With COVID-19 being the most chaotic dilemma Montreal has faced since dumping tonnes of sewage in the Saint Lawrence River, Montrealers are desperate for some entertainment and human connection in our isolated reality. That’s why Mathieu Murphy-Perron, founder of Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, created En Pointe, a free live street theatre series in his home borough of Pointe-Saint-Charles.
"COVID has taken its toll on everyone. People are hungry for connection, purpose, and shared experiences," Murphy-Perron told MTL Blog.
"I decided to throw myself into a different form of creation, one that can accommodate the various obstacles that a pandemic [can throw at you] . . . so that my neighbours could smile a little."
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