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Trans-Forum – Theatre Criticism Around the World #7: Canada

Wednesday 21 June 2023,
12.00 in the afternoon (GMT) or 20.00 (JST)

The situation of theatre and theatre criticism in Quebec in the past 40 years

What is Trans-Forum?

This online forum organised by the AICT/IATC Japanese section aims to initiate a vigorous discussion about theatre criticism with global members to enhance our international partnership. In so doing, we would like to seek what we, theatre critics, can do for theatres that have continued to experience a challenging time since the pandemic began. Every two months, we invite a guest speaker nominated among our international members to share the current climate of theatre criticism in their country. Two discussants from the Japanese section also accompany the online symposium.

Guest Speakers

Michel Vaïs studied theatre at the University of Paris, where he received his PhD in 1974, and taught theatre at McGill University, Université du Québec à Montréal and Université de Montréal.He has been among the founders of JEU Theatre Journal since 1976 and the Quebec Association of Theatre Critics. He published in several Quebec and European journals and dailies, directed the first Dictionary of Quebec Theatre Artists, and previously was co-director of Théâtre des Saltimbanques (1964-69), and worked as an actor, playwright and director. For 21 years, he was a broadcaster for Radio-Canada. He has been involved with the IATC since 1994 and as Secretary General for 24 years. He has accomplished some sixty missions abroad as a lecturer, jury member, and organizer of symposiums.

Raymond Bertin – After starting out in sports journalism, as an autodidact, in the 1970s, He studied literature at the University of Montreal and theatre at the University of Quebec in Montreal. First an actor, he began a career as a journalist in the cultural field in the late 1980s. He worked for several media as a book and theatre critic (weekly Voir, Lurelu magazines and Collections) and was an editor for several theatrical and cultural institutions. A member of the editorial team of the magazine JEU since 2005, he has been its editor-in-chief since 2017 and, over the years, has focused his interest on all forms of theatre from here and elsewhere. He also works as a continuing education teacher at Montreal College.

Sophie Pouliot is the president of the Quebec Theatre Critics Association (Association québécoise des critiques de théâtre, AQCT) since 2019. After getting her law degree, she fully followed the path of cultural journalism she began in parallel with her studies. Her career is now rich of more than two decades of covering Quebec cultural and, more specifically, theatrical scenes for different media. She has been chief of online content and assistant editor-in-chief for Jeu, editorial director of the Jeu podcast Poétiques des territoires, and taught theatre criticism at university (Université du Québec à Montréal, UQÀM). She is currently a theatre columnist for ELLE Québec magazine and Lurelu youth literature magazine, a critic for Jeu and Spirale art magazine, and a judge for journalism contests while also writing as a freelance for several publications, amongst which figures the newspaper Le Devoir.


The history of the Quebec theatre is extremely short, compared to those of the “old countries” of Europe or of a thousand-year-old civilization like Japan. Despite its 400-plus years of existence, Quebec only saw the real growth of its theatre in the 20th century, and particularly in the second half of it. Stemming largely from amateur theatre and strongly marked, from the outset, by French influence, theatrical activity gradually became professional, then diversified, particularly due to the national affirmation of the French speaking population between 1960 and 1980. But theatrical art has suffered and still suffers from the repercussions of political events and social movements that mark its history. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to this art, its artists and its institutions, as elsewhere in the world, and its aftermath is difficult. In my presentation, I will present the major stages in the evolution of the Quebec theatre, the various types of theatre that coexist, and the venues, large and more modest ones, which are dedicated to their dissemination, in major centers of Quebec and in the regions. (Raymond Bertin)

The Quebec Theatre Critics Association has grown considerably over the past few years. The number of the members has doubled, going from 17 when I was elected president, in 2019, to the present number of 35 members. About a fourth of them are established in the capital, Quebec City, while the remaining three-quarters of our members are based in Montreal. However, this growth does not mean that there are more critics – in fact, the space allowed to theatre critics in the media, in our part of the world, clearly and rapidly tends to shrink – but maybe they are more united. The lack of stability that characterises the practice of theatre criticism in Quebec may explain this need for regrouping and solidarity. Indeed, the vast majority of our members are freelance and practice their craft, among other activities. Members for whom the theatre critic (including interviews with artists and theoretical reflections) is the sole activity are practical exceptions. (Sophie Pouliot)


While I have been following the Quebec theatre scene since the 1960s, I must say that for the past 10 years or so, I have enjoyed a kind of happy retirement. I still write occasionally, but see fewer shows, so I asked two colleagues to accompany me today. Let me first explain why, by discussing theatre and criticism in “our country”, we limit ourselves to Quebec. While in English we speak of Quebec as one of the 10 “provinces” of Canada, in French, we say Quebec is our “nation,” our “people,” and we feel quite different from our neighbours of the ROC (“rest of Canada”). We have a distinct culture which exploded politically and socially in the 1960s with what was called the “quiet revolution”; and of course, Quebec took its place with its performing arts –just think of the Cirque du Soleil, Céline Dion, or Robert Lepage who are world stars. The importance given to the Quebec culture, and especially to its theatre, gave birth to two organizations of which I was a part from their beginnings: a theatre journal called JEU, in 1976, and ten years later, an association of theatre critics which later joined the IATC. Raymond Bertin will speak about the present theatre situation in Quebec. He is the editor-in-chief of our only theatre journal –a reference for the theatre scene. Sophie Pouliot will talk about the Critics’ Association, of which she is the president. (Michel Vaïs)

Languages: English and Japanese

Zoom Link

Meeting ID: 973 2905 8351
Passcode: 611238

Programme Coordinators
Seki Tomoko, Kyoko Matsuyama, Terao Ehito, Takehito Mitsui (takehito.mitsui@me.com)

AICT/IACT Japanese Section