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
Could you tell us something about how your festival is run? Can we begin by asking about your festival budget?
    For this year’s festival we had an overall budget of 2.8 million Canadian dollars (approx. 280 million yen). Last year it was 2.7 million. For a festival of our scale, I believe this is a rather small budget.
    Roughly speaking, about two-thirds of our revenue comes from public-sector funding. Our largest contributor is the Quebec provincial government (36% from the Quebec Council of the Arts and Culture), next is the Canadian federal government (20% from the Department of Canadian Heritage and from the Canada Council for the Arts) and lastly from the city of Montreal and from the Montreal Council of the Arts (9%). [Note: In Canada and Quebec, public-sector support for the arts is administrated by councils that are independent of direct government control.] The festival’s budget breakdown is 63% for programming and production of works, 22% for advertising and audience development, and 15% for administration.
    Philanthropic support from private-sector corporations is very difficult to obtain. Despite the fact that we are a North American society, corporate philanthropy is not yet common in Quebec. But, if you become as famous as the Montreal Jazz Festival, it is a different story. But, even in the United States, I don’t think the level of corporate support in the fields of contemporary theatre and dance is very large in monetary terms.
    Our next largest source of revenue after public funding is from ticket sales (ticket sales and other related income accounts for 35% of total revenue). I think it might be even better if we could lower our ticket prices a bit, but that is not easy in the North American context compared to European festivals with their generous levels of public-sector funding. Still, we try to expand our points of contact between the audience and the festival as much as possible through devices such as discounts for people who see more performances and the free outdoor performances that we always include in the festival program.

Speaking of your audience, what are the percentages of French-speaking and English-speaking audience?
    The French-speaking audience is larger. Because in both Montreal and in the province of Quebec, French is the main language, so that is unavoidable. Of course, our professional audience, the festival directors and program directors who come to our festival from around the world, many of them can’t speak any French at all.
    However, at the same time, even though the focus of our festival is contemporary creation (création contemporaine), we are trying to get people who have no previous interest in the arts for example with our outdoor performances. Since we are trying to show the very latest, the cutting edge of contemporary arts, it is unavoidable that our audience will mainly be people who already have a knowledge and interest in contemporary arts.

Do you have to pay to rent of the theatres and other venues that you use for the festival? Do you confer with the theatres when deciding what works will be performed where?
    Yes. We don’t have any venues of our own, so we have to rent out the theaters during the performance runs. This is a large and burdensome expense. The Festival is always selecting the works that will be performed. Exceptionally, some works are copresented with theatres, in which case the festival’s choice requires a mutual agreement.

How many permanent office staff do you employ year round? I always find your staff so capable and so helpful and hospitable that my visits to Montreal are always very fruitful.
    In all we have 11 people working year round. During the festival with the additional stage help and security people we need, we have about 200 people employed on a temporary basis. Also, each year we accept intern trainees to work on our staff, and we had seven this year. We make it a policy not simply to use these trainees for menial office work like making copies, but we assign them one important job that they take full charge of. Since we get many highly capable people coming to us, we are able to entrust them with important jobs with assurance, and in this sense we are very fortunate.

We are told that the Associate Artist for the 2009 Avignon Festival is Wajdi Mouawad, who studied originally at National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, worked as a director in Quebec theater before going on to world fame. Of course the official program has not been announced yet but I am sure that it will be one that offers an opportunity for people to see some of the outstanding work being done by Quebec artists today and I am looking forward to it very much. Thank you for this informative interview today.
    You’re welcome.
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