Léonard Beaulne

Léonard Beaulne, actor and company director, drama and diction teacher (b at Ste-Scholastique 8 Aug, 1887; d at Ottawa 10 Oct 1947). Léonard Beaulne grew up in Sainte-Scholastique (Québec) where his father was a blacksmith.

Beaulne, Léonard

Léonard Beaulne, actor and company director, drama and diction teacher (b at Ste-Scholastique 8 Aug, 1887; d at Ottawa 10 Oct 1947). Léonard Beaulne grew up in Sainte-Scholastique (Québec) where his father was a blacksmith. The family later settled in Ottawa, and Léonard studied in the cours commercial at the University of Ottawa secondary school, subsequently becoming a civil servant for the Department of National Defence, where he worked until his death.

A gifted and powerful athlete, he practiced several sports, particularly distinguishing himself in rugby. He even considered making a career of it, but the call of the theatre was unequivocal, and he made his debut in l'Expiation, with le Cercle Crémazie on 18 June, 1905.

At that time in the Ottawa-Hull region, theatre was basically the work of amateur, with companies, often called circles or groups, operating on a regular basis. Their repertoire was made up of fashionable plays, ranging from melodrama to comedy and vaudeville, quite similar to light operetta. A number of local works were also found, sometimes with a patriotic bent. Performances had an effect on the artistic life, and were followed as much by a faithful public as by the press. The companies also performed galas to benefit charitable organizations and causes. Sometimes, they even supported ill-fortunate individuals or sports clubs, such as the performance given for the National Hockey Club.

Léonard Beaulne, along with Ernest St-Jean and Wilfrid Sanche, would become one of the big stars of the francophone stage in the region, first as an actor, then an artistic director, and finally as a diction teacher. A talented and very versatile actor, his range embraced all styles, and would span more than four decades. According to accounts from the period, he was an outstanding comic actor. "Listen to Beaulne and die laughing," claims the heading of an especially laudatory article.

With colleagues Eugène Côté and Hector Laperrière, Baulne formed the Cercle Dramatique Crémazie in 1905. He worked for many companies, including la troupe Saint-Jean, and from the 1920s on he directed his own. The 'Groupe Beaulne' was spoken of often and with awe. At the same time, in 1919, he became artistic director of la Société des débats français de l'Université d'Ottawa (the U of Ottawa's French Debating Society), forerunner of the Comédie des Deux Rives, the current theatre department's francophone company. Annual performances by the Société were valued highly, and Beaulne was could then venture to include the classics in his repertoire.

In the early thirties, Léonard Beaulne opened his own school of diction, in this way adding a final touch to the portrait of his very fulfilling career. He would remain active until his death on October 10, 1947 in Ottawa. His children followed his footsteps: son Guy Beaulne (1921-2001) was an actor, and daughter Martine worked in Montréal as a theatre director.

To honour his memory, Léonard Beaulne's family established le fonds Léonard-Beaulne, a scholarship at the University of Ottawa, and in addition, bequeathed (to the university) the important Léonard Beaulne archives. A performance hall in the University of Ottawa's theatre department bears his name.