"We know that there are voices missing from the stories we tell," says Eda Holmes, Artistic and Executive Director of Centaur Theatre.
"While we have been inclusive of the stories of several cultural communities in Montreal we have not included the Indigenous voice in our programming in any comprehensive way. This is a stark absence on our stages," she told MTL Blog.
The residency will help creatively support and develop a new piece
The theatre will provide a commissioning fee and other materials, such as an Indigenous dramaturg and space for workshopping and experimenting.
Specifically, the call lays out the following allocation of funds:
$10,000 for the commission (includes time for research and development of the project)
$2,000 for travel
$2,500 for dramaturgical support
$8,000 for collaborating artists
$10,000 for production support
$1,500 for outreach activities
Submissions can be from an artist, company or collective.
"We have structured the residency to include time to do research, support from a professional culturally specific mentor and access to our stages for development of the work and support for presentation of the outcome," says Holmes.
"We are hoping to build up the canon of Indigenous stories that are specific to this territory in an effort to broaden our understanding of the larger Indigenous history that is present in our country."
The selection process will include a jury with two Indigenous theatre artists
Anyone interested in the residency should send their proposal of the project and an estimated timeline, as well as a list of other Indigenous artists that would be ideal to work with. An up-to-date resume should also be included.
Submissions may be emailed or mailed-in (Centaur Theatre Company, 453, rue St. François-Xavier, Montréal, Quebec, H2Y 2T1).
Video submissions will also be accepted.
Those selected will be invited to meet with a jury of two Indigenous theatre artists and Holmes, either in-person or virtually.
Applications are open until January 31. Any artist who makes a submission will hear the answer by February 15.
The residency highlights a key element missing from the conversation
"Long before Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence and encountered a nation of Iroquoian people in a place called Hochelaga, the island which the European settlers chose to call Montreal had been a point of conflict, conference, creativity and exchange since time immemorial for many Indigenous peoples including the Anishinaabe, Huron/Wendat, and Abénaki nations," Holmes explained.
"The people of the Kanienkéha:ka Nation — known in English as the Mohawk — are now considered the caretakers of the land and water around Montreal. In their language, this island bears the name of Tiohtià:ke, which means 'broken in two', because of the way the river breaks around it."
"I love how this Indigenous language identifies the island as part of the river, because it reminds me that we are all in the flow of a much larger story. This mighty river has for centuries carried people here from all over the world in search of new opportunities and new lives and the Lachine Rapids that sit just off the western tip of this island have given pause to many of those journeys."
"The river has made contemporary Montreal into a vibrantly diverse city. I find that diversity inspiring because it is by telling each other our stories that we build bridges between our different cultures and languages."
"And so I offer you stories at Centaur Theatre that I hope can build a bridge to you along with everyone in the audience no matter where you come from. They are all stories that explore our hearts and hopefully open our minds to affirm our collective humanity."
On September 28, the provincial government announced that Montreal will be entering Quebec's COVID-19 red zone for 28 days, starting on October 1.
Premier François Legault outlined which businesses will remain operational and which will close during the red zone period. Businesses in the arts and culture industry were among the closures — hitting theatre companies, museums and cinemas particularly hard.
Now, some of Montreal's playwrights, actors and movie theatre owners are denouncing the government's decision, concerned about what this means for their livelihoods and the mental health of Montreal's art enthusiasts.
How do Montreal business closures affect the arts and culture industry?
As of midnight on Thursday, all auditoriums, cinemas, museums, bars, casinos and restaurant dining areas will be forced to stop operations for the next month.
All activities and events are cancelled, outside of places of worship or funerals.
Retail stores are staying open, as are beauty care services, and will operate under the province's public health protocols. This includes the social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing we've all become accustomed to.
Legault argues that theatres, cinemas have a higher chance of spreading the virus
Though retail stores are a major source of local outbreaks, according to Montreal's regional public health department, Premier Legault defended the province's decision to keep shops open while closing spaces for the arts.
In a press conference on September 29, he said there is a higher risk of transmission in places where people are in close contact for more than 10 minutes.
"In a theatre, even if you’re only 250 people, even if you’re wearing a mask until you sit down, there is still a risk after an hour or two . . . There’s a lot of community transmission," said Legault.
"So we can’t wait until there’s a bunch of cases in these places [to shut them down]."
Theatres and cinemas denounce Legault's restrictions
Mathieu Murphy-Perron, executive director of Tableau d'Hôte Theatre, said in a statement that the government's restrictions "unfairly target" the arts.
"It is scandalous that . . . you will be able shop at Chapters, but you may not visit a library. You can go to the mall, but not a museum," said Murphy-Perron.
Eda Holmes, artistic director of Centaur Theatre, told MTL Blog that artists in the city feared they would be next on the list of business closures.
"We felt that we had made a good first stab at finding a way to safely offer live art inside the pandemic. But we always knew that things could change on a dime — and they have," she said.
She said she hoped theatres and other arts institutions would receive financial compensation for their losses since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
Vince Guzzo, president of Cinémas Guzzo, said the government's move was "arbitrary and unwarranted."
"There have been no known cases of COVID-19 transmission linked to movie theatre visits in Québec," he said in a statement.
"The inevitable toll induced by the government’s decision will be devastating for many local business owners and the provincial economy as a whole."
The series of bilingual, episodic plays "follows the encounters and adventures of interconnected characters living in a working-class neighborhood amid unprecedented world crisis," according to the website, making the concept pretty 'meta' and incredibly relatable.
"From the pressure-cooker of isolation to adapting and resisting to a neighbourhood transformed by gentrification, can their individual hopes, fears, dreams lead to collective change and connection?"
To allow Montrealers to gather in the borough and watch the play's episodes, which take place on the streets, steps, balconies and green spaces of Pointe-Saint-Charles, the cast and onlookers follow COVID-19 protocols for small gatherings.
Murphy-Perron outlined his "cardinal rules" for safe acting and observing, which include casting real-life couples so that some characters could touch and be close to each other without violating public health guidelines.
Murphy-Perron also said he planned for digital adaptations so those who can't attend in-person can still enjoy each episode.
All play-watchers are socially distanced and wearing masks, as per the province’s pandemic protocols, Murphy-Perron said.
He also stressed the importance of keeping the exact locations of each episode secret, so as to avoid huge crowds.
He said that although the plays have been humorous, the cast has had an emotional reception from some viewers.
"People were crying and mouthing 'Thank you, thank you, thank you' during curtain calls," he said.
But what’s most important to Murphy-Perron is inviting fellow Montrealers to Pointe-Saint-Charles, he said, where "new friendships can be forged" — and viewers can forget their troubles for a little while through innovative theatre.
"Be it pandemic-inspired loneliness, the housing crisis, or the closing of our local YMCA after 160 years, this community is my home, and En Pointe was largely meant as a gift to my neighbours after some pretty tough moments," said Murphy-Perron.
"These plays . . . reflect the place we call home, and I think we've done a pretty good job at that."
The last show in the free En Pointe series is September 27 at 3 p.m. in Pointe-Saint-Charles.
The play is in a secret location, so sign up to get the details via email a few hours before the show.
En Pointe, Live Street Theatre
When: Sunday, September 27 at 3 p.m.
Address: Secret location in Pointe-Saint-Charles; Sign-up to get the details via email a few hours before the show
Why You Need To Go: Socially distant entertainment and human connection