Michel & ti-Jean

I saw my first English-language play this winter at the Centaur Theatre. Picture this... in the fall of 69, a young Michel Tremblay arrives in Florida to meet with Jack Kerouac with one thing in mind, have him read his latest creation, "Les Belles-Sœurs". He's young, an unabashed fan (in real life, Tremblay only read On the Road) and vulnerable. Kerouac, on the other hand, is on the decline, alcoholic, uninspired and blasé.

The author of the play, George Rideout, is of American origin; he moved from Texas to Northern Ontario in his teens. Son of a French teacher, and a big Kerouac fan himself, he got into Tremblay's work and quickly saw the parallel between both men's life. As if their Québécois upbringing wasn't enough, both their mothers were Métis and both their fathers were printers.

Mr. Rideout wouldn't submit his play for production before he got Tremblay's approval. Uneasy with the thought of being the center of a play, Tremblay wouldn't read it. When he finally did, his first reaction was a candid one: "I would've never taken the bus all the way south to Florida." Having finally got through it, he directly submitted it to the Centaur Theatre, which produced it.

When I first got wind of the play, it immediately caught my attention. I figured taking a look at my own culture through the eyes of an external observer would be an interesting experience. It was. I went through a roller coaster of emotions. I was most touched by the diatribe against the Catholic Church Tremblay's character goes into. Many of the arguments and the situations being denounced were reminiscent of my own parents' experiences.

Kudos to Mr. Rideout for his insightfulness. Now, he got me interested in another play of his, "An Anglophone is Coming to Dinner".

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