Stage Door News

Stratford: Michel Tremblay and André Brassard win the 2021 Herbert Whittaker Award

Monday, November 15, 2021

Michel Tremblay and André Brassard, who altered the face of Canadian theatre in 1968 with the explosive premiere of Les Belles-Soeurs, at Montreal’s Théâtre du Rideau Vert, have been named the joint recipients of this year’s Herbert Whittaker Award. The biennial award, from the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, honours individuals for outstanding long-term contributions to the Canadian stage.


As writer and director, respectively, Tremblay and Brassard went on to create further classics, including À toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou (Forever Yours, Marie-Lou), Albertine, en cinq temps (Albertine, in Five Times) and Hosanna. They capped their long collaboration triumphantly in 1998, when Brassard directed and starred in Tremblay’s Encore une fois, si vous le permettez (For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again).


“This is a great honour,” Tremblay said of the award, which is named after the distinguished critic Herbert Whittaker (1910-2006), a passionate advocate for Canadian theatre. “I liked Herbert very much,” he added, noting how they both received honorary degrees from McGill University on the same day in 1991.


“The choice of Messieurs Tremblay and Brassard is no surprise,” said CTCA President Martin Morrow. “The only surprise is that it’s taken us this long to honour them with the award. Their work together had a huge impact on our theatre and helped put it on the map internationally.”


Beginning with the seminal Les Belles-Soeurs, Tremblay and Brassard established a fresh and authentic theatrical voice, depicting the lives of Montreal’s working class and gay demimonde in its own native dialect, joual, while provocatively addressing Quebec’s religious and cultural tensions. Its universality is attested to by countless translations and productions throughout Canada and abroad. The late Bill Glassco, who with co-translator John Van Burek brought many of the plays to English-speaking audiences for the first time, was a past winner of the Whittaker Award.


Created in the 1970s by the Toronto Drama Bench, the Herbert Whittaker Award has been given by the CTCA since 1996. Winners are chosen by the CTCA membership, which represents professional critics and arts writers from across Canada. Recipients in recent years include Philip Akin (2019), Bill Millerd (2017), Tomson Highway (2015) and Judith Thompson (2012).


For more information, visit the CTCA website: canadiantheatrecritics.ca.


Photo: Michel Tremblay and André Brassard.