Stage Door News
Toronto: The Théâtre français de Toronto’s 2020/21 season will be the last for Joël Beddows as Artistic Director
Monday, June 22, 2020
Théâtre français de Toronto's 2020/2021 season will begin with a virtual programming, the content of which will be announced at the end of August. Adhering to the official security guidelines, a theatrical programming will then be announced in October and officially kick-off in January. This will be Joël Beddows’s last season. He will officially leave after five seasons as artistic director.
In 2016, Joël joined the TfT team, determined to develop youth programming by increasing the number of TfT shows for children and teens thanks to innovative partnerships with AFT and the WeeFestival, and by creating a new Cultural Outreach Officer (Médiateur culturel) position within the company. Joël has also succeeded in growing TfT’s influence, notably through tours, co-productions and the development of an artistic partnership with the Groupe de la Veillée in the context of a “Toronto-Montréal Corridor”. He made play development a priority and transformed TfT into an incubation center for Franco-Ontarian playwrights living in the city and elsewhere in the province.
Conscious that historically theatrical practice favoured the development of male artists, Joël chose to make creation by women a priority, in particular in the fields of directing and writing. Finally, Joël has broadened TfT’s horizons through international partnerships by organizing writing residencies abroad and hosting shows from around the world. As he reflects on his upcoming departure, Joël notes: “For me, a cycle of creation is drawing to a close, the one I dreamed of, one that flows naturally from the unique nature of this city. My artistic collaborations and my encounters with Toronto audiences have transformed me forever as a creator and as a citizen. Beyond my stewardship, I am convinced that TfT’s story will remain a journey of transcendence, commitment and theatrical excellence!”
Joël will soon return to the teaching faculty of the University of Ottawa’s new acting conservatory program which he helped create.
On behalf of TfT’s team, Alexandra Vandelle, President of the Board of Directors, wishes to thank Joël “for all his contributions to the company, his enthusiasm and boundless energy, for the theatre he has brought during his tenure, and also for his new ideas which allowed us to grow and reach a wider audience. We wish Joël much success for all his future projects!”
A search for his successor will begin this fall.
A LOOK BACK AT A SEASON THAT GOT OFF TO A FLYING START
October 2019 marked the start of our 52nd season and we were convinced that it would stand out with its many tastes, aesthetics and themes. The fall began on a high note with the children's show Petite Sorcière by Pascal Brullemans,cleverly directed by Nini Bélanger and presented at the Alliance française de Toronto (AFT), while at the same time, Eugène Ionesco’s comedy La Cantatrice chauve debuted at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Brilliantly directed by Chanda Gibson, this masterpiece of the absurd sparked laughter and garnered praise from both audiences and critics.
In November, the company had the pleasure of presenting a second original creation, Les Zinspiré.e.s: Infiniment éveillé.e.s. Directed with daring by Krystel Descary, the show quickly broke attendance records, attracting more than 3,300 audience members and garnering no less than six Dora nominations.
In February 2020, the Théâtre populaire d'Acadie and TfT presented Exercise de l'oubli, a touching love story about the passage of time and the prejudices of forgetting, written by Emma Haché and directed by Joël Beddows.
Finally, on March 1, 2020, TfT and AFT presented a puppet show, Les Routes ignores, by the collective Les Ombres folles. The general public presentation at AFT was followed by shadow puppet workshops for families organized by Radio-Canada– an absolutely magical afternoon!
A WORLD GONE AWRY
As TfT embarked on the second half of its season, the world turned upside down. This upheaval resulted in the premature end of TfT’s regular programming, a minor sacrifice compared to the health crisis that has ravaged the world. We had hoped to present Le Club des éphémères, written by outgoing playwright-in-residence Alain Doom and co-produced by the Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, which was enjoying great success in Sudbury when the production was closed. We wanted to present the Alpha Kilo Charlie collective’s Nombre with Crow’s Theatre. This was a participatory show which, ironically, aimed to highlight our interconnectivity as a society. We would also have liked to present La Plus Grosse Poutine du monde, Andrée Poulin's novel for youth adapted for the stage by Pierre Simpson, which would have brought our season to an end with tenderness and emotion. Finally, we had planned on visiting the Théâtre Djram’Arts in Senegal with Toronto playwrights Francesca Bárcenas, Katia Café-Fébrissy, Stéphie Mazunya, Gabriel Osson, Karine Ricard and Carline Zamar to participate in a playwriting incubator workshop.
But these disappointments did not discouraged us. On the contrary! Our team very quickly mobilized around a single question: how to bring together an artistic family to continue to serve our community. What emerged, naturally, was the idea of a TfT “connected” to its audiences through its social networks.
ACT II – TfT CONNECTÉ
Under the banner ACT II - TfT CONNECTÉ, we presented an original online performance of Le Dire de Di by Michel Ouellette with the sublime Marie-Ève Fontaine. In collaboration with AFT, we presented video episodes of the youth show Les Mots secrets by Louise Dupré (companie Triangle Vital) adapted by André Perrier. We were able to continue our classes for children and broadcast storytime readings with Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and Eudes Laroche-Francoeur, not to mention the series Les Entrevues confinées, interviews with TfT artists. And we can’t overlook the Les Zutopistes solitairescontest, an opportunity for playwrights from across Canada to develop original texts with guidance from writers Caroline Bélisle, Gilles Poulin-Denis and Pierre Simpson, or the success of the writing contest weekend for Les Zinspiré.es, offered entirely online this year. To date, with some 12,000 views across the country, thousands of interactions and dozens of shares, we are closely monitoring this success as we continue to learn and improve what we offer along the way.
THE GENEROSITY OF OUR PARTNERS
ACT II - TfT CONNECTÉ was made possible by the generosity and kindness of our loyal audiences. 80 percent of them were able to convert their unusable tickets into donations. And many of them helped us meet our financial challenges and contacted us, concerned about whether we were doing well. Thanks to them, TfT is in a good position to face the future, as uncertain as it may be.
On March 31, when we announced the cancellation of the rest of our season, we wrote in conclusion: “One day soon, the theatres will be full again and the stage will come back to life. We are already looking forward to welcoming you back.” It is clear that this promise still stands. We are now a little closer to the long-awaited moment when we can reopen our doors in person. We will be vigilant and respectful of the social distancing measures in force in order to ensure your well-being. But there will be life on stage and stories to make you dream. This is our promise.
Photo: Joël Beddows.