January 11th - February 2nd, 2014
Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary
by Michel Tremblay
translated by John Van Burek
at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Starring Irene Poole and Richard McMillan
Directed by: John Van Burek
Design by: Teresa Przybylski
Lighting by: Itai Erdal
Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary is among Tremblay's most poetic and provocative works. This marks its first major revival since it was staged at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre in 1979, under the original French title, Damnée Manon, Sacrée Sandra. Written in 1977, this jewel of a play came as a conclusion to Tremblay's first great cycle of plays, which includes some of his most iconic works: Les Belles-soeurs, Counter Service, Forever Yours, Marie-Lou, Hosanna, Bonjour, là, Bonjour and Saint Carmen of the Main. In this cycle, he laid the groundwork for his entire universe of east-end Montréal, where his characters struggle to lift themselves out of poverty, darkness and ignorance. Here, we have two polar opposites: Manon, from Forever Yours, Marie-Lou, clings desperately to the safety of religion and the past, while Sandra (Hosanna) is the outrageous, iconoclastic drag queen who plotted Hosanna's downfall. They were both essential characters in those earlier plays but now, they have outlived their usefulness because the world around them has moved on. Emblems of the sacred and the profane, they also embody the vast scope of Tremblay's work and world. In a beautiful and loving gesture, their creator grants them deliverance in an apotheosis of immense lyrical power.
At 71 and still fully productive, Michel Tremblay is without doubt Canada's greatest living playwright. Since Les Belles-soeurs exploded on the theatre scene in a politically charged Montréal in 1968, and then, in a culturally booming English Canada in 1972, his work has played a decisive role in defining Canadian theatre. It has also played a key role in how Canadians see themselves as a nation and how we present ourselves to the world. Although steadfastly Québécois, Tremblay is also indelibly Canadian because, like Québec within it, Canada has always been torn between loyalties, inspirations and conflicting ideas of who and what we are. The ensemble of Tremblay's work, especially that first cycle of plays, is intended to awaken Quebecers to a cultural and political self-awareness and affirmation. If nothing else, it certainly contributed to a radical transformation in which the "French-Canadians" became les Québécois and assumed a powerful, productive and highly creative sense of themselves as a people. To this day, much of Canada's image in the world is linked to the generation of artists that began with Tremblay, and much of it is built on their cultural confidence and creative courage. We have only to think of artists such as Robert Lepage, Cirque du Soleil, Wajdi Mouawad, François Girard, Denis Arcand or Yannick Nézet-Séguin, all of whom thrived in the fields tilled by, among others, Michel Tremblay. When put all together, we get a clear sense of the way in which these artists, with Tremblay leading the way, have moved Québec and Canada into the cultural spotlights of the world.
The Ontario Arts Council has made limited funds available, on the basis of recommendations from Pleiades Theatre, to support writers for the theatre who have specific projects they wish to pursue. This is not commissioning money, nor is it connected to any production plans. It is intended to "buy time" for writers and their work. The deadline for applications is November 15th, 2013 and replies will be issued no later than December 27th, 2013. The OAC program runs until January 17th, 2014. To know more, go to http://www.arts.on.ca/Page86.aspx or contact Pleiades' Artistic Director, John Van Burek, by phone (416.203.1227) or e-mail.