Monday, April 2, 2012

Are you ready for theatrical "hacking"?

While Americans tie themselves in knots over the obnoxious practice of "tweet seats," the Canadians have taken to a whole new level the intervention of the digital world - or perhaps the critical world - into the supposedly sacred theatrical space.

The Toronto Globe and Mail has reported that a recent production at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde in Montréal has been "hacked" by the Québécois theatre artist Olivier Choinière. With his company L'Activité, Choinière has already made a reputation for himself with a new theatrical genre nicknamed "podplays," in which audiences wander through a city- or land-scape, guided by a narrative delivered via headphones.

But Choinière touched off a firestorm of accusations and debate when he staged his latest podplay, Projet blanc, within the context of another theatrical event, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde's avant-garde version of Molière's School for Wives. That production, directed by Yves Desgagnés, focused on the text's supposed "terrible resonances" with pornographic and pedophiliac currents running through modern society. But Choinière's audience-within-an-audience - who were discreetly listening to headphones in the balcony - got instead a witheringly critical deconstruction from Choinière of Desgagnés' attempt at deconstruction.  And many theatrical artists aren't very happy about that; indeed, to some, this amounted to a "rape," even though Choinière was only doing to Desgagnés what Desgagnés was already doing to Molière. Actually, perhaps that's what has made the episode so frighteningly resonant for some theatre practitioners; the critic is now in the building, which makes the auteur just as vulnerable to subversion as the original author.

Meanwhile Choinière has countered that “We often have the impression that we're making art, and that we've escaped commercialization and the invasion of marketing in our artistic practice – and I think that's false."  Hmmmm.  You can read about it all here, well before the trend hits the States - if it does hit the States, that is; frankly, this strikes me above all as evidence of a far livelier theatrical culture than the one we've got here.


  1. Montreal occupies an unique position in Canada - the people of the city work very hard at being culturally anti-canadian. This expresses itself as a somewhat frenetic character (if not occasionally completely insane). It is an exciting place to visit.

  2. I love Montreal, personally. The Old City has wonderful architectural character (the new city - well, not so much, alas!!). I wouldn't go there in winter (!), but in the summer the whole city seems to have a wonderful joie-de-vivre vibe that's unlike anything else in North America. So it's no surprise the city is practically the world capital for circus arts - Bostonians should definitely check out the annual Circus Festival there, which this year runs July 5-15. And needless to say, the Village is a gay mecca, with, frankly, the hottest go-go boys in the world, basically. (Did I say that out loud?) I'd never really thought of it as a THEATRE town before though - but I'm realizing I should have!

  3. (We also note Robert LePage, our current theatrical heart throb, hails from Montreal.)