Interview with the Straight Jacket Winter’s team

Esther Duquette & Gilles Poulin-Denis. Photo: Emily Cooper


Straight Jacket Winter is back on the road. Next destination : Montréal, Caraquet and Moncton. Less than a week before opening night at Théâtre La Licorne (Montréal), we have news from the team in rehearsals. Esther Duquette, co-writer, co-director and actor, answers our questions between two work sessions.

1- How is the team preparing for this return to the stage, after a one-year hiatus?

The whole team just assembled in Montreal to get the show running again! We have one week of rehearsals, and then it will be show time at Théâtre La Licorne. During the first few days, everybody is a bit disoriented. But soon, we relearn our text and get back into our old habits. Most of the information is stored in our brains. It’s just a matter of finding it again! We are lucky to be able to rely on the original cast (Frédéric Lemay and Julie Trépanier). It really speeds things up.
Each tour is also an opportunity to fine-tune the staging and the text. Because Gilles and I are playing ourselves, and because our lives continue to evolve, it’s important to update what we are saying. It’s a matter of authenticity and sincerity. We are also adapting some elements according to the audience, which helps us create a greater complicity with its members.

2- It is the first time that a production by Théâtre la Seizième will be performed in Montréal. How significant is this?

Montréal is undoubtedly the epicentre of French-language theatrical creation in Canada. It’s where most of the shows are created, and it is home to a deep pool of theatre artists. Performing in Montréal is an opportunity to show our work to our peers and to enter into dialogue with them in a different way. Montréal audiences have the reputation of being demanding. Every season, they can see many shows. We are a bit nervous about this upcoming encounter, but we have faith in Straight Jacket Winter. We have had the good fortune to perform this play more than 30 times across the country and, each time, it moved the audience and initiated a conversation about isolation and life as an expat.

3- Most performances of Straight Jacket Winter in Montréal have sold out for several weeks, despite the scheduling of two additional performances. That must feel good?

Yes! We are, of course, thrilled that we’ll get to play for nice packed houses! Word of mouth got going with our previous tours, and it looks like it made it all the way to Montréal. I think the connections we are making with Réjean Ducharme’s novel L’hiver de force during the show have probably helped generate interest. Montreal has a special fascination for this unclassifiable author who passed away recently. We should also mention that La Licorne (home of Théâtre de la Manufacture) is a venue that has a fantastic reputation. Its shows are in great demand! Needless to say, we are very excited…

4- After Montréal, you go further east for a quick stop in New Brunswick, at the other end of the country (literally). How was this tour organized?

More than two years ago, we workshopped Straight Jacket Winter in front of an audience at Zones théâtrales, in Ottawa. Maurice Arsenault, the artistic director of the Théâtre populaire d’Acadie, in Caraquet, was in the hall. He really liked the show and decided he wanted to present it, even though he did not approve of the English title! [laughter] Marcia Babineau, the artistic director of Théâtre l’Escaouette, in Moncton, joined in, making it possible for us to put together a nice tour in Eastern Canada. These two theatres are known for the unparalleled way in which they treat the artists, and we are really looking forward to dropping by!

Consider the gift of theatre this season !

Are you looking for an original gift for your friends and family but can’t make your mind up ? Too many choices… Fear of picking the wrong one which will end up in the attic… What about offering theatre ? A gift certificate, a ticket, a souper-théâtre…these may be the solutions to that Christmas gift giving nightmare. Here are plenty of good reasons to put culture under the tree !

Call us at 604.736.2616 to purchase your gift certificates, or visit our online box ofice for tickets.

Happy Holidays!

A word from the director Philippe Ducros

Photo: David Ospina

As the Earth revolves, parts of its population move ahead of it, crossing borders, arriving in a precarious “elsewhere” they must now call home. People talk about it a lot, these days. They create charters, they try to identify differences, they apprehensively scrutinize the unavoidable metamorphosis of host societies caused by the arrival of these “migrants”. We often forget, or we prefer to overlook, that these migrations are in great part the result of upheavals that Western societies have given rise to and still cause, during the eras of colonialism, the cold war, the war against terrorism, and globalization.

Who are these people arriving on our land? What are they carrying within themselves? With Bibish de Kinshasa, we invite you to discover what one of them is carrying in her luggage. As always, it’s a whole world that opens up, a complex universe, made of moments of life buried deep within.

Bibish, Gisèle and Papy have left what the author calls the “mining scandal” that is their country. They now live here, in Canada. I hope this show will confirm, in them as well as in us, their host society, the feeling that this is “home” here and they are part of “us”. I thank them with all my heart for their trust and their friendship.

Teaser Bibish de Kinshasa

Is there a better way to fight the grey skies of November than a journey to Africa? This is what Bibish de Kinshasa offers you. Friendly and atypical, the show takes you directly to the sunny streets of Kinshasa. It shines the spotlight on its population, its traditions, and its challenges. At the same time, the director and the author are talking about music, fashion, beer, and politics while cooking a meal to be shared while all. It’s going to be a noisy, lively, vibrant and fragrant night… a true reflection of Kinshasa.

Some evenings are almost sold out, book your tickets soon!

Meet Philippe Cyr, Emilie Leclerc and Manon Veldhuis

One week before the opening night of Unité Modèle, we asked the show creators four questions. What are the challenges presented by Guillaume Corbeil’s text? How did they prepare for this project? To what extent are the subjects discussed in Unité Modèle dear to them? What would they say to a potential audience member who has not yet decided to come see it? Discover three different approaches, three stage jobs.

1) To what extent do the subjects discussed in Unité Modèle (gentrification, access to property, consumer society, obsession with image, manipulation, …) touch you as citizens and city dwellers of the 21st century?

Philippe – I would say that, as artists, we often think we chose a trade that lies outside of the world. We soon realize that we are subject to the same diktat in terms of performance and success, minus the material benefits, undoubtedly. We want to make Pinterest boards out of our lives, but ugliness is unavoidable. Why are we putting so much effort into concealing it? To be authentic would mean to agree to share some aspects of ourselves that are less pretty. This text makes me look at the city in a special way. All the real estate projects, the rows of high-end furniture stores, the beautiful luxurious cars… The city seems to be overflowing with wealth. There is something violent in this abundance. Maybe it is because it can at once seduce us and sicken us.

Emilie – All these themes resonate with me, and with most people who will read these words, I imagine. Unless we live in a log cabin deep in the forest or under a rock, we are all consumers and we are all being (more or less) manipulated by those who try to sell us something: a dream, an image, an object, the promise of an improved self. But we too manipulate our own image in one way or another by choosing, for example, what we will be wearing in the morning, and by writing posts on Facebook! As is the case in many parts of Vancouver, there is an attempt at gentrifying my neighbourhood on the east side of the city, and I also dream of owning my own place in this city where it takes too much money for someone to achieve this. So, all these topics speak to me and will, I believe, speak to our audience.

Manon – Especially the Instagramification of daily life and wanting/not wanting to keep up with this is something that can feel exhausting. One way or another I am participating. It attracts me and it makes me want to move away from it at the same time.


2) As a stage director, actor, designer, what are the challenges that Guillaume Corbeil’s text presents? How did you prepare for this project?

Philippe –The challenge is that there is an impressive number of ruptures. The text uses numerous narrative devices and plays with the traditional codes of performance. I prepared by identifying the different stages of the story, but also by preparing the creation work in such a way that each element would be as versatile as possible.

Emilie – I read the play several times to better understand all the underlying layers of the text. I also wanted a better grasp of the relationship between the two realtors, and between the audience and the performance. This piece is like an onion: it has several layers and sublayers. Aside from that, I have become more aware of my own behaviours as a consumer and of all the advertisements that surround me every day.

Manon – To create a set and costumes that relate to a ‘’perfect world’ and can become something else. When creating a set and costumes, I rely a lot on the initial feeling that I get from reading the script, this I turn into a concept. From there I start designing spaces and matching this up with materials that represent that initial feeling.


3) Why, in your opinion, is Unité Modèle a high point of the beginning of this fall’s cultural season, and what would you say to a potential audience member who has not yet decided to come see it?

Philippe – As a member of the team, it would be quite arrogant of me to say that Unité Modèle is a high point of the season. We’ll wait and see how people like it… To the undecided, this challenging performance is a must-see. Corbeil’s text is a gem: it’s extremely well-constructed, and the author takes a sharp look at our society.

Emilie – The real question is: why go to the theatre when you can be comfortably at home watching Netflix and eating popcorn? For me, the theatre remains a meeting place, and it gives the audience the opportunity to have a unique and immersive experience. To come to life, Unité Modèle needs the audience! This encounter between the audience and the performance is at the heart of the play, especially when the fourth wall completely disappears during some segments. Aside from entertaining while allowing the audience to live intense emotions, Philippe’s staging and Guillaume’s words really have the potential to make the people in the audience think and question, and gives them the opportunity to experience something different at the theatre. So, come see it!

Manon – It’s a very interesting story with a lot of layers and opportunities to connect it to living in the 21st century. It’s especially interesting for what is going on in Vancouver (as well as in Amsterdam), the future of young people and how this affects daily life, choices and mindsets. Besides that, I think it’s a very interesting group of creators coming together that makes this an exciting play!


4) Two words to describe the play?

Philippe – Sweet and sticky

Emilie – Dream and reality

Manon – Exhaustingly exciting



7 Fun Facts about Unité Modèle

1. The last part of a trilogy

Guillaume Corbeil, who graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in playwriting in 2011, is the author of a trilogy on the theme of the image, Unité Modèle is the closing chapter. In 2012, he published Nous voir nous (Cinq visages pour Camille Brunelle), the Michel Tremblay award, the Best Original Text Award of the AQCT (Quebec Theatre Reviewers’ Association), and the Audience’s Choice Award at the Primeur contemporary playwriting festival in Saarbrücken, Germany. A hit with critics and audiences alike, this play brought Guillaume a fair amount of fame while revealing his unique writing style. It was followed by Tu iras la chercher, in 2014, performed at the Espace Go theatre in Montréal during the FTA (Festival TransAmériques), and then by Unité Modèle.

Photo : Jeremie Battaglia

2. An experienced duo

The play brings together on stage two actors well known to Vancouver audiences: Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and Emilie Leclerc. For the third time, these two friends in life as well as on stage, perform together in a production by Théâtre la Seizième. They both won a Jessie Award in 2016 for their performance in Mathieu Mathématiques, and you may have seen them last year in Michel Tremblay’s Bonjour, là, bonjour.

3. A play that travels

Unité Modèle was premiered at the Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, in Montréal, in 2016, in a production directed by Sylvain Bélanger. The text was then adapted for Théâtre Poche, in Geneva (Switzerland), by director Manon Krüttli, in a lighter form, with singing and dancing, and with actors dressed in zany costumes. And now, it is in Vancouver—where housing costs are prohibitive and where the author’s message is bound to resonate strongly—that the play will be produced by a young and dynamic team with diverse backgrounds.

Photo : Samue Rubio

4. A friendship that translates into text

Anita Rochon and Guillaume Corbeil studied together at the National Theatre School of Canada and are good friends. It seemed only natural to entrust her with the translation to be used for the English surtitles!

5. A Dutch set designer

Manon Veldhuis is a space designer who works in theatre, exhibitions and interior design. She has collaborated on various projects with Toneelgroep Amsterdam (as assistant set designer for adaptations of Shakespeare and Woody Allen), the Nederlands Dans Theater, the Dutch Ministry of Culture and the City of Amsterdam. She has worked on projects by renowned designers Theun Mosk and Julien Thomas, the latter being based in Vancouver. It is her first project in Vancouver and we are thrilled to have her on the team.

6. The conditional mood

The “conditionnel” in French, corresponds to the conditional mood (the “would” form) in English, and is used for hypothetical situations. It is not the most common of verb forms. In French, it can at times seem a bit outdated, its pronunciation tricky, its spelling convoluted… This play is peppered with it! “Vous desserreriez votre cravate” (you would loosen your tie), “vous lui enverriez votre plus beau sourire” (you would beam her your most beautiful smile”). The text of the play is surprising in its form. You will notice that this feature does not impede understanding at all, and that it is perfectly suited to the subject (hypothetical circumstances, a fantasized life). It just requires a bit of diction gymnastics from the actors!

7. A humorous show

Based on the theme, it seems unlikely at first glance, but this is a spirited play! With dance, eclectic music, different beats and variety in the acting, we can guarantee that you won’t be bored. You will laugh (sometimes on the other side of your face), you will go through a wide range of emotions, and you will look at your place with a fresh perspective when you get home from the theatre. Unité Modèle, in its Vancouver incarnation, is a fanciful production, carried along by a team of people who took pleasure in putting it together, and who, above all, really had fun in the process!

Photo : Gaetan Nerincx


Industry Night

We are inviting theatre artists, volunteers and administrators to join us for our industry night on Thursday, October 19, 2017, when tickets for Unité Modèle will be half price for those who work in the theatre community. 

If you’ve never been to Théâtre la Seizième and want to discover the work of francophone artists and our English surtitles, this is your chance! To get the promo code, please contact us at 604-736-2616 or by email, briefly explaining what is your involvement in the theatre industry. Please note, tickets at that price are available in limited quantity.

Spread the word among your staff, artists and volunteers! We can’t wait to see you at our theatre.


Did you know ? Autumn 2017

New projects for the artists working with us.

Abigaëlle et le date coaching is a web series produced by the TV5 fund and broadcast online since October 12. It features many actors who have worked with us: Marie-Claire Marcotte, Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin, Sabrina Auclair, Zak Tardif, Lyne Barnabé and Térèse Champagne. We are looking forward to seeing it!
On September 13, Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and Anaïs Pellin were rewarded at the thirteenth “Prix d’excellence” award ceremony of the Fondation pour l’avancement du théâtre francophone au Canada (the foundation for the advancement of Francophone theatre). The scholarship they received will allow them to pursue a training project (Vincent) and a creation project (Anaïs).
Itai Erdal, who is in charge of lighting for Unité Modèle, is presenting his show Hyperlink with his company, Elbow Theatre, at the Firehall Arts Centre until October 14. The show explores the state of humanity on the web. Only three performances left!
Malcolm Dow, sound designer for Unité Modèle, recently worked on the sound design of Angels in America, part II at the Arts Club Theatre. The show ran from September 7 to October 8, 2017, at the Stanley Stage.
Several artists will gather together at the Banff Centre to participate in a three-week professional development workshop, co-organised with the Association des théâtres francophones du Canada (ATFC) and the National Theatre School of Canada. Among them: Anaïs Pellin, Joey Lespérance, Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and Emilie Leclerc.
Emilie Leclerc will play in The ridiculous darkness, a production by Alley Theatre presented from November 11-19, 2017 at Annex.


Crème-Glacée showcased at Zones Théâtrales in Ottawa

September 11 to 17, two staff members of Théâtre la Seizième went to Ottawa for the 7th edition of the Zones Théâtrales biennial. This year, the biennial presented seven plays, three workshop performances, six new reading experiences, and many other exciting activities aimed at French-speaking theatre professionals from the whole country.

Produced by the National Arts Center, the biennial provided us with the opportunity to give the first public reading of Crème-Glacée, this season’s show for children. It was written by Marie-Hélène Larose-Truchon and will be directed by Marie Farsi. The showcase was brought to life by the actors Emilie Leclerc, Sabrina Auclair, and Sonia Gareau-Brennan on Tuesday, September 12th at the Arts Court Theatre. The venue was packed with more than 100 people.

During the showcase, Marie Farsi explained her vision and understanding of the unconventional text. She unveiled the features of the puppet that is key to the show and described some of the decorative items chosen. This was a great chance for people to learn about her creative thinking process while providing Marie and her team with the perfect opportunity to test their creativity tricks. The feedback was very positive and energized the whole team, for the actual creation phase in March 2018. The show will be presented on April 7th at Studio 16 to the general public and will be on tour in elementary schools in British Columbia and Alberta from April 3rd to June 8th, 2018.

Find out more about Crème-Glacée.

New faces in our team !

A few weeks ago, we welcomed two new recruits at Théâtre la Seizième. Gaëlle de Ruyter is our new executive director. She will monitor our budgets, help us secure new operating subsidies, and take care of our generous donors and benefactors. Cécile Duperron is our new Communications Officer. She is now the person in charge of the image of the company and will be your main social media contact.

While waiting to meet them this autumn at Studio 16, let’s get to know them through the following series of cultural questions.

What play recently touched you?

Gaëlle : Recently, I had two crushes during my participation at Zones Théâtrales in Ottawa. First, M.I.L.F. for its rough but fair way of presenting things, for its underlying poetry and its modernity. Then Ma Irma, a play with a fragile main character, an atypical person searching to tell her story at any price and to connect with others.

Cécile : Yes absolutely, there are two plays I’d love to tell you about. The first one for its incredible setting : 2666, directed by Julien Gosselin (France). Be warned, it’s a 12-hour play but still a very special experience. The second one, the NoShow, by the collective Nous sommes ici, paints the reality of contemporary theatrical creation in an interactive fashion.

Right now, if you had to choose a single book, which one would it be ?

Gaëlle : I couldn’t choose. If I couldn’t bring them all, I wouldn’t pick any ! I would just bring an empty notebook in which I’d write my adventures or the stories I’d create.

Cécile : Without hesitation, I would pick The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. It’s a novel that takes place in the magical realism movement. It tells the story of many generations of women from the same family, keeping in the background hints about Chile’s 20th century history.

Museums, galleries, are you more Monet or Picasso ?

Gaëlle : Neither of them. I love Kindinsly and Miró mostly because I’m sensitive to abstract art.

Cécile : I prefer René Magritte and surrealism.

Your favourite movie ?

Gaëlle : Mr Nobody, by the not so well known Belgian Jaco Van Dormael. I also love all of Christopher Nolan’s movies, especially Memento, The Prestige and Inception. And a Japanese movie, Grave of the Fireflies, by Isao Takahata, which moved me deeply.

Cécile : There are so many ! My top 3 is: Talk to Her, by Pedro Almodovar ; Laurence Anyways by Xavier Dolan ; Blue Is the Warmest Colour by Abdellatif Kechiche.

Addiction to TV series ? Tell us everything…

Gaëlle : Oh yes, I am a real addict, and even before series became trendy ! My thesis was about intertextuality in series. Among the classics, I loved Oz, The Wire, The West Wing or Six Feet Under (not for the faint of heart !) Recently, I had a crush for Stranger Things, and I wish I could find the time to watch Westworld !

Cécile : I don’t watch so many series, but I can easily become addicted when I start a new one. I recently discovered The Handmaid’s Tale, and I watched the series in four days ! I highly recommend !

Which CD is constantly playing?

Gaëlle : “Performance and cocktails” by Stereophonics, my favorite band from way back. In music and love, I’m pretty faithful 😉

Cécile : A Benjamin Biolay album (France) or something by Émile Proulx-Cloutier (Québec). Inspired authors and composers, and meaningful songs.

Your last ‘’mind opening’’ travel and your dream destination for future holidays (the new season is starting, so let’s dream !) ?

Gaëlle : I spent a week in Hawaii 3 years ago and I discovered the Pacific Island’s culture. I never had the chance to be in contact with that before. This was new to me and it gave me the desire to discover more. I wouldn’t mind going back there someday!

Cécile : A few years ago, I lived in Northern Peru for nine months.It was the most amazing immersive trip of my life. It was so interesting to take the time to meet new people, to learn their words and use them daily, to integrate sounds and flavours. Next place ? Iceland, non-touristy Cuba, a long road trip through South America, and after that, Southeastern Asia maybe!

Do you have a special artistic gift, hidden or not ?

Gaëlle : I don’t know if we can really talk about a gift but I’m creative and I like making or inventing things. I played the piano for years and I’d like to take classes again. I also write a lot. I recently discovered a passion for resin jewellery creation!

Cécile : Not at all, or it’s very well hidden… I can’t sing, I don’t feel the rhythm, I don’t know what to do with a paintbrush in hand. I wish I could. Maybe someday, as I have heard that pottery classes are very relaxing…

What is your favourite show in la Seizième’s 2017/18 season ?

Gaëlle : What a dilemma ! I can’t wait to see our in-house productions, Unité Modèle for its particular writing style between dreams and reality, and Crème-Glacée for its tangy universe. I’m also looking forward to seeing Des Arbres because I am touched by the theme. All in all, I have only one recommendation for you : subscribe !

Cécile : If I had to pick a single show, it would be Des Arbres. Is it a wise choice to have children in 2017? Here is a real question for my generation and also one of my concerns. The show might help me find some answers…