Michel(le): Interview with Joey Lespérance

After a long wait due to the play’s postponement last fall, Joey Lespérance is ready to dive back into the Michel(le) adventure. His first solo, produced by Théâtre la Seizième, will run for eight performances at Studio 16 from May 29 to June 8. We caught up with him a few weeks before the show.

Credits: Andrew Alexander for Zones Théâtrales Ottawa


  • Michel(le) was due to open last October, but had to be postponed for health reasons. Seven months later, how do you feel about the upcoming performances?

Joey Lespérance: Postponing the show gave me the opportunity to think more about our theatrical proposition. My conversation with the audience and the intimacy of this show is an unparalleled opportunity for me. I realize more and more that theatre is magic, and can be entertaining and restorative at the same time.


  • Why was it important for you to pay tribute to Michel(le) through theatre and performance?

J. L. : For me, it was obvious that paying tribute to Michel(le) would have to be through theatre, because it was the language of our childhood. It was through the shows we put on for our family and friends that we were truly happy and free to express our singularity. And the theatre was a career dream for both of us; we wanted to be able to make a living from this passion. But above all, Michel(le)’s story, rarely seen on stage, is worthy of a play.


  • This is your first time writing a play. What was the process like?

J. L. : The writing process was very revealing for me. Even though writing an autobiographical play plunged me back into troubling personal events, I had to navigate this period of discomfort to draw out its universality, because Michel(le), from his life, has left us a rich history. With the help of my dramaturgical advisors and through our exchanges, I was able to see this experience from the outside and recognize its particularity, before looking more closely at the form, the way I wanted to tell his story.
As I began this process, I discovered how much I enjoy writing. Michel(le) won’t be my last play.


  • This is your first time writing and performing in a show. How is acting in your own play different from acting in others you haven’t written?

J. L. : There’s definitely a big difference. First of all, I was able to make changes to the text during rehearsals. That’s quite a privilege. Even though my main role in rehearsals is as an actor, the author was never far away. So I was wearing two hats at once. That said, at one point I had to focus entirely on my acting and let the author leave the creative room.


  • What kind of experience do you want the audience to have? What do you want them to come away with?

J. L. : Through Michel(le)’s story, I’d like the audience to recognize the extent to which we need to be attentive to our children. Because in every child, there may be a queer identity that needs to be realized in this heteronormative world. What messages do we send them? What encouragement do we give them? There’s nothing more fragile and precious than the beginning of a life. It’s the starting point of our dreams, but also the time when we need to be encouraged to realize them. Behind every successful adult, there’s a nurtured childhood. The opposite is also true.


  • Esther Duquette directs the show. How did this artistic collaboration come about?

J. L. : I’ve collaborated with Esther Duquette on several occasions, and each time I’ve been touched by her professionalism and work ethic. Esther’s sense of theatre speaks volumes to me. Her attention to detail and her ability to integrate movement, rhythm, acting and aesthetics to create a coherent scenic universe make her a director of great talent. When I started writing Michel(le), I immediately thought of her. I’m so glad she agreed. She’s a great artist, and once again her direction proves it. The project is truly enriched by her leadership, which has enabled us to assemble an outstanding artistic team. What’s more, we love creating together and have an established and open line of communication, which is very important in ensuring a respectful and caring playing space.


Joey Lespérance
May 29 – June 8, 2024
Studio 16 – 7:30pm
Tickets on sale here

A Théâtre la Seizième production


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