille (1969) by Dario Fo, Les Chaises (2000) by Ionesco, and Le Cabaret des mots (2002), a collage of texts by surrealist poet Jean Tardieu. Buissonneau, who calls himself a theatre “tinkerer,” has written about his life in Comptes de ma mémoire.

© André Cornellier
Jean-Pierre Cartier, Louis de Santis, Ève Gagnier, Claude Gai, Mireille Lachance, Jean Marchand, Roger Mikael, Jean-Louis Millette, Franciso O'Laechea, Christine Olivier, Jacques Rossy, François Tassé, and Carmen Tremblay in Orion le tueur by Jean-Pierre Grenier and Maurice Fombeure, Théâtre de Quat’ Sous, 1975.

Title: Orion le tueur

Playwrights: Jean-Pierre Grenier and Maurice Fombeure

Production: Théâtre de Quat’ Sous, 1975 – Director: Paul Buissonneau

Costumes: François Barbeau

Set and lighting: Michel Catudal

Makeup: Jacques Lafleur.

By Paul Buissonneau:

  • Comptes de ma mémoire : à lire tout haut, Stanké.

About Paul Buissonneau:

  • Paul Buissonneau ou la vigoureuse impatience, Jean-Marie Bioteau and Olivier Lasser, Lanctôt.

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Jean-Pierre Ronfard (1929-2003)

© Hubert Fielden
Jean-Pierre Ronfard directing a rehearsal of Vie et mort du Roi Boiteux at Espace Libre around 1981

Having touched all facets of the theatre – writing, acting, directing, teaching –, Jean-Pierre Ronfard readily called himself a “jolly pilferer.”  Born in the north of France, he studied linguistics and philosophy.  He came to Montreal in 1960 at the invitation of the burgeoning National Theatre School to run its French section.  He then worked as a drama advisor at the TNM and, in 1975, founded the Théâtre expérimental de Montréal with Robert Claing, Robert Gravel, and Pol Pelletier.  The group’s disbanding in 1979 gave way to the Nouveau Théâtre Expérimental (NTE), located at the Espace libre as of 1981. While at the NTE, Ronfard wrote and staged a number of productions including Vie et mort du roi boiteux (1982), a playful and resolutely contemporary epic consisting of six plays performed over the course of a day and blending dramaturgy from the Greeks to Shakespeare, by way of Michel Tremblay.  Ronfard also created laboratory-pieces, which studied various aspects of the theatre: Les Objets parlent (1986), Corps à corps (1993), and Les Mots (1998).  At the same time, in major theatres he directed such plays as Claude Gauvreau’s disturbingLes oranges sont vertes (1972) and Ha ha!(1978) by Réjean Ducharme, to name but a few.

© Daniel Kieffer
Jean-Pierre Ronfard and Anne-Marie Provencher in Lear by J.-P. Ronfard adapted from Shakespeare, TEM, 1977.

Title: Lear

Written and directed by: Jean-Pierre Ronfard

Production: Théâtre Expérimental de Montréal, 1977

Creators: Jean-Pierre Ronfard, Monique Mercure, Anne-Marie Provencher, Robert Gravel, Ginette Morin, Robert Claing, Louise Ladouceur, Pierre Pesant.

By Jean-Pierre Ronfard:

  • Vie et mort du roi Boiteux, collection théâtre, Leméac.
  • La Mandragore, collection théâtre, Leméac.
  • Les objets parlent dans Cing études, Leméac.
  • Écritures pour le théâtre, 3 volumes, Dramaturges éditeurs.

About Jean-Pierre Ronfard:

  • “J'aime bien m'amuser à faire du theatre”, interview by Josette Féral in Mise en scène et jeu de l'acteur, tome 2, Éditions Jeu-Lansman, 1998, p. 253-277.
  • Entretiens avec Jean-Pierre Ronfard, Robert Lévesque, Liber.

André Brassard (1946)

© Pierre Desjardins
André Brassard

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A major Quebec director, André Brassard has mounted over 125 plays! His career began in the early 1960s, staging poetry readings and storytelling, and took off in 1966 with his productions of Euripides’ LesTroyennes and Jean Genet’s LesBonnes.  At the age of 22, he put his stamp on a pioneering new work, Les Belles-Sœurs (1968), the play that marked the beginning of a long and productive collaboration with playwright Michel Tremblay.  Other than Tremblay, Brassard helped other important Quebec playwrights to gain recognition, including Michel Marc Bouchard with his famous Feluettes (1987), a ground-breaking production that influenced a generation of artists.  Brassard’s interest in the classics is evident in his frequent forays into the works of Shakespeare, Racine, and Beckett.  Despite the diversity of his achievements, two things remain constant for André Brassard: a deep respect for the actors and an aesthetic which combines the banal and the sublime, always aiming to highlight the structures of theatricality. His production of Britannicus (1984), where Ancient Rome, the era of Louis XIV, and the 1980’s lived side by side, is a prime example of this.  André Brassard directed the National Arts Centre’s French Theatre from 1982 to 1990, and the French section of the National Theatre School from 1992 to 2000.

© Mirko Buzolitch
Ginette Morin and Andrée Lachapelle in Les Paravents (The Screens) by Jean Genet, TNM and NAC, 1987.

Title Les Paravents(The Screens)

Playwright: Jean-Genet

Production: Théâtre du Nouveau Monde and National Arts Centre, 1986-1987 season

Director: André Brassard

Costumes: Louise Jobin

Set: Martin Ferland

Lighting: Michel Beaulieu

Props: Richard Lacroix.

About André Brassard:

  • “Entre la mémoire et le désir”, Mise en scène et jeu de l'acteur, tome 1, Josette Féral, Éditions Jeu-Lansman, 1997, p. 79-102.
  • André Brassard, stratégies de mise en scène, Claude Lapointe, VLB.

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Gilles Maheu (1948)

© Stéphane Corriveau
Gilles Maheu

Danced theatre or theatrical dance?  It’s hard to tell, when observing the remarkable work of Gilles Maheu.  From young delinquent to free-thinker, he forged his own path by way of various teachers and schools: Étienne Decroux, Yves Lebreton, Eugenio Barba.  In Montreal in 1975, he founded the company Enfants du Paradis, which became Carbone 14 in 1980; it was first located at the Espace libre, then at the Usine C as of 1995.  With Carbone 14, he created shows based on a theatre of images – Hamlet-Machine (1987), La Forêt (1994), and Les Âmes mortes (1996) – which had a profound effect on the imagination of spectators and many artists: consider the 60 tons of earth, railroad track (a real one!) and lighted torches of Le Rail (1983). This choreographed-theatre gives way to the evocative power of images, the expressiveness of the actor-dancer’s body, and the playful use of space, such as in Le Dortoir (1988) where the performers danced with their beds in a boisterous ball, with bodies and metal becoming one. Since 1998, Maheu has directed musicals, notably Notre-Dame de Paris, based on the Victor Hugo novel, Cindy (2002), and Don Juan (2004).

© Yves Dubé
Le Dortoir , written and directed by Gilles Maheu, Carbone 14, 1989.

Title: Le Dortoir

Production: Carbone 14, 1989

Created and directed by: Gilles Maheu

Assistant to the director: Danièle de Fontenay

Original music: Michel Drapeau

Choreography: Danielle Tardif, Gilles Maheu, assisted by the cast

Cast: Raymond Brisson, Nathalie Claude, Alain Francoeur, Denis Gaudreault, Jeff Hall, Johanne Madore, Rodrigue Proteau, Guylaine Savoie, Jerry Snell, Lin Snelling, Catherine tardif, Danielle Tardif

Lighting design: Martin St-Onge - Costumes: Viviane Roy, Georges Lévesque.

About Gilles Maheu:

  • “Le Temps de l'instant”, in Mise en scène et jeu de l'acteur tome 2, Josette Féral, Éditions Jeu-Lansman, 1998, p. 157-176.

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Brigitte Haentjens (1951)

© Guillaume Simoneau
Brigitte Haentjens

An avant-garde director, Brigitte Haentjens attended the Lecoq school of mime, then immigrated to Ontario where she worked at the Théâtre de la Vieille 17, then directed the Théâtre du Nouvel Ontario.  Her direction of the play Le Chien (1988), by Jean-Marc Dalpé, marked the height of her “Ontario period,” characterized by experiences in collective creation and théâtre engagé (theatre committed to social and political action). After moving to Montreal, she became artistic director of the Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale (today known as the Théâtre Denise-Pelletier) until 1994, then founded her own company, Sibyllines.  Although interested in the ancient texts – Électre (2000) and Antigone, (2002) by Sophocles – Brigitte Haentjens prefers modern playwrights - Beckett, Koltès, Müller. Her Caligula (1993), by Albert Camus, called to mind contemporary politics and the world of high-finance boardrooms. Through her subjective interpretation of texts, often influenced by psychoanalysis, she particularly explores the hidden weaknesses of the feminine identity, the games between power and sex, and the zone where myths and the unconscious collide. Questioning the preconceived notion of theatrical space, she directed La Nuit juste avant les forêts (1999), by Koltès, in an abandoned hotel on Ontario Street in Montreal, and Hamlet-Machine (2001), by Müller, in a hall at the Union Française. Since 1988, she has co-directed the Carrefour International de théâtre de Québec.

© Angelo Barsetti
Céline Bonnier and Marc Béland in rehearsal for Hamlet-machine by Heiner Müller, Sibyllines, 2001. Also on the photo: Louise de Beaumont and François Trudelle.

Title: Hamlet-machine

Playwright: Heiner Müller

Translation: Jean Jourdheuil

Production: Sibyllines, 2001

Director: Brigitte Haentjens

Set design: Anick La Bissonnière

Costumes: Julie Charland

Lighting: Étienne Boucher

Music: Robert Normandeau.

About Brigitte Haentjens:

  • Les Rouages de la machine, Stéphane Lépine, edited by Sibyllines.

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Lorraine Pintal (1951)

© Marie-Reine Mattera
Lorraine Pintal

Lorraine Pintal holds an important place in the Quebec theatre world.  Since 1992, she has been at the helm of one of Montreal’s major institutions, the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde.  After graduating from the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Montréal, she studied in Europe and in the United States.  In 1973, along with her company La Rallonge, she created several different kinds of works. Pintal has directed Molière, Shakespeare, Ionesco, Fassbinder, and several plays by Brecht.  However, she belongs to a generation of creators that seeks to personalize Quebec culture through art, a quest which naturally led her to playwrights such as Michel Tremblay, Marie Laberge, Marcel Dubé, Claude Gauvreau, and, especially, Réjean Ducharme. Lorraine Pintal mounted Ducharme’s plays Ines Péré et Inat Tendu (1991), and Ha ha!... (1990), and adapted and directed his novel L'Hiver de force (2001). Pintal wrote, directed, and performed Madame Louis 14 (1988), a turning point in her career. Whether she is working on collective creations, classical or modern texts, Lorraine Pintal is known for her sensitive direction of actors. She also places a high value on aesthetics and scenography, which has led her to a close collaboration with set designer Danièle Lévesque since the late 1980s.

© Yves Renaud
Marie Tifo and Julie Vincent in Ha ha!... by Réjean Ducharme, TNM, 1990.

Title: Ha ha!...

Playwright: Réjean Ducharme

Production: Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, 1989-1990 season

Director: Lorraine Pintal

Costumes: François Laplante

Lighting: Michel Beaulieu

Set design: Danièle Lévesque

Music: Yves Chamberland

Props: Jean-Marie Guay

About Lorraine Pintal:

  • "Avoir une culture générale" in Mise en scène et jeu de l'acteur, tome 1, Josette Féral, Éditions Jeu-Lansman, 1997, p. 215-232.

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Denis Marleau (1954)

© Gilbert Duclos
Denis Marleau

Director of the National Arts Centre’s French Theatre since December 2000 and cofounder and resident director of UBU compagnie de creation – called Théâtre UBU since 2002 –, Denis Marleau has directed over 30 shows, many of which have toured abroad. His early collage-productions drew on the texts of Tristan Tzara, Raymond Queneau, and Samuel Beckett. During the 1990s, Marleau became interested in German theatre, directing plays by Büchner and Wedekind, as well as Maîtres anciens based on the novel by Thomas Bernhard. In 1997, he opened the Festival d'Avignon with Nathan le sage by G.E. Lessing; Marleau enjoyed tremendous success both here and in Europe with Urfaust, tragédie subjective (1999), a text inspired by Goethe’s Urfaust and the work of Fernando Pessoa. This brilliant director has also taken on the works of Bernard-Marie Koltès – Roberto Zucco (1993) – and those of Normand Chaurette and Gaétan Soucy. Throughout the world, many companies perform his “technological phantasmagoria” Les Aveugles (2002), by Maeterlinck, during which the actors’ images are projected onto masks, pursuing the Belgian author’s idea that “the symbol never tolerates the active presence of man.” Denis Marleau’s thoughtful, precise, and pared-down stage direction explores the depths of 20th century dramaturgy with acuity and imagination.

© Josée Lambert
Carl Béchard, Pierre Lebeau, and Hubert Gagnon in Les Ubs adapted from Alfred Jarry, Théâtre Ubu, 1991.

Title: Les Ubs

Adapted and directed by: Denis Marleau adapted from Alfred Jarry

Coproduction: National Arts Centre, Festival de Théâtre des Amériques, and Théâtre UBU, 1991

Original music: Jean Derome

Lighting: Guy Simard

Set design: Claude Goyette – Costumes: Lyse Bédard.

About Denis Marleau:

  • "Une approche ludique et poétique" in Mise en scène et jeu de l'acteur, tome 1, Josette Féral, Éditions Jeu-Lansman, 1997, p. 177-197.
  • Alternatives théâtrales, #73-74 (July 2002), this edition is devoted to Denis Marleau and the modernism of Maeterlinck.

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Robert Lepage (1957)

© Sophie Grenier
Robert Lepage - (portrait)

A Quebec artist who is very active on the international scene, Robert Lepage invented a stage language that defies boundaries.  After graduating from the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Québec, he joined the Théâtre Repère where he explored a method of collective creation, as perfected by Jacques Lessard and based on a Californian method: REsource, Partition, Evaluation, REpresentation – hence the acronym REPERE.  In 1985, he created La Trilogie des dragons, a six-hour epic that laid the foundations of his hybrid approach to theatre. La Trilogie is a weaving together of acting, music, video projections, and technological discoveries fused with a dramaturgy based on images and metaphors, where a sandbox can become a parking lot, a garden, or a battlefield. Known around the world for his creations – Les Aiguilles et l'Opium (1991), Les Sept Branches de la rivière Ota (1997), La Face cachée de la lune (2000) – this “work in progress” enthusiast frequently mounts Shakespeare, produces feature films, acts on screen, and directs operas and concerts, such as Peter Gabriel’s.  In 1994, he founded his company Ex Machina, currently housed in a renovated fire hall in Quebec City.

© Sophie Grenier
Robert Lepage in his solo show La face cachée de la lune (The Far Side of the Moon), Ex Machina, 2000.

Title: La face cachée de la lune(The Far Side of the Moon)

Playwright and director: Robert Lepage

Production: Ex Machina, 2000

Music composed and recorded by: Laurie Anderson

Assistant set designer: Marie-Claude Pelletier

Assistant lighting designer: Bernard White

Costumes: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt.

About Robert Lepage:

  • "Il faut que l'acteur ait une soif de savoir" in Mise en scène et jeu de l'acteur, tome 2, Josette Féral, Éditions Jeu-Éditions Lansman, 1998. p. 133-156.
  • Robert Lepage. Quelques zones de liberté, Rémy Charest, Éditions l’Instant Même and Ex Machina.

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Serge Denoncourt (1962)

© Jean-François Bérubé
Serge Denoncourt - (portrait)

Serge Denoncourt loves theatre tradition and is known for the visual beauty of his shows  which always evoke theatre itself. Cofounder of the Théâtre de l'Opsis in 1984, Denoncourt has explored the great classics – Molière, Corneille, Gorki – and the modern repertoire – Botho Strauss, Bertolt Brecht, Howard Barker with equal interest.  In the Tchekhov cycle produced with Opsis, he cleverly combined those two passions in his adaptation of La Mouette: he added bits and pieces of the actors’ conversations and musings during rehearsals to the Russian author’s text, thus creating the magnificent Je suis une mouette (non, ce n'est pas ça) (1999), an original play which carried on a dialogue with itself and with today’s theatre. As artistic director, he breathed new life into the Théâtre du Trident in Quebec City from 1994 to 1997. He directed several Quebec plays, notably Les Feluettes (2002) by Michel Marc Bouchard, which he remounted at the Espace Go 15 years after its creation. A versatile artist, Denoncourt stages operas and even delves into the world of variety shows, directing transformist Arturo Brachetti’s show and re-mounting the musical Pied de Poule (2003).

© François Melillo
Vincent Graton, Normand Lévesque, Sophie Vajda, Annick Bergeron, Normand D'Amour, Han Masson, Luce Pelletier, Jean-Luc Bastien, and Denis Bernard in Comédie Russe adapted from Anton Tchekhov, Théâtre de l’Opsis, 1993.

Title: Comédie russe

Adaptation: Pierre-Yves Lemieux adapted from Platonov by Tchekhov

Production: Théâtre de l'Opsis, 1993

Director: Serge Denoncourt

Set and props: Louise Campeau, Costumes: Luc J. Béland

Lighting: Jocelyn Proulx

Sound track: Claude Lemelin.

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On a final note, here are some other directors who could be added to this list:

Émile Legault, Olivier Reichenbach, Pierre Dagenais, Georges Groulx, Claude Poissant, Martine Beaulne, René Richard Cyr, Yves Desgagnés, Dominic Champagne, Gil Champagne, Martin Faucher, André Perrier, Alice Ronfard, Philippe Soldevila, Éric Jean, Joël Beddows, Paula de Vasconcelos, Jean-Frédéric Messier, Frédéric Dubois.