Germaine Lauzon has won a million trading stamps from a department store. Her head swimming with dreams of refurbishing and redecorating her working-class home from top to bottom with catalogue selections ranging from new kitchen appliances to “real Chinese paintings on velvet,” she invites fourteen of her friends and relatives in the neighbourhood over to help her paste the stamps into booklets.
Raucous, reckless and rude, the women shamelessly share their most secret hopes and fears, complain stridently about their friends and relatives, fantasize wistfully about escaping the misogynist drudgery of their lives and surreptitiously tuck most of the stamps into their purses and clothing, self-righteously appropriating what they consider to be Germaine’s “illegitimate” good fortune.
While earlier attempts had been made to stage the realities of Québécois life using colloquial language and a realist backdrop of working-class Montréal, these populist hits were considered rustic and anomalous, while “real” (Parisian) French continued to dominate theatre and “high culture” until the end of the 1950s.
As Québec searched for a new socio-political identity and a language that could articulate its rapidly emerging post-colonial reality throughout the “quiet revolution,” Michel Tremblay struggled to find an authentic Québécois voice. Written in 1965, it took three years for him get a first production of Les Belles Soeurs in 1968. Premiering at the Théâtre du Rideau-Vert in the same year that René Lévesque founded the nationalist Parti Québécois, this first of what was to become more than a dozen plays in Tremblay’s Cycle of Les Belles Soeurs became an overnight success. In one fell stroke, Joual, the distinctive Québec vernacular that had evolved over centuries since the end of French colonial rule had been legitimized, and Michel Tremblay, much like Chaucer in English and Dante in Italian, had become “the father of the Québécois language.”
About the authors
One of the most produced and the most prominent playwrights in the history of Canadian theatre, Michel Tremblay has received countless prestigious honours and accolades. His dramatic, literary and autobiographical works have long enjoyed remarkable international popularity, including translations of his plays that have achieved huge success in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.
Awards and Recognition*
Prix du Grand (2009) La Traversée de la ville (Leméac Editeur Inc.)
Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix (2006)
Globe and Mail Top 100 Books (2003) Birth of a Bookworm
Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play (2000) For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
Chalmers Awards (1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1986, 1989, 2000)
Governor General’s Performing Arts Award (1999)
Molson Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (1994)
Louis-Hémon Prize (1994)
Montreal Book Fair Grand Public Prize (1994)
Banff Centre National Award (1992)
Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters of France (1991)
Chevalier of the Order of Quebec (1990)
San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Festival Long-Standing Public Service Award (1989)
CBC Anik Prize (1988)
Athanase-David Lifetime Achievement Prize (1988)
Quebec-Paris Prize (1985)
Chevalier of Arts and Letters of France (1984)
John Van Burek
John Van Burek has been a practising theatre artist for over 20 years, in both French and English, throughout Canada. He has also worked in the fields of opera, film and television. He is also one of Canada’s leading translators for theatre, most notably of Michel Tremblay’s plays, including Les Belles-Soeurs (Talonbooks). Mr. Van Burek has received several awards and citations for his work, including the Toronto Drama Bench Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Canadian Theatre.
Born in Quebec, William Grant (?Bill”) Glassco was a Canadian theatre director, producer and founder of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. He then became the artistic director of the CentreStage Theatre Company which merged, in 1988, with the Toronto Free Theatre to become CanStage. In 1982, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Born in Toronto, John Van Burek studied at St. Anselm College in the United States, at the University of New Brunswick, and at the University of Toronto. He has been a practising theatre artist for over twenty years, in both French and English, throughout Canada. He has also worked in the fields of opera, film and television.
In 1971, he founded the Théâtre français de Toronto where, over the years, he directed some sixty productions. He stepped down as Artistic Director of the company in 1991. Mr. Van Burek has taught at Ryerson Theatre School, York University and at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. He is also one of Canada’s leading translators for theatre, most notably of Michel Tremblay’s plays, including Les Belles-Soeurs (Talonbooks). Mr. Van Burek has received several awards and citations for his work, including the Toronto Drama Bench Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Canadian Theatre. In 1992, he was awarded a Canada Council “A” Grant for senior artists.
This prestigious award allowed him to spend a year abroad, studying and working with major theatre artists in Nottingham, London and Paris. In addition, thanks to a special grant form the Minister of External Affairs and the Toronto Arts Council, he was able to undertake a program for the promotion of Canadian plays in both England and France.
Bill Glassco is the founding artistic director of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, co-founding director of the Canadian Stage Company, and one of this country’s best known directors of Canadian work. He has also translated plays by Michel Tremblay and Simon Fortin.