Infinithéâtre strives to develop
and promote local talent
The theatre company ended its 2021-22 season with a successful run of Mazel Tov
By Irwin Rapoport
May 17, 2022
Infinithéâtre, a Montreal-based theatre company, just wrapped up an April 9 to May 8 sold-out run of Mazel Tov, a dramatic and comedic play that pushes us to reflect on the complexities of human relationships. This play wrapped up the 24th season of the theatre company led by Artistic Director Zach Fraser.
Mazel Tov, written by Marc-André Thibault, was directed by Ellen David and starred Kevin Black, Jahlani Knorren, Howard Rosenstein and Ilana Zackon. The play, written in French, was translated and performed in English – its English premiere.
… [Mazel Tov] wrapped up the 24th season of the theatre company led by Artistic Director Zach Fraser.
States the web page for the play, which was performed at Kin Experience in the Quartier des spectacles: “Isabelle is Jewish… Patrick isn’t. They are getting married. During the ceremony, Patrick’s best friend, Philip, makes a gesture that is perceived to be anti-Semitic. Several guests are angry, as well as the bride. Chaos ensues… and things fall apart. Mazel Tov seeks to explore how we put walls between us and how we might build those walls higher or break them down. The play surprises us at every turn and illuminates our understanding of loyalty, friendship and family.”
For those unfamiliar with Infinithéâtre, this is its mandate:
“Infinithéâtre stages exciting, entertaining, relevant theatre that explores and reflects the issues, challenges, and possibilities of contemporary Québec from the perspective of its diverse English-language minority. Our work is driven by the fundamental belief that theatre that speaks to and about the lives, hopes, and challenges of its home community has the best possibility of creating an electric connection between stage and audience that is the essence of great theatre.”
“Infinithéâtre is the one theatre in Québec whose mission is to develop, promote, produce, and broker plays written or adapted by Québec writers and Indigenous writers from within the territory called Canada. We do this because we believe fundamentally that producing our own writers will generate subject matter and themes relevant to Montréal and Québec and result in the strongest possible engagement and live interaction with our audience.”
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Fraser, who has been the company’s artistic director since January 2021, recently spoke with Westmount Magazine about the final play of the 21/22 season and how Infinithéâtre survived and coped with the pandemic.
WM: Can you tell us more about Mazel Tov, its author, and the production?
Fraser: Director Ellen David was fortunate to catch the French-language production of Mazel Tov back in 2017. She was immediately struck by playwright Marc-André Thibault’s ability to explore the complexities of interfaith families, prejudice and intolerance through the gentle and poignant lens of humour. In 2019, Infinithéâtre included an early draft of the English-language translation as part of our Pipeline reading series. The play had to be postponed twice throughout the pandemic but we’re delighted that we were finally able to bring the full production to Montreal audiences.
WM: What attracted you to the play, and how would you describe the audience reaction?
Fraser: All four characters in the play are imperfect. They each make poor judgments that harmfully impact others. But, ultimately, they each find their way to dialogue, listen, and understand the others. We were fortunate to fill the theatre for every performance. Our audiences responded tremendously, and we had four animated discussions with special guests to examine various themes in the play. I do believe audiences are finally beginning to be comfortable returning to live theatre.
WM: The company presented three plays during its 2021-2022 season – that was no easy task amidst COVID. How were you able to bring the stage to life in a bleak period, and did the public appreciate your efforts?
Fraser: Absolutely. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to complete our entire 21/22 season of programming. Every production this year has been a precious occasion. The artists are so hungry to be working again. And audiences are in desperate need of community, culture, and stimulating conversations. Omi Mouna and The Sighlence of Sky were two beautiful pieces of theatrical solo storytelling examining the intricacies of family dynamics. Mohsen El Gharbi and Anana Rydvald are exquisite artists that bring heart, artistry, and generous vulnerability to their work. Combined, they were beautiful intimate works to lure our audiences back to live theatre. Tristynn Duheme, our production manager, has been superb in navigating us safely and confidently through the many pandemic-related variables.
WM: In addition to the plays, the company also successfully organized two series of play readings. Do you find that theatre-goers appreciate this form of presenting a play?
Fraser: Definitely. In September, as part of Les journées de la culture, we presented our inaugural Park’n Play Open-Air Play Reading Series, sharing the works of our finalists from The-Write-Stuff, our playwriting competition for youth. In December we presented three fabulous works as part of Pipeline. The competitions are an excellent way to discover new works and the readings allow us to develop the works and dialogue around the creation process.
WM: What attracted you to the theatre and what led you to become the artistic director (AD) for Infinithéâtre?
Fraser: I’m originally from Nova Scotia. Generally speaking, folks from the east coast love community, and we love a good story too. It is a privilege to work in a field that brings me joy every day, but that also has a direct impact on community life. And theatre is a place that encourages the imagination, thinking outside the box, provocative social exchange, and nourishes a playful spirit. I do enjoy wearing many hats, and that’s pretty much a prerequisite to becoming an AD. Any AD will tell you it’s a lot of work but also an honour and responsibility toward my colleagues, collaborators, and again, the wider community.
WM: What are some of your favourite plays and why? Who are some of your favourite playwrights?
Fraser: Oh… that’s a long and varied answer. But I am greatly inspired by collaborative companies: Theatre of Complicity, Electric Company, Kidd Pivot, and Pupulus Mordicus in Québec City. I grew up on the works of Daniel MacIvor, Morris Panych and Wendy Lill. I always appreciate writers with exquisite craft, surprising fantasy, thought-provoking, playful styles and vital themes. And I love working with established and emerging playwrights that yearn for creative interaction and evolution of the work in the rehearsal hall surrounded by collaborators.
‘We have an abundance of fabulous writers and theatre-makers in English, French, non-verbal, and puppetry – in a multitude of languages that each begin to find their way to interact on stage.’
– Zach Fraser
WM: Do we have a lot of talented playwrights in Quebec and Montreal, and what more can be done to promote live theatre?
Fraser: Absolutely. I chose this city. I moved here out of a love for the rich cultural landscape that exists here. We have an abundance of fabulous writers and theatre-makers in English, French, non-verbal, and puppetry – in a multitude of languages that each begin to find their way to interact on stage.
Sadly, it is always an uphill battle to draw new audiences. We need to continue searching for new ways to engage audiences, render our work enticing, essential, and accessible; and somehow better represent the rich diversity that lives within our society.
WM: Why is the theatre so important, and what can be done to promote acting, playwriting, and theatre production?
Fraser: The world feels increasingly polarized. We seem increasingly alienated and divided. Theatre is an act of togetherness, sharing, healing, laughing, questioning, and sometimes understanding. Within the training institutions and the professional community at large, I do hope we continue to question our processes, remaining curious and open to new and better ways to play and live together.
Feature image: Mazel Tov
All images courtesy of Infinithéâtre
Read also: other articles by Irwin Rapoport
Irwin Rapoport is a freelance journalist.