The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Marie-Helene Falcon
© Suzanne Langevin
Marie-Hélène Falcon
Director of Festival TransAmerique

Festival TransAmerique
Festival TransAmerique
Presenter Interview
Interview with Marie-Helene Falcon, Director of TransAmeriques, the leading performing arts festival in Canada’s Quebec Province 
The predominantly French-speaking (80%) Canadian province of Quebec is famous for artists such as Robert Lepage and Cirque du Soleil and also for arts festivals like the Montreal Jazz Festival that draws an audience of about a million each year. We hear about the history of Quebec performing arts festivals and the background behind the international success of Quebec artists in recent years in this interview with Marie-Hélène Falcon, director of the Festival Theatre des Ameriques since its launch in 1985 and through its reorganization in 2007 as TransAmeriques, a festival for both theater and dance.
(Interview: Shintaro Fujii, Associate Professor of Waseda University; June 6, 2008)

It was just yesterday (June 5, 2008) that Festival TransAmériques finished its 15-day schedule of its second festival since changing its name from the former Festival de théâtre des Amériques while keeping the same FTA abbreviation. Although you are certainly still in the afterglow of an exciting festival, could I ask you to give us your overall impression of this year’s festival?
    I am very happy with this year’s Festival. Over the past two weeks the public took the risk of creation with us, moving from one discipline to another with enthusiasm and curiosity.
    We just finished compiling all the statistics for the fifteen days and we find that this year’s schedule attracted a larger audience than last year. Excluding the free outdoor performances, we had a total attendance of over 16,000. In terms of capacity, the overall audience ratio was an average of 75% of seating capacity, but about half of the performances on the schedule were sold out. And we estimate that another 8,000 attended the free performances. When you consider that the population of France is eight times that of Quebec and the representative French theater festival at Avignon draws just over 100,000 in audience per festival, I think you can say that our numbers are quite respectable. And already in this morning’s French-language newspaper La Presse, they gave us a every favorable overall review on the festival in a large article. Honestly, I am very happy with this.
    I have served as director since the launch of the Festival de théâtre des Amériques in 1985. In the past, ours was a biennial festival held every other year with a mini-festival called Théâtres du Monde in the interim years, but from last year we changed to an annual festival format. Preparing a full-sized festival every year is certainly difficult in terms of schedule (laughs), but for the festival it helps to keep it fresh in people’s memories if it is held every year, so it is a fortunate thing.

Why did you change the Festival de théâtre des Amériques to a new festival that includes dance as well as theater?
    Due to a number of circumstances, the International Nouvelle Dance Festival (FIND) that started around the same time as our festival had to be disbanded. At that time, federal, provincial and municipal authorities solicited proposals for a festival to carry on the dance tradition. I submitted a proposal for a festival that would include both theater and dance. It was a quite audacious project so I was very surprised and of course, extremely happy when it was accepted.
    The program of the Festival de théâtre des Amériques was focused primarily on theatre works, but we also introduced dance works from time to time. And from watching many dance works, I had come to feel strongly in dance a unique appeal that wasn’t to be found in theater. Quebec is a place that truly has a very active and interesting dance scene. In fact, half of the new works of dance produced in Canada come out of Quebec. However, at the time our festival had budget restrictions that prevented us from including many dance works in our programs.

Now that you mention it, I remember seeing a performance of “Iets op Bach” choreographed by Alain Platel at the Festival de théâtre des Amériques and being really shocked by its uniqueness. It was a work that you hardly knew whether to call it dance or not.
    I am especially interested in works that cross over the boundaries of the usual genre. This is true in the case of works that cross the boundaries of the artistic genres of theater and dance and also of works that break out of the usual theater venue into very un-theater-like spaces.
    On our festival program this time, although most of the works were performed in theaters, there were also several works that ventured out of the theater venue in that way, including a work performed in the Place des Arts outdoor venue (“MELT” choreographed by Noémie Lafrance) and one performed in a warehouse on the old harbor district (“CABANE” choreographed by Paul-André Fortier) and a work that used street and shop window spaces (“LA MAREA” directed by Mariano Pensotti).
    It is part of our festival mission to help our audience see and experience contemporary creative works (création contemporaine). We want to provide opportunities for the audience to encounter things they have not known before, to discover new parts of themselves and rediscover new aspects of their city. And we want to give them more opportunities to see works from cultures they have not known before and find more talented young artists.
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