Saskatoon’s Troupe du Jour: more than theatre in French
Created in 1985, professional theatre company La Troupe du Jour has taken on the mission of developing Fransaskois theatre by supporting the creation, production and dissemination of French-language works and plays. The move to its new Centre de production 914 in 2011 marked a turning point. Now the owner of a performance hall, the troupe can more easily develop an audience and reach its objectives. In addition to presenting four to six plays a year, home-grown productions and plays of other Francophone Canadian theatre companies, this company is training the new generation, creating bridges with the Anglophone community and collaborating with an Indigenous troupe. La Troupe du Jour is a cultural crossroads.
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A production house, a school, a meeting place
Every year, La Troupe du Jour produces at least one original play by a French author from Saskatchewan or the Western provinces. Over the years, it has thus given regional talent an opportunity to express itself and develop. Indeed, Fransaskois authors Raoul Granger and Gilles Poulin-Denis, whose plays have been staged by La Troupe du Jour, have earned provincial and national recognition. Director Denis Rouleau has also received two prestigious awards emphasizing the excellence of his career.
Of course, the troupe has shared these successes with its expanding audience, but also with children aged 7 to 15, to whom it offers theatre classes and the opportunity to step onto the stage for the first time after they complete their training. La Troupe du Jour also organizes workshops for emerging playwrights, holds play readings and presents festivals. It accommodates and supports the Cercle des écrivains. It also publishes texts by Fransaskois playwrights in order to put together a repertoire typical of Saskatchewan Francophones, and collaborates with community theatre troupes to spread theatre practice and the use of the French language.
Since 2011, Centre de production 914, built and operated in keeping with sustainable development principles in the heart of Saskatoon, has been facilitating all these initiatives. It also rents out its multipurpose premises to other organizations.
The Fransaskois theatre enables local Francophone residents to recognize themselves in the themes addressed on stage by La Troupe du Jour, offering spectators a reflection of their own reality. This partnership between the troupe and its audience contributes to the vitality of the Fransaskois community, in particular through the tremendously successful historical plays it has produced. The troupe’s tours throughout Saskatchewan also drive this energy.
Since the Fransaskois community is not very large, La Troupe du Jour makes efforts to reach Anglophone friends and spouses, not to mention Francophiles who want to improve their knowledge of French culture. To accomplish this, the company has created original approaches that foster communication: meaningful props and decor, lighting effects, body doubles, stunning scene recaps, exaggerated use of body language and subtitling in English of part of the play.
La Troupe du Jour is a constructive element in the cultural diversity of Saskatchewan. It rents out its premises and is in contact with artist collectives, community groups and other theatre companies, such as Tant par tant, which specializes in the production of plays translated into French, and Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre, an Indigenous troupe.
The origins of La Troupe du Jour
In 1985, three members of amateur company Unithéâtre of the University of Saskatoon decided to create a professional troupe reflecting Fransaskois reality. The first impetus was given. Four years later, general manager and artistic director Denis Rouleau arrived, bringing the project to maturity. La Troupe du Jour nevertheless had to persevere and innovate to ensure its future. The troupe had to move ten times over the years, which threatened its financial health. Fortunately, in 2007, a major fundraising campaign was launched, enabling the Centre de production 914 to be built. This finally gave the troupe some stability. Today, La Troupe du Jour is the principal professional Francophone theatrical organization in Saskatchewan. It has more than 80 shows—700 performances—to its credit, including some 40 original productions. In 2004, it was inducted into the Margaret Woodward Hall of Fame by Theatre Saskatchewan for its contribution to the development and vitality of theatre in Saskatchewan.