In September, 1999, I am doing my BA to become a high school French teacher. Some friends who are studying theatre take me to see the first production of le Théâtre du Grand Jour. The play is called Autodafé and is written by Olivier Choinière. I’ve never heard of Olivier Choinière but I do know the play makes me discover writing that’s like a punch in the face and to which I respond. Along with seeing the show, the audience can take part in a contest: “Write your own Revolutionary Manifesto.” I try my hand. One year later, I get a call from Sylvain Bélanger, Artistic Director of the company, telling me “In the end, we commissioned manifestos from professional writers. But we’ve organised an event that will take place at Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui and we want your piece to be part of the show.” That’s how, in 2000, when I couldn’t be further from thinking I would ever write for the theatre, Olivier Choinière staged To Shout From All the Rooftops wherein my words were heard by an audience for the very first time.
Next, we jump ahead thirteen years. Thirteen years, during which I ditch my BA in teaching, I become an apprentice in the creation of the play Incendies (Scorched) by Wajdi Mouawad and I write my first play. Olivier Choinière offers to mentor me in the rewriting and production. On April 9, 2013, at the opening of my play Ce samedi il peuvait (That Saturday, It Rained), Olivier’s girlfriend, Mélissa, comes to sit beside me and asks if I’m nervous. I say yes. She tells me Olivier is, too. I say impossible. I can’t imagine Olivier could be stressed. Olivier arrives and Mélissa takes his hand and puts it in mine. The clammy palm confirms that he’s a wreck. But that he believes in the work one hundred percent. And in the play… And in me, I think.
In the spring of 2015, my second play will be produced at Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui. On the same stage as new works by Wajdi Mouawad and Olivier Choinière. Which moves me deeply. This season, I will also take part in a collective orchestrated by Olivier and in which I have dedicated to Marianne Dansereau the text I will read. Marianne is a young actor of 23, but most of all, she is someone who writes plays that blow me away. And I will do whatever it takes to ensure that audiences can hear her voice as soon as possible. Like Olivier once did with me. Now, this week, I got a call from Marianne who tells me that Olivier has offered to mentor her in the writing of her next play. I immediately ran out to buy champagne.
Because all these threads meet with a confluence that still moves me deeply.
Thank you, Olivier Choinière, thank you for all my flights; I never thought I’d use the metaphor of a bird to thank you, but I’m sticking to it: thank you for my wings. And “my wings” is also the term we use for a licence to fly, and to me, that feels just right. Yes. To thank you for having taught me to pilot the machine that lets my words to take flight in a way that I can make them land where I choose, yes, that does feel absolutely right!
Thank you, Paul Lefebvre, thank you Marcelle Dubois, thank you Marie-Ève Milot.
And thank you to the Siminovitch Prize; thank you for creating an award that encourages real mentorship across multiple generations of artists. I am happy, blessed and honoured to be among you tonight.
Merci à vous tous! Bonne fin de soirée.