Vibrant Communities In Focus
Image Credit: Salina Kassam
[Le Théâtre de la Vieille 17]
Le Théâtre de la Vieille 17, a Franco–Ontarian theatre company, was born in 1979, and named after the old Trans Canada Highway, Highway 17. Its founders wanted to, literally, “take it on the road” and expose people along the way to French theatre.
With its permanent home now in Ottawa, Le Théâtre reaches out and into the community, embracing both francophones born in Canada and those recently arrived from French-speaking countries. A recent production, Terre d’Accueil (“A Welcoming Land”), was funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Simone St. Pierre is the theatre’s communications director.
“This performance involved fifteen immigrants from French-speaking countries like Haiti, Tunisia, Zaire and East Africa. They wanted to share their stories, and this helped them to develop their artistic way and share with an audience. A few had been artists in their home countries, but many had never been on stage before. Here in Canada, so much of their energy must go toward putting bread and butter on their table. This offers an outlet for expression of deep emotions. There was
a lot of sharing, of hope and stories ... stories of frustration and sadness, and liberation. It helped them build a network of support and find their confidence, and give their stories a public voice.”
Simone says Terre d’Accueil is powerful and audiences love it. The theatre receives daily calls asking for a performance. Grant money from the Ontario Trillium Foundation is also earmarked for a possible production involving teens and seniors, to help dispel myths surrounding both of those groups.