The Montreal theatre-goer used to be limited in terms of the variety of contemporary English plays available to attend. In fact, there are many award winning plays that had never seen a night in this city before Tableau D’Hôte set about to change that fact. Theatre student Mat Perron sat down with the Concordian to talk about the makings of his own successful company and give us sneak peak at their upcoming performance.
How and why did you set out to put together a production company?
Well, Tableau d’hôte actually came about in two ways. First of all, I had been writing, directing and producing my own shows since grade 10, and really had the chance to strengthen my skills in CEGEP. Also, I had been acting in Mike Payette’s plays and he in mine. In Dec. 2003, we naturally decided to merge together to create a production company and mandate, even though we had no idea what the implications were, or what we were getting ourselves into! Concordia’s first year students aren’t allowed to be in shows, so that’s another reason that prompted us to start this. We produced our first show in March 2005.
What kind of mandate is your company working with?
Our mandate is to promote Canadian work never before shown in Montreal. Our fourth play I Am Yours, had won the governor general’s award in 1989 but had never been produced here. We also place a stronger focus on character and text than on decor, and like to mix in other media like dance and poetry. What makes a company survive is a clear mandate; thrive is a clear aesthetic mandate.
As a bilingual person, what’s your position on what languages your company focuses on?
At this point, we’ve only put on English productions, but our goal is to go bilingual since most Montrealers are bilingual, and we want to invite communication between them. In fact, my Master’s thesis will be on developing bilingual theatre.
It’s very difficult for art companies to get enough funding to stay afloat. Can I ask you about your finances?
Sure. We’re completely self-sustained – we get funding through sponsorship and ads, and FASA too. Our tickets sales have been working out pretty well – we made profits off our first four shows, but our productions are getting more and more costly. This is because every time we made money, we paid our actors a little, but mostly we put it towards a larger venue for our next production as it’s less limiting in terms of what you can do on stage. Our upcoming production is at the very costly Studio Hydro-Quebec, but in my opinion it’s one of the best venues in Quebec. This is the show that says ‘alright, here we are now for real’ and now that we’re there, we really want to keep knocking people’s socks off.
What about actors?
Well, we have no regular troupe other than a few recurring students. Mostly we have a mix of equity apprentice members and student actors for each play.
How do you organize yourselves in terms of roles?
In the beginning, Mike was the artistic director so he took care of most of the artistic vision, and I was the general manager and took care of the communications and press, and basically, everything else! We also had Yolande Monfiston as our associate producer.
Now though, we have a director of fundraising, a media coordinator and Larry Lamont, the director of new play developments because Dark Horse Theatre merged with us and they focused more on new productions. We also have Jessica Abdallah, a great associate producer and a manager. Philip Malizia, our graphic artist, gave us our visual identity, and we have a web coordinator and even a resident photographer! We do want more audience development initiation, and are looking for a director of development.
How do you go about choosing your plays?
We regularly put out calls for new works. Mike, Larry and myself look over them, and then Larry takes care of the dramaturgy and tweaking things with the playwright. It mostly requires a lot of research though, like talking to theatre profs, putting calls out to directors.
What do you hope to accomplish with this company?
There’s a lot of segregation right now, of theatre being done for theatre people, and so on. So by creating interdisciplinary productions, we hope to give people a taste of different artists working together with different style for a common goal.
Tell us about your upcoming play.
It will be the first Tableau d’Hôte production where neither Mike nor myself are directing artistically. Rebecca Harper will be directing the play adapted from vehicle poet Ken Norris’s One Night. It tells the story of a writer who’s trying to seduce his reader, only to realize this is his imagination. An actor will be reading poems aloud, while a dancer doubles as his reader, imagination and past lover/muse.
Tableau D’Hôte Theatre’s “One Night” will be playing the Monument National’s Studio Hydro-Qu