Gabriel Arcand | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Gabriel Arcand

Gabriel Arcand, actor (b at Montréal 4 Jun 1949). His family, originally from the village of Deschambault (Portneuf County), settled in Montréal in 1952.

Arcand, Gabriel

Gabriel Arcand, actor (b at Montréal 4 Jun 1949). His family, originally from the village of Deschambault (Portneuf County), settled in Montréal in 1952. At the age of 17, while still pursuing secondary and collegial studies at Collège Sainte-Marie, (an institution run by Jésuits which became l'Université du Québec à Montréal in 1969), he joined the travelling theatre La Roulotte, which performed in Montréal parks. There, he played a musketeer in Barbe-Bleue under the direction of Paul BUISSONNEAU. The next year, he took part in the Dominion Drama Festival, where he won a scholarship to study theatre.

Gabriel Arcand would use this grant three years later, after having received a Masters degree in philosophy from McGill University, and having performed on stage as well as in the film la Maudite Galette produced by his brother, Denys ARCAND. Then, in 1971, he left for Marseille, (France), to do an internship at the Centre national dramatique du Sud-Est where he joined a travelling company whose approach, focussing on body expression and the training of actors, was inspired by Jerzy Grotowski. After returning to Québec, he played in two films: Tu brûles, tu brûles... by Jean-Guy Noël, and Denys Arcand's Réjeanne Padovani; then left again in January 1973, for a period of study at the Polish Theatre Laboratory (Wroclaw), where he met Téo Spychalski.

In October 1973, at 24, he was a co-founder of the Groupe de la Veillée, that produced collective creations in Montréal and at drama festivals in Québec, Ontario and the United States. In 1982, Spychalski joined the Groupe, which from then on would premier his shows, drawing inspiration particularly from works of world literature. With this company (renamed Théâtre Prospero in 1999) he produced an event with the show Till l'Espiègle, based on le Journal de Nijinski (1982). Following this, he excelled in works by Dostoyevsky - The Idiot (1983), Crime and Punishment (1991), and The Devils (1996-1999) - as well as in the theatre adaptation of Balzac's novel la Peau de chagrin, then in Moi, Feuerbach by Tankred Dorst (1995-1999).

His triumphs included Molière's Tartuffe at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (1997, Prix Gascon-Roux best male performance); and in film, particularly les Plouffe (1981) and le Crime d'Ovide Plouffe by Gilles Carle (1984, Genie, best actor); DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE by Denys Arcand (1985, Genie, best supporting actor); Francis Mankiewicz' les Portes tournantes (1988); Louis Bélanger's Post mortem (2000, Prix Jutra best actor); la Turbulence des fluides by Manon Briand (2001); and Congorama by Philippe Falardeau (2005).

Thanks to his exploration of the body in action, and his own personal growth inspired by research of the Polish Grotowski, he revealed himself to be an actor of unusual intensity, exceptional depth, and a magnetic presence, both on stage and on film.