Intercultural Conversations

The Cole Foundation encourages theatrical dialogue between Montreal’s various cultures

By Patricia Dumais

Montreal is a multicultural city, open to the world, welcoming people of all ethnic origins. The Cole Foundation wants Montrealers to have a greater awareness of the voices and stories from and about its diverse cultures/communities.

The Foundation believes that dialogue leads to better understanding, appreciation, and greater social harmony amongst the cultural communities. The challenge is to encourage this intercultural conversation.

In that spirit, the Cole Foundation announced the latest grant winners for its Intercultural Conversations / Conversations Interculturelles program, established to stimulate the production of theatrical events that will feature intercultural dialogue and introduce Montrealers to other cultural heritages and social realities.

the cole foundation barry cole

Barry Cole, President and Chair, the Cole Foundation

Westmount resident Barry Cole, President and Chair of the Foundation, explains: “Our belief is that these financial awards animate change of theatre practice to include intercultural conversation as part of mainstream theatrical society.”

Twenty local theatre companies were awarded grants for their upcoming seasons, totalling a record $334,000. This is the highest number of applicants since the program’s creation seven years ago. Barry is particularly pleased with the ever-increasing requests from theatres for young audiences, “This kind of support has lasting benefits, impressing important values on children and offering productions that return to schools for multiple years.”

The Cole Foundation was initiated in 1980 by Barry’s uncle J.N. (Jack) Cole, a Montreal businessman and philanthropist. The private family foundation, based in Montreal, supports research in pediatric leukemia and related diseases, as well as a program of support for community initiatives that includes Intercultural Conversations.

The idea behind Intercultural Conversations arose from the Bouchard Taylor Commission, which recognized the multi-cultural aspect of Montreal and the need to increase the intercultural dialogue between communities.

When Barry took over as President and Chair of the Foundation, he felt something could be done to encourage intercultural dialogue in the theatre community. With a 30-year career in performing arts management, Barry was in his element when it came to setting up the Intercultural Conversations program.

The Cole Foundation is the only private foundation in Montreal with an intercultural theatre program, offering companies up to $25,000 for production grants with the aim of modifying public opinion. There is no set limit to the number of companies who can receive funding.

Geordie Productions Jabber play

Jabber — Geordie Productions

The Foundation will provide a Production Grant to professional theatre companies to present productions of such plays. The commissioning of new works by theatre companies is eligible through Commissioning Grants for playwrights to write original scripts. And Translation Grants are available for the translation of foreign original plays into French and/or English.

For this year’s competition, the Foundation received 40 applications from 35 companies — 23 French and 12 English — an 11 per cent increase compared to last year. These figures include three First Nations productions — two in French and one in English. Thirty-four applications were for production grants, ten requests for commissioning money and one for translation. Says Barry, “When we first started the program we got few requests from French theatre but over the years there has been a steady increase in requests. We are very pleased to now have a strong French theatre presence.”

Since its inception, the Foundation has contributed to the costs of commissioning 34 plays, the translation of 32 plays, the production costs of 90 plays, plus various workshops and outreach events. A panel of bilingual Montreal theatre professionals adjudicate the applications.

Since its inception, the Foundation has contributed to the costs of commissioning 34 plays, the translation of 32 plays, the production costs of 90 plays, plus various workshops and outreach events.

Grant recipients this year will explore amongst other topics, the effects of radicalization, sex-selective abortion, racial profiling, feminist dialogue between Christians and Muslims, and little known circumpolar communities.

The following is a sampling of appreciative comments from some of this year’s grant recipients that demonstrates the value of the Intercultural Conversations program:

“This important contribution will enable us to achieve an intercultural project that would not have otherwise happened, involving artists from different origins as well as children from here and the Innu community of Mashteuiatsh.” — Marie-France Bruyère, Théâtre Motus.

“This grant will serve as leverage to obtain the rest of the necessary funding. It shows that we have a common concern for dialogue regardless of our origins and the need to fight the demonization of ‘the other’.” — Mohsen El Gharbi, L’Acteur en Marche

“There won’t be intercultural conversation if there isn’t intercultural creation. Here, support goes to the source – the playwright; we can now create original work that diversifies our literary field, enriches our cultural fabric and fosters critical understanding.” — Rahul Varma, Artistic Director, Teesri Duniya Theatre

“By promoting diversity and providing a forum for artists from various disciplines, generations and cultural backgrounds, the Cole Foundation makes us believe that it is still possible to create art where we can put social issues at the forefront.” — Sarah Chouinard-Poirier, Volte 21

“On top of this great news, we are excited to continue our ongoing relationship with playwright Marcus Youssef as he probes the world of an isolated teen’s obsession with a radical group.” — Dean Fleming, Artistic Director, Geordie Productions

“We continue our mandate to explore local cultural communities and ensuing healthy and inclusive discussion.” Isabelle Gingras, General Manager, Nouveau Théâtre Expérimental

“This is an opportunity to develop audiences; ensuring theatre remains a place of meeting and exchange.” — Michel Dumont, Artistic Director, Duceppe.

Grants for the next competition relate to shows starting March 1 for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 theatre seasons. The deadline for application is September 30, 2016. Theatre companies interested in applying for a grant can download the necessary forms from the Cole Foundation’s web site at

For more information about the Cole Foundation and its endeavours visit

Images: courtesy of the Cole Foundation

Patricia Dumais, artistic director, award-winning graphic designer specialized in brand design is co-founder of Visionnaires, publishers of Westmount Magazine. Patricia develops visual concepts and ensures that all deliverables follow our publication’s standards and reflect the editorial voice. You can connect with Patricia on Linkedin, Twitter and Pinterest. or by email at

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