Parlez-vous français? If that is the extent of your French language skills, not to worry because Théâtre la Seizième, Vancouver’s professional French-language theatre company, also caters to Anglophones.
“One of the obvious ways we make our productions accessible is through the use of surtitles,” says the company’s artistic and managing director, Craig Holzschuh. “The entire script is there; we don’t shorten it or edit it down and English audiences will know exactly what is going on.”
While English surtitles are available during performances on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during each show’s run, Holzschuh also points to the English-language information on the company’s website that will also help prepare audiences.
“We certainly try to make it as easy as possible for English-speaking audiences. Besides, everyone has a little bit of French,” he laughs.
But even as Théâtre la Seizième attempts to cater to an English audience in addition to its French core, Holzschuh insists it is the diversity of its offerings that really appeals to those who attend, regardless of language.
“It’s exciting for audiences to see things from a different perspective,” he says. “Opera and the Push Festival have proven that there is an appetite for works with another point of view, and working from a Francophone point of view, as we do, allows theatre-goers to see something unique.”
That philosophy is obviously paying off, not only as Théâtre la Seizième continues to grow its audience, but in the recognition they have received from their peers, including an impressive eleven statues at last year’s Jessies, Vancouver’s annual professional theatre awards. But don’t expect Holzschuh and his team to let the accolades go to their heads, as they continue to offer more compelling work in their new season.
“It is not going to allow us to sit on our hands,” he says. “We were humbled to receive nominations and awards, but we’re continuing to work hard to present shows that excite us, and that our audiences have come to expect.”
Opening its 2015/2016 season is a production of Deux ans de votre vie (You Are Happy) from Quebecois playwright Rébecca Déraspe.
(For those keeping track, Holzschuh says that the literal translation of Deraspe’s French title – Two years of your life – “sounded more like a prison sentence”, and with the playwright’s permission the English title became You Are Happy, which he says “speaks directly to the audience”.)
A dark and quirky romantic comedy about finding love, it was the Deux ans de votre vie’s style that Holzschuh initially found compelling.
“Stylistically, it is very unique, with a mix of direct address and traditional scenes that I had not seen in some time,” he says. “There is also a beautiful poetry in the way she writes; it surprises you with its humour that is a little dark, and caustic and then you move forward to this beautiful poetry with a wonderful monologue at the end.”
The choice of Deux ans de votre vie also plays into another of the company’s mandates: to present scripts that have not been seen by Vancouver audiences.
“With You Are Happy it was a bit different in that Ruby Slippers had done a reading a couple of years ago as part of the Neanderthal Festival, but this is the first time it will see a staged production here in Vancouver,” he says. “Déraspe is very much an up-and-coming playwright and it is something very different from what we have done in the past.”
Théâtre la Seizième opens its 41st season with Deux ans de votre vie (You Are Happy) at Studio 16 (1545 West 7th Ave, Vancouver) October 13-24. Visit http://seizieme.ca for tickets and information. English surtitles are presented during performances on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.