… but because I was too shocked and amazed, I have no idea what I really said at the podium.
On November 3rd, I was awarded the Unsung Hero of the Theatre Award at the 7th Montreal English Theatre Awards ceremony. It was a beautiful and completely unexpected moment that I will treasure for years to come. Since I have no idea what I said when I walked up on stage at the Monument National, I’ve written some more organized thoughts and thank yous here.
I want to thank those who nominated me for this award. It feels incredible to be recognized for my role as an Arts Advocate. It’s part of my work as a General Manager that I get really excited about — but that not many in the theatre community know that I do.
If there is one thing I wish I would have said up there at the podium, it’s that arts advocacy is cool! It’s about getting to know your funders, decision-makers and elected officials and telling them about your art! At the core, it’s about building relationships. It’s about sharing stories and perspectives on what makes a community strong. And really — it’s about making sure the arts continue to be funded and supported.
Since most of us working in theatre mainly get our funding from government sources (which includes Arts Councils), it behooves all of us to be arts advocates. It’s vital work that takes persistence and teamwork, and it needs to be a necessary part of our practice as theatre artists and cultural workers.
I would like to invite you to start being an arts advocate right now – because guess what? It’s actually pretty easy. Quoting arts advocate extraordinaire, Kate Cornell (Executive Director of the Canadian Dance Assembly, and Co-Chair of the Canadian Arts Coalition), here are 5 simple things you can start doing right now (written with the dance sector in mind, but works for us theatre people too):
I want to thank my amazing team at PWM, for supporting me in my advocacy passions which also includes putting up with me being away at meetings and events. Thank you Emma Tibaldo, Sarah Elkashef, Jesse Stong, Harris Frost, Heather Eaton, Marc Duez, and Josh Johnston. Thank you also to Charmaine Ciano and Danielle Eyer. And thank you to our amazing Board of Directors.
Finally, I want to thank the METAC: Jessica Abdallah, Trevor Barrette, Tau S. Bui, Michaela Di Cesare, Kym Dominique-Ferguson, Karine Kerr-Gillespie, Danielle Laurin, Orlando López, Elaine Normandeau, Stephen Maclean Rogers and Danielle Skene for awarding me this honour and organizing such a beautiful event. My heart and spirit expanded three sizes on November 3, and you’ve helped renew my commitment to continue ‘repping the English theatre community in Quebec and beyond.
All my love,
P.S. If you want to take your role as an arts advocate a step further, here are two initiatives I am inviting you to participate in this year:
At the Federal level, we just elected a new minority government. Now is the time for arts advocates to get to know our newly elected MPs and begin our work together. If you’ve never participated in Arts Day on the Hill in Ottawa, now would be the time to do it! It is an eye-opening, extremely educational experience. It teaches you how to talk about your art to a politician (which easily translates to learning how to talk about your art to anyone who isn’t an artist). Mark your calendars for May 5, 2020. Every year, the Canadian Arts Coalition needs more artists in attendance for Arts Day, which has become the largest single-day lobbying event in recent history. It’s a short day trip to Ottawa. I will definitely be going (so let’s carpool?) Travel subsidies are often available for equity-seeking artists. Sign up for their newsletter to get involved.
At the Provincial level, the Conseil québécois du théâtre (CQT) is in the midst of organizing the Plan Directeur du théâtre professionel au Québec. It’s a plan outlining the current challenges our theatre community is facing in Québec, and how the community will address them in the next 10 years. The CQT will need your help in shaping and realizing this plan. Sign up for the CQT’s newsletter to stay informed of this process and how you can be involved. The CQT needs your participation to make this plan work for you. Attend events, and stay informed.
P.P.S. As you can tell, I love talking about this stuff. If you want to talk more about it with me, send me an email!
– by Maureen Labonté, PWM Translation Dramaturg
How It All Began
Emma Tibaldo and I meet for lunch every now and then. It’s a way for us to stay in touch, to catch up on what the other is doing, to gossip a little, to get into a few heated discussions and to make plans. We talk dramaturgy, play development and, of course, translation. At one such lunch, way back in 2009, we ended up discussing the actual process of translating. That led us to wondering about where the next generation of translators would come from and then to a long discussion about whether translation for the stage can be taught.
Well, to make a long story short, after a few more meetings and brainstorming sessions, Emma approached Barry Cole with the idea of a competition which would encourage the development of new voices in Canadian translation. Barry liked the idea and the rest is history!! The Cole Foundation decided to support the idea and join Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal in this venture.
What started as a Translation Unit became a Competition in 2012, then a Prize a few years later and is now a Mentorship.
How and Why It Works
Before applying for the Mentorship, emerging translators must choose the play they wish to translate and contact the playwright for permission: Establishing a connection to the play and the playwright in advance means that the applicant is already invested in the proposed work and would be in a position to begin work immediately following the announcement of the selected project.
Playwright and librettist, Alexis Diamond, was the first winner of the Cole Competition for Emerging Translators in 2012-13. She translated Marie-Claude Verdier’s Je n’y suis plus. I’m Not Here, produced and directed by Alexis and her company Composite Theatre, was selected to be part of the 2016 Summerworks Festival in Toronto, the Voilà Festival in the United Kingdom and the BoucheWHACKED Festival in Vancouver. Alexis has not looked back! She’s gone on to translate a number of plays, including Pascal Brullemans’ TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) play Vipérine/Amaryllis and Pascale St-Onge’s play Tarmac for the National Theatre School, and has contributed to translations for Cirque du Soleil’s latest touring show written by Olivier Kemeid. In January, she went to New Orleans with her translation of Marie-Hélène Larose-Truchon’s Minuit, Midnight.
In 2014, well-known Montreal theatre artist, Johanna Nutter, was awarded the Cole Prize. She translated Chlore, by Nicolas Michon and Florence Longpré. Chlorine was produced by Johanna’s theatre company creature/creature at Centaur Theatre in October 2016 as part of Centaur’s Brave New Look series. Since then, Johanna has translated plays by Guillaume Corbeil and Annick Lefebvre and was chosen to be part of the first CEAD-PWM Formation en traduction program.
Melissa Bull was the recipient of the 2015 Cole Foundation Competition for Emerging Translators. Her translation of Pascale Rafie’s La recette de baklawas, The Baklawa Recipe, opened at Centaur Theatre here in Montreal in January 2018. It was directed by PWM’s Emma Tibaldo. Melissa is already working on her second translation for the stage, the award-winning Québécois play, J’accuse by Annick Lefebvre. Melissa is the editor of Maisonneuve magazine’s “Writing from Quebec” column. She has published a book of poetry, Rue, a collection of short stories, The Knockoff Eclipse, and has translated such authors as Nelly Arcan and Marie-Sissi Labrèche.
Jordan Arseneault was the 2016 recipient of the Cole Foundation Prize. He translated Eric Noel’s Faire des enfants. His translation River Bed was given a public reading at PWM in November 2017. There has been interest in the play from theatres in Toronto. Jordan is doing a Masters in Translation at McGill University.
There were two winners of the 2017-18 Mentorship Prize – John Jack Paterson and Jennie Herbin. John Jack Paterson worked on well-known Quebec playwright, Daniel Danis’ TYA play (12 and up), Kiwi. The translation was given a public reading at PWM as well as in Vancouver at the BoucheWHACKED Festival. Jennie Herbin translated Catherine Chabot’s Table rase which was a huge hit in French here in Montreal and on tour. The English production, Clean Slate, produced by Talisman Theatre had a three-week run this spring at Théâtre La Chapelle.
The 2019 Recipient is David Gagnon Walker. David is a recent graduate of the Playwriting Program at the National Theatre School and has just started a one-year residency as Artist-in-Residence at 2b Theatre in Halifax. He will be translating Gabrielle Chapdelaine’s La retraite.
The Future of Theatre Translation
An Afterword by PWM
It has been so heartening to witness the successes of each and every recipient of this unique mentorship since its beginnings! We look forward to discovering what new projects these talented artists will tackle in the future, and to taking part in the development of emerging translators for many years to come. We can’t thank the Cole Foundation enough for their ongoing and invaluable support that allows this important work to thrive and to flourish, and promises a fruitful future in theatre translation!
This year, translator Nadine Desrochers is participating in the Glassco Translation for the very first time. She has generously shared her first impressions about it and PWM would like to share the first of her daily journal entries with you:
I am writing this on the train to Québec, very excited and thankful to be part of this adventure. My thoughts this morning went to the wonderful Heather Eaton at PWM, who always seemed one step ahead of us in the planning of this residency.
The tables have turned: I am the translator and Bobby Theodore is the dramaturg, PWM is hosting me as we hosted them at CEAD… How wonderful is that? I don’t think I’ve seen Bobby in… 15 years? Eh, boy, comme on dit. Leanna Brodie, of whom I always think as one big, warm, intellectual, and creative hug, will be there as well, after another once-in-a-decade meeting in October. And Marilyn, of course, ma toute belle, whose energy, talent, and heart are a gift in every instant shared.
Did I mention that I have never been to Tadoussac? Truly, the stars are aligned in the most wonderful way. And they have names: Marilyn, Emma, Heather, Bobby, Leanna… so far. What other stars will light my path in the next 10 days? I cannot wait to find out.
The ride in the taxi van yesterday went by in a flash, as we spoke of theatre, culture, identity, issues of all kinds linked to who we are, the things we speak, the voices we hear and aim to be.
The first night was spent in a shared dinner and walk along the coast, with most of us in bed by 11 – such a hard-working lot, ready and willing to get to work with an early start.
The house tells the history of a family and place, of theatre and the arts in Canada; and yet it is not a museum, it is a breathing place of ideas and meetings, of joy and memories that infuse all those who come through its many (so many!) doors and chambers.
This house, this home, makes you want to belong. And, after just one night, you feel that you do.
Last night’s 5 à 7 was all about… me! Ouh la la…
Okay, not entirely. It was also about the play Fiel, about Marilyn’s process. She gave us a great image, as she stated that the story of a play “la cruise” – flirts with her, seduces her – and of the immense research work that goes into her projects.
Bobby started the meeting by stating how these daily gatherings were meant to be discussions about our current projects and processes, of course, but also about the relationship between playwright and translator. He then turned to me and I was up, so to speak.
I then told the ten-year history that unites me to Marilyn as a translator and it occurred to me that twice, Marilyn Perreault imagined a better, stronger, more creative version of me. She didn’t just believe in the potential of my words to reflect hers, but in my capacity as an artist, as a person. She’s the one who called me 10 years ago and asked me to translate what became Rock, Paper, Jackknife… I had answered that I had never translated a full play before, aside from what we then called a literal version (whatever that means, I see that now!) Her response was, “Ben maintenant, tu vas le faire!” and there you have it. Last year, she needed supertitles for Fiel, and when I answered that I had never translated for supertitles before… well, there you have it.
The challenge that lies before me now is to see how much of those supertitles remain when Fiel becomes the performable version Venom. But revisiting my relationship with Marilyn has put one word at the forefront of my mind: faith. More than trust, she’s always had faith in me. She challenged my talent, my capacities, my self-confidence. She challenged me. And it’s thanks to her that I have met the other playwrights who have given me their words to carry. It’s thanks to her that I am here. Merci, ma belle.
By Bobby Theodore
Translation dramaturg and host of the Glassco Translation Residency
Much like the bees in the burgeoning flower garden outside Fletcher Cottage, this year’s residency featured a tremendous amount of cross-pollination as we welcomed playwrights and translators from Innu, Queer Pakistani-Canadian Muslim, Tamil Canadian, French-speaking Quebecois, English-speaking Quebecois, and Argentinian communities. The plays in translation dealt with the aftermath of the Sri Lankan Civil War, the perversion of contemporary art by corporate interests, the intersection of queerness and Islamic identity, and how to talk about life to toddlers. Conversations are always inspiring and exciting in Tadoussac, but there was an essential shift this year that provoked new exchanges which will likely reverberate for years to come.
Innu translator Joséphine Bacon kicked off the residency with a deeply moving, in-depth acknowledgment of the unceded land that Fletcher Cottage was built upon. It was a true gift to hear her speak about Tadoussac, her Nation, and its historical ties to the Saguenay and North Shore. She came to Tadoussac to work on residency veteran Jasmine Dubé’s Marguerite. Marguerite is a choral play which tells the entire life story of one woman, from her birth until her death. A poetic piece that flows like a river, Jasmine set out to write this play after she was inspired to create theatre for toddlers. With Marguerite, she shares her love of language and playfulness through straightforward and evocative storytelling. After performing this work in French for 10 years, Jasmine decided she wanted to try and tour it to smaller communities in Northern Quebec. After she approached Joséphine about translating the play, they both agreed it would be a wonderful opportunity for the Innu-aimun language to be reinforced and for toddlers (and even their parents) to learn the language through a theatrical experience, surrounded by other babies and their parents. The main challenge Joséphine faced was that Innu-aimun has far fewer words than French. So, on occasion, she needed to use several words to describe one French word when there was no Innu-aimun equivalent. It was wonderful to see Jasmine and Joséphine forge a deep bond at the Residency, even though they’d never met before. Jasmine took advantage of Joséphine’s presence to advance her soon-to-be produced play for adults (a first!) Lascaux, even cutting out a central part of story she felt she’d appropriated from an indigenous myth.
First-time resident Alexis Martin came to Tadoussac to work with playwright Michael Mackenzie on a translation of Art Object, Michael’s sequel to Instructions for a Socialist Government Looking to Abolish Christmas, also translated by Alexis. Art Object, slated to premiere at Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui in 2020, is a play that satirises the often amoral and complex relationship between high art and high finance. In his translation of the play, Alexis drew upon his prior knowledge of Michael’s characters and universe, as well as his acting experience. During the residency, Alexis spoke about his need to find the “breath” inside each translation he works on. Until he finds its breath, until the text is playable, he isn’t satisfied with his work. He uses a more liberal and creative approach to theatre translation, something he executes with Michael’s enthusiastic blessing. Each day, the two old friends and collaborators would go for long hikes during which Alexis would ask all the questions he’d accumulate over his morning work session. Later in the residency, when Argentinian translator Jaime Arrambide arrived to work on his Latin American Spanish version Michael’s Instructions to Any Future Government Wishing to Abolish Christmas, all three artists exchanged tactics and ideas to improve the translations. During the residency, Jaime fell in love with Art Object and now feels compelled to translate that play too. Jaime spoke to us about the vibrant theatre scene in Buenos Aires as well as the challenges of getting translated work staged there. While both Alexis and Jaime were working on their translations, Michael advanced his numerous writing projects.
Dushy Gnanapragasam came to translate Suvendrini Lena’s play The Enchanted Loom into Tamil. The Enchanted Loom is a haunting drama about a Tamil Canadian family dealing with trauma in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war. The multiple levels of language in the play presented a big challenge for Dushy since Suvendrini’s writing is equally poetic, lyrical, and medical, with Tamil influences. This team had been working on this translation for the past 3 years but the Residency was the first time they were able to spend dedicated time to the process. While working with Dushy in Tadoussac, Suvendrini discovered there were elements of the play, her first script, which she wanted to rewrite or cut. This often happens in Tadoussac as the translation process provides a means to improve upon original work through the lens of translation. Once they completed the Tamil version, Suvendrini and Dushy worked day and night on a new bilingual (Tamil/English) version of the play, rushing to get it done before they returned to their busy lives. During her stay at Fletcher Cottage, Suvendrini often repeated how this was the version of the play she’d “always dreamed of” creating. Though The Enchanted Loom will premiere in Toronto in Tamil in the next year or so, it’s often difficult to find the means and time to translate theatre for communities that aren’t part of the so-called dominant culture. During our late-afternoon discussions, we spoke about looking beyond English – French translation in this country in order to address the needs of the many communities who want to hear and see themselves on stage.
This year Olivier Sylvestre returned to Tadoussac as a translator to work with Bilal Baig on his play Acha Bacha. Bilal wrote Acha Bacha to speak specifically to Queer Muslim Pakistanis, so translating this play into French for a Quebecois audience posed several challenges. Acha Bacha is about a Queer Muslim Pakistani living in Mississauga (a large suburb of Toronto) who’s haunted by a traumatic memory the day before his lover leaves on a pilgrimage to the Middle East. Olivier thought about transposing this story to Montreal but expressed his concerns about this choice. His inquiry created an opportunity for some wonderful and lively discussion during our end-of-day meetings. How does a Queer Muslim Pakistani Canadian speak in French? Do they just sound Quebecois using, as Olivier put it, “ma langue”? Olivier explained how there aren’t many French-language Quebecois plays set in South Asian communities, let alone about the Queer Muslim Pakistani experience – which is what inspired him to translate this play. After listening to the group’s advice and his gut, Olivier decided to keep the play in Toronto as well as all the Urdu that’s spoken in the play. Olivier realized he needed to be sensitive to Bilal’s intentions and not simply translate the play to make it palatable for a French-speaking Québecois audience. He had to find a way maintain cultural specificity while keeping his audience engaged with material that may be unfamiliar to them. No small feat. By the end of the residency, Bilal seemed incredibly honored to have gone through this process and trusted that his first play was in Olivier’s expert hands – a clear result of their sustained proximity at Fletcher Cottage.
Like every year, it’s challenging to summarize everything that happened during this year’s residency. There are intangibles: the increased confidence residents gain over their time at the residency; the new creative relationships that are made; the validation they all feel; the significant moments of creative birth/rebirth… There were also bracing noon swims (in honor of Bill who swam every day), a trip to Cap de Bon Désir with no whales in sight, spicy debates about cultural appropriation, and – depending on which room you walked into – a constant stream of Tamil, Innu-aimun, French, Spanish, Urdu, or English. As always, Briony Glassco’s welcoming and joyous presence helped set the positive tone of our wonderful 10-day stay at her family’s magical home.
PWM would like to thank the Cole Foundation and the Friends & Family of Bill Glassco for making this residency possible.
Now accepting applications for our next training session with Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
Dates: May 17-20, 2018
Time: 6PM – 7:30PM 17th, 10-6 PM 18th-19th, 10-2 PM 20th
Fee: $45 (Fee is not a barrier to anyone who might be interested/eligible)
A story is a world; a storyteller is a world maker. Your politic is unavoidably in the work, and yet a play is not a polemic. Explore ways to center your story without sidelining your values. Underpin artistic incursions into social justice through inclusive practice and thoughtful process. Consider intentional displacement, diverse cosmologies, universality through specificity, coding for class, introduced vocabularies.
Application guideline: To apply for this training, please submit a bio and CV, and a short (1-2 paragraph) statement explaining why this subject interest you, or how anti-oppression work has informed your practice.
Please send applications to firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject line: Exploring practice with Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
Application deadline: April 30, 2018
Note: This Exploring Practice is being offered in tandem with the MontreALL Diverse City Commons. Workshop participants will attend the Commons as appropriate.
Donna-Michelle St. Bernard is an emcee, playwright and agitator. Notable works for the stage include Sound of the Beast, Cake, They Say He Fell, A Man A Fish, The House You Build, Dark Love, The First Stone, Roominhouse, Salome’s Clothes, and Gas Girls. Donna-Michelle’s work has been recognized with a SATAward nomination, the Herman Voaden Playwriting Award, the Enbridge playRites Award, a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play, and nominations for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Siminovitch Prize and the KM Hunter Award. Donna-Michelle is Artistic Director of New Harlem Productions, Coordinator of the ADHOC Assembly, playwright in residence at lemonTree creations and emcee in residence at Theatre Passe Muraille.
Training made possible by