Laberge, Marie

Marie Laberge, playwright, actress, director, novelist (b at Québec 29 Nov 1950). A graduate of the Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique de Québec, she was already an established actress when her play, C'était avant la guerre à l'Anse à Gilles, brought her national attention in 1981, winning the Governor General's Award for drama. A moving depiction of women's status in Québec in the 1930s, it was highly successful as well in its English translation, Before the War, Down at L'Anse à Gilles (1986). Since then several of her plays have gained international acclaim, particularly L'Homme gris (1984), performed some 300 times in Paris and Brussels and translated into several languages, and Oublier (1987), which premiered in Brussels and won that city's annual award for best play. In 1989 Laberge was appointed Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of France's most prestigious cultural honours.

Other notable dramas are the compelling portrayal of a young woman driven to suicide, Jocelyne Trudelle trouvée morte dans ses larmes (1981), Aurélie, ma soeur (1988), Le Faucon, which opened simultaneously in Québec City and Montréal in 1991 and was revived in Toronto in 2000, and Pierre, ou la Consolation (1992).

Laberge's first novel, Juillet (1992), was favourably received, followed by Quelques adieux (1992) and Le Poid des ombres (1994). In late 2000 she published Le Goût du bonheur, the first (600-page) volume of a trilogy exploring the evolution of Québec society from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Laberge's female characters are particularly memorable: sensitive and eloquent, they illustrate impassioned yet reasonable feminist principles in a society that is generally hostile to their aspirations. Her ability to reproduce popular québécois speech is remarkable as well, although it has sometimes necessitated adaptation of her texts into more accessible French for European audiences. Her later plays move beyond Québec's boundaries, with Pierre ou la Consolation exploring, for example, the medieval love-tragedy of Héloise and Abelard.