LES BELLES-SOEURS by Michel Tremblay (translated by John Van Burek and Bill Glassco)
September 9 to October 1, 2016
Director: Katherine Bignell-Jones
For dates, times and ticket information, click HERE
(All slideshow photos by Jennifer Etches)
OUR AMAZING CAST (click on the composite photo to see more)
About the play. . . .
Michel Tremblay wrote Les Belles-Soeurs in 1965, but didn’t manage to get it produced until 1968, at Théâtre du Rideau Vert in Montreal – directed by André Brassard with Denise Proulx, Odette Gagnon, Denise Filiatrault, Rita Lafontaine, Luce Guilbeault, Germaine Giroux, and Nicole Leblanc among others, with set by Réal Ouellette and costumes by François Barbeau.
The impact of this work is still being debated in Quebec today, but suffice it to say that it changed much of what was believed to be Quebec culture; language, the form of theatre, which plays should be done at which theatres, the displacing of the Old Guard. It set off a storm of controversy, firstly because of the language (a particularly raucous – some say vulgar – joual), and then because it dared to portray working class women doing working class things.
None of this sounds particularly special today, but in 1968, theatre in Quebec was just releasing itself from religious and morality plays and joining (late) in the Quiet Revolution; although Marcel Dubé and Gratien Gélinas had been writing about “normal” folk for years, they had not been doing it quite like this. The premiere also reinforced the emergence of a long and still-fruitful artistic relationship between Tremblay and director Brassard.
The Bill Glassco /John Van Burek English version selected to open the 2016-17 Village Players season premiered in 1973 at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto. It’s just one of 20 languages the play has been translated into, including Yiddish and Scots. Les Belles-Soeurs may well be Canada’s most-produced play worldwide.
The story is simplicity itself: Germaine, a Montreal housewife, has won a million Gold Star stamps (stamps given out by grocery stores, which customers stuck into little booklets and exchanged for goods like barbecues and lawn chairs) and has invited all the women she knows to come over and help her stick them into the booklets. As they stick, the women discuss the men in their lives, the church, and their small joys. In one elaborate and thrilling spoken-choral passage the women tell of the joys of Bingo. Germaine doesn’t realize until the play’s conclusion that while the women are all talking, they are also robbing her of her Gold Star stamps.
~ from the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia entry by Gaetan Charlebois
Michel Tremblay, playwright
It’s hard to overstate the significance of Tremblay’s writing to theatre and literature – in Quebec, Canada and the world. Les Belles-soeurs enjoys international popularity, but his body of work includes 20 plays, four musicals, nine novels, three collections of short stories, seven film scripts, the libretto of an opera, and 14 translations and adaptations.
Bill Glassco, translator
Born in Quebec, William Grant (“Bill”) Glassco was a Canadian theatre translator, director, producer and guiding light in the development of Canadian theatre. He founded the Tarragon Theatre in 1970 with his wife Jane (née Gordon); while there formed a professional bond with playwright David French, directing most of his premieres at Tarragon, and brought Michel Tremblay to anglophone stages by first translating (often with John Van Burek) and then directing his works. Later, he became the artistic director of the CentreStage Theatre Company which merged with the Toronto Free Theatre to become CanStage. He directed Shakespeare at Stratford, Shaw at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Congreve in Toronto and Sondheim in Ottawa, but he was happiest working with new writers who excited him. He died in 2004.
John Van Burek, translator
Born in Toronto, John is a director and the Founding Artistic Director of Pleiades Theatre, a producer of plays, usually in translation, originating in the many cultures of Toronto’s mosaic. He is also one of Canada’s foremost translators for the theatre, with some fifty works to his credit, notably the major plays of Michel Tremblay (with Bill Glassco.) In 1971, John Van Burek was the Founding Artistic Director of le Théâtre français de Toronto, which he ran for close to twenty years. Throughout his career he has taught extensively, including at York University, Ryerson University, the Nottingham School of the Arts, Carnegie Mellon University and Victoria University.
About the director, Katherine Bignell-Jones. . . .
Katherine will perform the rare feat of directing two consecutive plays at Village Players, having directed the 2015-16 season finale Fox on the Fairway! She directed Nana’ s Naughty Knickers earlier in 2016 for Theatre Etobicoke. Other selected plays she has directed are Terror By Gaslight (Kanaidjun Entertainment), Killcreek (Bojit Productions), Who’s Under Where? (Theatre Etobicoke), and Final Curtain (LaSalle Players).