L'UniThéâtre premieres work from Legal playwright
Joelle Préfontaine ventures beyond acting with new work
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 06:00 am
L’Uni Théâtre and Théâtre Sortie de Secours collaboration
Oct. 23 to 27
8627 rue Marie-Anne Gaboury
Tickets: $26/regular; $22/seniors; $17/students. Available at the door or online at www.lunitheatre.ca
Actors look for inspiration from the world’s master poets. Euripides, Shakespeare and Moliere come quickly to mind.
One of Legal’s cherished daughters searched a little closer to home. Franco-Albertan Joëlle Préfontaine has added a playwriting hat to her already full closet of artistic achievements.
As the premiere of her first written bilingual work, Récolte or Harvest, is underway, she gives full credit to spirited grandparents for recounting entertaining stories of settler days.
“They would tell me stories of how they had to walk two miles to school every day and things like that. When I finished university, I was so interested in the time they lived I started to find out more about pioneer history,” says Préfontaine.
If anything, research led to more questions – such as how the heck they survived the numerous hardships.
“I didn’t want to write about pioneers. It’s been done. I wanted to write a play that takes place today. I wanted to write about the sense of community.”
As a playwright, her focus was to broaden the scope and swing open new doors of thought.
The end product is Récolte, a co-production of L’UniThéâtre and Théâtre Sortie de Secours of Quebec now running at La Cité until Sunday, Oct. 27.
Borrowing from her own small-town experiences, Préfontaine created a five-character play where a family is torn between the past and future.
A tragic past haunts Ray and Renée, a brother and sister with an uncertain future, and it tests the family’s love and loyalty to each other.
“The characters are living a hard moment in their lives – a moment when the shit hits the fan,” Préfontaine says.
In researching small-town life, Préfontaine began to realize the extent the harvest shifted community focus. If kids missed school, it was accepted without fuss. If there were fewer faces in town, everyone knew it was because people were busy getting the harvest in before winter’s arrival.
“It’s popular to say ‘you reap what you sow.’ But what if what you sow isn’t what cultivates life?” she asked.
Such a profound question is usually answered through solid discussion with like-minded peers. Several years ago, Préfontaine won an RBC National Award of Excellence that enabled her to take the play to the Banff Centre and work with well-known Quebec playwright Philippe Soldevilla.
They hit it off and Soldevilla mentored her through the two-year process. He is also the production’s guest director.
“As an actor, you work with many people. But in the writing process you’re working 95 per cent of the time by yourself. I found it really hard to reflect. I was talking to myself trying to figure out my characters and hoping my roommates didn’t think I was crazy. I was trying to find my speaking voice but coming through the character.”
In the end, it was all about the big picture, the universal questions everyone asks themselves.
A language advisory is present. It is not recommended for anyone 16 or under.