Thirty years young and still full of energy!" Those are the words of new artistic director Guy Mignault describing the upcoming season of Theatre Francais de Toronto. The 30th anniversary season for the company will have an intentionally upbeat slant ("full of fun and laughter" says Mignault) and also a Russian flavor, as it features four Anton Chekhov one acts and a play based on Nikolai Gogol's farce, The Inspector General.
Here's the upcoming schedule:
La Soiree Tchekhov, featuring a quartet of Chekhov pieces: The Bear, The Marriage Proposal, The Tragedian In Spite Of Himself and The Evils Of Tobacco. Mignault will appear in all four plays, which run Nov. 5-22.
Le P'tit Bonheur, a tribute, by Mignault, to Quebec poet Felix Leclerc (the title is taken from one of the songwriter's most famous tunes). The show runs Feb. 4-21, 1998. "P'tit Bonheur," by the way, was the original name of Theatre Francais de Toronto.
Canada's most lauded playwright, Michel Tremblay, closes the season with Le Gars De Quebec, an adaptation of The Inspector General that updates the work to France 1952. The comedy now follows a senior government official from Quebec City sent to a small town the week before Christmas. John Van Burek, TfT's former artistic director, directs the piece, which runs April 22-May 9, 1998.
Also on the TfT schedule (spring 1998) will be school matinees of Mignault's Bonjour Monsieur LaFontaine, a short play based on LaFontaine's fables. The company will also stage a special piece at the Ford Centre For The Performing Arts titled, Aux Hommes De Bonne Volonte'. The piece concerns a 14-year-old boy who has died of AIDS and demands that his will be read aloud to his family. The story of language and love will run June 17-19 of this year. Actor, director and playwright Mignault joined Theatre Francais de Toront ƒas new artistic director beginning in February after he completed his acting stint in La Compagnie Jean Duceppe's L'Expulsion De Lily Barton.
For the past eight years, Mignault has served as artistic director and producer of Theatre de la Chevrerie in Quebec. He has appeared in such productions as Je N'Aime Que Toi, Au Secours, Les Beaux-Freres and Snack Bar. He's written 15 plays, several for young audiences. He has directed at such venues as the Maison du Citoyen, Palais des Congres de Hull, Theatre d'ete' du Mont Avila and Salon du Livre de l'Outaouais.
Mignault has been quoted as saying that "being a story teller is close to being a magician. If I am coming to Toronto, it is because I believe that I have been called by a kind of magic."
TfT was founded in 1967 by Claudette Gobeil and other theatre enthusiasts. It went under the name Theatre du P'tit Bonheur (TPB) for 20 years before changing its title to TfT to mark the troupe's two decade anniversary. Artistic directors have included John Van Burek, Eugene Gallant and previous artistic director, Diana Leblanc, who left June 1996 to pursue an outside acting and directing career.
Currently at TfT is Robert Marinier's solo, Insomnia (April 18-May 3). For tickets and information on TfT productions, call (416)534-6604.
-- By David Lefkowitz