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Multicultural Montreal theatre gets a boost from Cole Foundation

This year, eight companies will share $174,000 in production and commissioning grants.

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The Cole Foundation has announced the latest round of grants from its Intercultural Conversations program, which promotes multicultural theatrical performance in the Greater Montreal area.

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This year, eight companies will share $174,000 in production and commissioning grants, a much-needed lifeline during these uncertain times. 

The number of applications was actually down this year, as foundation president and chairman Barry Cole explained, because theatre companies have their seasons already booked up with programs they would have been showing a year earlier.”  

Launched in 1980 by businessman Jack Cole (Barry’s uncle) and directed mostly toward medical issues, the foundation began its Intercultural Conversations program soon after Barry Cole became president in 2007. Since then, Cole said, “we have supported the creation of about 80 or 90 plays, and we’ve supported about 200 productions.”

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The Cole Foundation began its Intercultural Conversations program soon after Barry Cole became president in 2007.
The Cole Foundation began its Intercultural Conversations program soon after Barry Cole became president in 2007. Photo by Steve Gerrard

One of the most ambitious productions this year is a revival of Mani Soleymanlou’s four-hour trilogy, which was produced at Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui in 2014. It is being overhauled by the playwright and performer, who is of Iranian heritage.

“He wrote a play called Un, which is a solo play on his heritage,” said Cole. “Then he did a play called Deux (a two-person show) with Emmanuel Schwartz.”

Unexpectedly, “Trois has 40 actors on stage. It’s a major project. We’ve never been involved with something this big.”

The other production grants will go to the creation of works by:

— Phara Thibault for Chokola, an autobiographical play about the Haitian-born writer’s upbringing by adoptive white parents in Quebec. It will be presented at La Licorne, where Thibault is writer-in-residence.

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— Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, a multidisciplinary artist based in Iqaluit. Her new piece Quamma will be part of the Festival TransAmériques lineup. Bathory last performed in Montreal at Espace Libre in 2019, alongside musician Evalyn Parry, in Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools.

La Licorne writer-in-residence Phara Thibault will receive a Cole Foundation grant for her autobiographical play Chokola.
La Licorne writer-in-residence Phara Thibault will receive a Cole Foundation grant for her autobiographical play Chokola. Photo by Phanie Éthier

— Nathalie Doummar, whose L’amour est un dumpling played during the pandemic at Théâtre Jean-Duceppe. She has been working there with several actresses of North African and Middle Eastern descent on a new piece called Mama.

— Gabe Maharjan, a non-binary writer and actor (last seen in Centaur Theatre’s All I Want for Christmas), who is adapting From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea, a children’s book by Kai Cheng Thom about gender and identity, for Geordie Theatre.

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Geordie’s new director Jimmy Blais, whose play Feather Gardens was commissioned by Hudson Village Theatre. It’s about a Hudson resident whose discovery of what appears to be an authentic arrowhead in his garden leads to an encounter with two resourceful jokers from the nearby Kanesatake Mohawk community. 

— Husband-and-wife team Omari Newton and Amy Lee Lavoie, whose Redbone Coonhound will be a satire about systemic racism in the past, present and future, and will be produced by Imago Theatre. (Newton’s Black and Blue Matters, which was to have been co-produced by Black Theatre Workshop and the Segal Centre this month, has been postponed until the 2022-23 season.)

In addition, a commissioning grant has gone toward the creation of Polyglotte, by First Nations artist Émilie Monnet, whose solo piece Okinum played at the Centaur last fall.

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