The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Interview with Marie-Helene Falcon, Director of TransAmeriques, the leading performing arts festival in Canada's Quebec Province
In both your old and new festival names you use the word Amérique (French for America), and in both cases it is used in the plural (Americas). Isn’t it unique to use it in the plural this way?
    The word America is often used, if not always, in reference of the United States. But for us, it is much much wider. Of course, the U.S. is not the only country in the Americas. There are also French-speaking Americans like us in Quebec, there is the English-speaking Americas and the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Americas.
    First and foremost, we are an international festival. We are based in Montreal, Québec, so we are naturally giving a large place to Quebec and Canadian artists. This year, we presented a few major artists from all across the country such as Marie Brassard, Benoît Lachambre, Nadia Ross, Marie Chouinard, Louise Lecavalier, Dana Gingras and Danièle Desnoyers. Two very talented directors from South America (Mariano Pensotti from Argentina and Enrique Diaz from Brazil) were also part of this festival. From Europe, which has always been a vital part of our program, we’ve invited Michèle Noiret and Galin Stoev from Belgium, Raimund Hoghe from Germany and also artists from Romania and Turkey.
    It is quite significant to know that in the cases of Quebec artists like Benoît Lachambre and Marie Chouinard this year and Robert Lepage and Denis Marleau last year, it is hard to say whether they have been more active in Europe or Quebec recently.
    Also, I definitely want to invite some Japanese artists in a near future. Coming to Tokyo for the first time in a while to attend the Tokyo Performing Arts Market in March and the Tokyo International Arts Festival certainly strengthened that desire.

As if taking an example from Avignon, your festival had some very interesting “off” performances as festival fringe works that I felt were very successful and a major asset to the festival. However, unlike Avignon, this “off” schedule included some quite famous artists like Daniel Danis, O Vertigo, José Navas and Dave St-Pierre, and although the performances were on a smaller scale, there were many interesting ones to see.
    There is quite a large number of professionals working in festivals and theaters outside of Montreal who come to participate in our festival. It is very unfortunate that we cannot include more artists in our official program. We consider that the “off” is very fortunate because it stimulates encounters that can lead to invitations from abroad. This is a situation in which everyone benefits.

Could you tell us about your personal history and career before you became director of Festival de théâtre des Amériques?
    I started out studying philosophy and theatre at UQAM (University of Québec in Montreal). After that I became involved in student theatre festivals and I managed a women’s theatre festival. Eventually I became involved in the Quebec Youth Theatre Association (AQJT). At the time AQJT was a gathering place for young theatre companies who were socially involved and many of them were also strong supporters of the movement for Quebec independence. The theatre they were doing was very politically oriented. That was the type of era it was. It was a major social movement from the 1960s that was called the “Quiet Revolution,” and it was a time when the French-speaking community of Quebec developed a very strong consciousness of their cultural uniqueness. And, because we had a sense that we had to create our own art and society from now on, it was a joyous time of artistic experimentation, unbound by the past and unconcerned about what others thought of us.
    This may be a bit off the subject, but in 1976, the Parti Québécois dedicated to the independence of Quebec province came to power and in 1980 a public referendum was held on the issue of whether or not to begin negotiations towards the independence and separation of Quebec from Canada. The result was that the majority turned out to be against separation, which greatly disappointed many of the artists of Quebec. But we can also say that that defeat helped to turn the energies of those artists back to creativity that led to a flowering of artistic creation.

I see. So, that is the kind of political background behind the international emergence of Quebec artists in the 1980s. From the early to mid-80s you had a number of festivals, including Montreal’s Festival de théâtre des Amériques and the Nouvelle Dance Festival and Quebec city’s Carrefour international de théâtre de Quebec (known as the La Quinzaine at the time) all being founded around the same period. The CINARS performing arts market was also formed during this same period, wasn’t it? And in Europe as well, the French –language theater festival of Limoges started also at this same time and, through the performances of works by Robert Lepage, a circuit rapidly began to develop connecting Quebec with the outside world.
    The Quebec community has traditionally been a provincial community that looks inward rather than outward toward the world at large. The 1967 Montreal World Exposition and the 1976 Montreal Olympics were very important as opportunities for the society of Quebec to feel greater connections to the outside world. The Silent Revolution changed the consciousness of the people of Quebec and they began to open up to the outside world more and more.
    Today, artists from Quebec are working all over the world. And I believe that our festival has played a very big role in opening Quebec to the outside world and building a foundation for international cultural exchange. I believe that it gave the audience and the artists of Quebec the opportunity to see many works of the types they had never seen before and played an important role in supporting artists who wanted to look to the outside world, bringing them together with foreign producers and artists and helping to build an international network.
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