In 1998, actor Alex Ivanovici and playwright Annabel Soutar set out on a 3-week journey across Quebec to interview people about the state of the province’s democracy. It was the rainy month of November and Quebec was in the throws of a provincial election campaign. Their goal: to create a documentary play based on the verbatim testimony of Quebeckers cut from a wide swath across the province: from the fishing villages of the Gaspé peninsula to the casse-croutes of the Eastern Townships, from the mansions of Westmount to the factories of the Côte Nord.
Lacking an official title for their ‘research project’, Alex and Annabel came up with the name ‘Porte Parole’. By recording peoples’ words and bringing them back to be performed on a stage in Montreal, they were acting as ‘porte paroles’ – carriers of language and harbingers of a new spirit of creative civic engagement in Quebec.
More than 14 years and nine productions later, Alex and Annabel have carved out a precious niche in the Montreal landscape with the hundreds of actors, directors, writers, designers and theatre technicians who have graced their plays – a niche where bilingual audiences from every point of Montreal’s political spectrum gather to be entertained and to debate the big issues in Quebec. Health care, immigrant integration, outsourcing, infrastructure – no topic is too dry for Porte Parole’s stage. On the contrary, we relish any opportunity to turn complex social conflicts into deeply human stories.
In Montreal, Porte Parole’s plays have been performed at the Place des Arts, the Centaur Theatre, the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts, Théâtre La Licorne, Théâtre Denise-Pelletier and within the official programming of the Festival TransAmériques. Recently, the Company’s work has started to explode beyond Montreal and Quebec. Sexy béton toured around the province in 2011 and will be adapted into a feature film in 2016. Last year the Company’s acclaimed production Seeds toured to Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, attracting over 22,000 audience members and rave media reviews. Seeds was nominated in 8 categories at the Montreal English Theatre Awards (METAs), and Canadian icon Eric Peterson received the META for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor in his role as Percy Schmeiser.
In 2010-11 we celebrated our 10th anniversary season with the remount of our production Sexy béton at the Théâtre Denise-Pelletier in February 2011. In 2012, we presented a new version of our play Seeds in Toronto, and of its French version, Grains, in Montreal. Both versions went on tour in 2013-2014, and we are now offering them to international presenters. The Watershed, Annabel Soutar’s new play about water politics in Canada and their impact on our future, directed by Chris Abraham and co-produced with Crow’s Theatre, will première at Toronto’s PanAm/ParaPan Games in July 2015.
Please join us in the theatre or on one of our online forums to help us continue building cutting-edge public dialogue in Quebec!