Summer Theatre - French

Summer Theatre - French. There are few past examples of summer productions in Canada, especially if one adopts a strict notion of summer theatre, excluding masques, receptions and liturgical pageants. A summer theatre festival in French took place in Montréal in 1904 for Les fêtes de la Saint-Jean: the Monument-national presented Un abonné de la campagne by Conrad Gauthier; the Salle Poiré presented Diplomatie conjugale by Germain Beaulie; and the Théâtre-national presented Louis-Napoléon Sénécal's Une volupté nouvelle and Ernest Trouille's La Justice des hommes. Moreover, the 1908 L'Annuaire du théâtre/The Theatre Directory, cites Le Cœur n'a pas d'âge by a Dame Casgrain at the Hôtel Bel-Air on l'Île d'Orléans, in July 1907. Furthermore, the example of the Brae Manor Playhouse, founded in Knowlton in 1936 by Filmore and Marjorie Sadler, and associated with the theatre school of the Montreal Repertory Theatre that survived until 1956, should also be mentioned. Christopher PLUMMER performed there when he was a member of the company.

The Équipe de Pierre Dagenais presented Shakespeare's Le Songe d'une nuit d'été/A Midsummer Night's Dream in the gardens of Montréal's L'Ermitage in August 1945; Mario Duliani, former director of the Montreal Repertory Theatre's French section, mounted a performance in his Théâtre de Laval-sur-le-Lac in August 1947; and the same month Les Compagnons de Saint-Laurent (see Émile LEGAULT) performed Les Précieuses ridicules and Le Médecin malgré lui at the Chalet on Mont-Royal. In the Laurentians, La Jeune Scène put on De l'autre côté du mur/From the Other Side of the Wall at the St Adele Lodge during the summer of 1952, Henri Norbert founded the Theâtre Sun Valley in 1953, and in the summer of 1956 Paul Hébert produced Shakespeare's La Mégère apprivoisée/The Taming of the Shrew at the Hôtel Chantecler's curling club in Sainte-Adèle, which continued its activities for several years.

Summer productions sites then began to increase. La Compagnie Escale performed in 1957 at the Centre d'art in Percé, directed by Susanne Guité, notably with the collaboration of Jacques Kanto from 1960 to 1964; the Théâtre de la Fenière played in a barn in Loretteville in 1958, then moved to Ancienne-Lorette; in the Eastern Townships, the Théâtre de La Marjolaine began in 1960 with Marjolaine Hébert, Hubert Loiselle, as well as others including Louis-Georges Carrier from 1962. In 1964, in North Hatley, it was The Piggery's turn - an English theatre that occasionally accommodated French productions by Pierre GAUVREAU and Monique Lepage. During the sixties, Jean DUCEPPE's Théâtre des Marguerites in Joliette, L'Égrégore in Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson, and THÉÂTRE DU NOUVEAU MONDE in Repentigny were inaugurated.

These theatres often came and went with the volatile success of summer vacation spots, but some attained remarkable stability. A report by the Théâtre de Marjolaine reveals, for example, that in the first 20 years, 15 Québécois works were created, employing 5 composers, 8 stage directors, 11 decorators, and 117 actors in 1200 roles, before audiences numbering 355 000. If performances consisted mostly of light plays, the titles were usually prestigious, namely Pygmalion or Ubu Roi. Québec summer theatres, many well beyond the stage of barns and refurbished mills, actually achieved financial turnovers of $1 000 000, and benefitted from internal tourism. Outside Québec, summer theatres depended mainly on outside tourism. Some examples include Conrad Lamadeleine's La Sucrerie in Casselman, Ont (1988-96); cafés-théâtres from the Acadian town of Mont-Carmel, on Prince Edward Island (1985); and La Sagouine country in Bouctouche, New Brunswick (1992).