The man behind the Association Théâtre Art-Lequin is bringing his final theatrical venture to Whitehorse audiences this week.
Pierre Gauthier and his team have made a number of projects happen in Yukon’s tiny francophone theatre scene.
In a sense, Art-Lequin is the francophone theatre scene, experimenting with different types of presentation for both kids and adults over the years.
This week, in the studio theatre at the Yukon Arts Centre, the company will present Le Chien (The Dog), a play by Jean-Marc Dalpé, who is best known for his movies, CRAZY and Café de Flore.
This first play by the franco-Ontarian poet and playwright, written in 1987, went on to win the Governor General’s Award for French drama in 1988.
I spoke with Gauthier about the upcoming production.
VH: Pierre, were you familiar with the theatre of Jean-Marc Dalpé before?
PG: Yes, I chose Le Chien because 10 years ago, in Quebec, I had the chance to be an actor in this play. And I loved it.
I think there is a lot of similarity between Northern Ontario, where the action takes place, and the Yukon: the landscape, the wildlife, but also the lifestyle of the francophone minority.
VH: Tell us more about the play.
PG: Jay, the son, left his Northern Ontario community at the age of 17, following a fight with his dad. Now, seven years later, he is returning after receiving a letter from his sister asking him to come back home.
Back in his hometown, he will try to make peace with his dad, a very hard man. Through the story, we also get to know Jay’s mother. The play shows us what kind of life she had with her husband throughout 20 years of marriage.
The present action is connected to the past with the frequent intervention of the imaginary character of the dead grandfather, who passed away a few years ago.
The character tells us about the history of the region where Jay grew up and all the challenges of the beginning of the colonization in Northern Ontario, the First World War and the crisis.
However, life is not necessarily easier in the ’80s, when the action of Le Chien takes place.
It’s a period of insecurity and problems in the forest industry. There is not much work, and most of the characters hate their hometown. One of Jay’s first sentences calls it a “Damn %#@*ing lost place”.
Most of the text is related in monologue. The characters don’t talk too much to each other. A big part of the action happens in Jay’s mind.
The play is a drama for an adult audience. It’s clearly not an easy subject, but it’s a great play.
VH: It’s not the first time that you have been both the director and an actor in a theatre project you have led. Is that by choice, or necessity?
PG: It’s not easy to find actors in Whitehorse. We are a small francophone community and not everybody can be an actor.
Another challenge is that people move a lot, and that makes it hard to get commitment from people.
Pierre Gauthier himself will be leaving the Yukon for Quebec in a few months. During his years in Whitehorse, he has directed and produced five plays in French.
Gauthier has done a lot for the evolution of a French theatre culture in the Yukon. Nevertheless, the team ofThéâtre Art-Lequin intends to keep organizing more projects.
Le Chien, with André Boursier, Simon Émard, Julie Dessureault, Rebecca Petrin and Pierre Gauthier will play June 13 and 14 in the Yukon Arts Centre studio. Curtain time is 8 p.m.