(Photo of La Liste by Moe Curtin. This post is part of the Canadian theatre salon curated by Chantal Bilodeau for the World Theatre Day 2014/Crossing Borders salon series.)
CHANTAL: BoucheWHACKED! Theatre Collective is a Vancouver company dedicated to the development, production and presentation of multi-language works, cross-disciplinary arts and works in translation. With a specific focus on cross-pollination between francophone and anglophone works, through translation, BoucheWHACKED! showcases the daring contemporary works of both artistic populations to local audiences, and brings awareness to the thriving talent that exists in two communities separated by distance, language and culture.
By facilitating “internal” border-crossing between two languages and cultures, BoucheWHACKED! serves a need that is fairly unique to Canada. Can you describe what motivated you to create this collective?
JACK: I have been very fortunate to work in theatre across the country. Canadian theatre varies widely from city to city – perhaps due to the distance between population centres. Each is unique in its priorities and aesthetics. Québécois theatre is the most extreme example of this as it comes from a culture with different roots. Discovering francophone theatre opened my eyes to a way of approaching theatre that is wholly different from anglophone norms. As a theatre artist who has actively sought out experiences and understandings that are different from my own, discovering francophone theatre was a revelation. I wanted to work with and learn from these artists, and bring attention to their achievements to the anglophone British Columbia community. Finding other artists who felt, as I did, that this work was important and provided a much-needed different perspective only increased the desire to bring it to an English-speaking audience.
FRANCE: Jack says it best – hard to add to that! But I’ll add that we felt there was a lack of representation of French Canadian works-in-translation on the West Coast. Knowing how different these plays are, in style and language, we wanted to share them with our lovely West Coast audiences. What’s great is there has been a resurgence of interest and now we are about to start collaborating with local theatre companies to continue this tradition.
What are the challenges in doing this kind of work?
JACK: The primary challenge is working with material from a distinctly different culture. Although we share many similarities, we also have many differences that run deeper that municipality. Francophone theatre has created a unique langue d’auteur, which includes made up words, poetic text and abstract structures. This doesn’t exist in anglophone theatre. The closest author I can relate it to from a language perspective is Shakespeare. Additionally, the québécois spoken joual, like most latin root languages, is full of everyday poetry and expressions that simply don’t exist in spoken English.
In 2012, you mounted a production of The List by québécois playwright Jennifer Tremblay. What was the audience’s response? Do you feel you were successful in bringing the francophone and anglophone cultures closer together?
JACK: The List was a wonderful success, making The Couriers Top Theatre of the Year list and selling out every performance. We did the project as micro theatre, or installation piece, providing a very intimate audience experience. The audience’s reaction was unanimously positive.
The talk back for The List proved to be particularly illuminating in terms of the cross-cultural conversation. Finding out what our local audience members related to and what was foreign to them, both in form and content, was fascinating. The conversation ended up going well past the time limit.
FRANCE: It was a journey – and we received all kinds of comments – but I do believe it was successful. It was a very small audience since we only had 10 audience members per show. An experiment that ended up paying off. We sold out before we opened.
JACK: Another one of our priorities in terms of bridging the cultures is to actively engage francophone artists in local conversations. By having these artists join us for translation workshops, we bring together people who would not normally encounter each other. This is enhanced formally through our Encounter events, where we host moderated conversations, and informally, by hanging out at the bar. This focus on introducing francophone artists to local audiences, through the development of working and social relationships, allows us to not only raise the profile of francophone artists on the West Coast, but also to create cross-pollination opportunities.
What events do you have coming up?
FRANCE: We are very excited to present our third Ta Gueule Staged Reading Series as part of an ongoing festival (The rEvolver Festival) in May. We’ll be hosting playwrights and translators for readings and a roundtable discussion. The readings will all be World English Language Premieres. We also hope to remount The List during next season, with the help of a local theatre company, during a joint night of francophone award-winning plays-in-translation.
In your dream world, how will BoucheWHACKED! grow over the next ten years?
JACK: At the moment, our financial realities limit us to working with out-of-town playwrights, and encouraging the translation of contemporary work. Hopefully, over the next ten seasons, we will be in a position to work with francophone actors, directors and designers, along with playwrights, thus creating a physical exchange of ideas that goes beyond words and text. I would also love to see us experiment with bilingual pieces. As the Canadian landscape is made up of a rich variety of cultural heritages, it would be exciting to include non-western practices and languages. Ideally, we will become a gathering place for artists of different heritages and linguistic backgrounds to work together, and share ideas and experiences.
Jack Paterson is an award-winning director, dramaturg, actor and theatre creator who works across Canada. Directing credits include The List (BoucheWHACKED!), The Women of Troy (Canadian Stage), Lorca’s The Love of Don Perlimplin (Shaw Festival), Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus and Julius Caesar (Mad Duck). Dramaturgy work includes Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal and the English language premiere of Muller’s Macbeth: nach Shakespeare (Conspiracy). Jack is a graduate of Circle in the Square, currently doing his MFA at London’s East 15 and most recently concluded a 4-week intensive at the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS). www.jackpatersontheatre.com
France Perras is an award-winning actress, producer, theatre creator and voice artist who works in both English and French. In recent years, she created BoucheWHACKED! Theatre Collective, with fellow creative producer Jack Paterson. She recently won a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Porc-épic (Théâtre la Seizième). You may have seen her on stage at Théâtre la Seizième, The Vancouver Fringe, seen her on television or heard her voice on a Shaw commercial. She is an associate artist with Working Spark Theatre, and a board member for Some Assembly Arts Society. www.franceperras.com. (Photo by Ross Den Otter.)