Intercultural Conversations
grants announced

Now in its 11th year encouraging theatrical dialogue between the various cultures in Montreal

The Cole Foundation recently announced its latest grant winners for the Intercultural Conversations-Conversations Interculturelles (IC-CI) programme, initiated to encourage greater understanding of Montreal’s cultural mosaic by having audiences enjoy professional plays that present stories and issues of diversity on stage.

For the past ten years, the Foundation has focused on intercultural and racialized theatrical conversations for their community initiatives. This has created an award-winning catalogue incorporating themes of inclusion and cultural dialogue.

31 companies, 42 crucial grants, $490,400 to support diverse theatrical stories in Quebec

Adding to those, the programme has now expanded to include stories with and about other marginalized communities such as LGBTQ and people with a disability. This year $490,400 was granted, the highest amount of award money since the IC-CI programme’s launch.

A banner year with more crossover than ever

Fondation Cole - Barry Cole -

Cole Foundation President and Chairman, Barry Cole Image: Steve Gerrard

The jury members felt that overall the competition this year was stronger than in the past. Translation has always been part of Intercultural Conversations. “What was unique about this year’s competition was that there were a number of applications from companies for plays that had been presented in one language, now requesting funding to have works translated into the other official language,” remarked Cole Foundation President and Chairman, Barry Cole. “While all applications were not successful with the jury, it demonstrated that there is an increasing integration of the French and English theatre communities, which is a very positive development.”

There were also a few applications for plays in multiple languages. Intercultural tours and co-productions are increasingly being brought to the Quebec stage, including Les Productions Hôtel-Motel’s Premiere Neige / First Snow, Centaur Centre’s Century Song, Collectif Aalaapi’s Aalaapi and Segal Centre’s Children of God, among others.

There is also a greater interest in Indigenous communities and their stories. Special consideration funding was also given to MainLine Theatre’s Montreal St-Ambroise Fringe Festival for the Culturally Diverse Artist Project mentorship program, designed to encourage participation by artists from culturally diverse backgrounds to participate in the Festival.

Intercultural/racialized elements now at the forefront of Quebec theatre seasons

Heading into the 11th year of this invaluable program, commissioning grants are more sought after than ever. “We are buoyed with the rising interest of companies creating their own Quebec narrative, one that encompasses our diverse reality,” said Cole.

Premiere neige First Snow -

Premiere neige / First Snow Image: courtesy of Productions Hotel-Motel

Philippe Ducros, artistic director of Les Productions Hôtel-Motel, sees the Cole Foundation’s intercultural dialogue mission as more urgent than ever, “As we saw again in the recent elections and with the events of last summer regarding cultural appropriation, questions about diversity are not to be ignored but are rather essential to the development of any contemporary project. With the Foundation’s support we are able to open up to real dialogue, to meet people marginalized by their culture or their origin, but who form the fabric of our society.”

From Mikaël Vitali at Jamais Lu: “Thanks to the Conversations Interculturelles grant, we will be able to create, on the occasion of the 18th edition of the Jamais Lu Festival, a platform for encounters between artists and audiences from English Canada and French Canada, including Indigenous artists. We believe it is time to abolish the walls created by years of post-colonialism and partisanship and explore the links between the arts communities’ two official languages.”

For Singular Pluriel’s Julie Vincent, “We have been enriched by embracing diversity, and this wealth is at the heart of our current and future development.”

Théâtre Surreal SoReal’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a story about various perceptions of physical limitation and includes a mixed cast of able-bodied actors and those living with a disability. “Our bilingual company is committed to presenting shows that give artistic authority to those who may not always be given a voice, opening up new depths in the work we explore,” said Artistic Director Jon Lachlan Stewart.

‘We are buoyed with the rising interest of companies creating their own Quebec narrative, one that encompasses our diverse reality.’

– Barry Cole

Amélie Girard from Les Productions Ondinnok wants to build bridges with the rest of the world through Indigenous cultures. “Our vision is not limited to the borders imposed by colonization, but extends over the entire territory of the Americas and even further afield: Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Over the past decade, there has been mounting attention to the works of Indigenous theatre companies, more broadly in the process of reparation and reconciliation. The Cole Foundation’s programme stimulates greater openness to intercultural exchanges by encouraging creators from diverse backgrounds to bring stories from their communities, recognizing that society is composed of multiple realities that must be presented on our artistic stages,” explained Girard.

For the grants, there are three types of intercultural dialogue considered: plays with more than one cultural community in dialogue; plays with only one cultural community – in this case the dialogue is with the audience; and plays that show the uniqueness of the French or English Quebec communities translated into the other language.

This year’s awarded shows

The plays, stronger and stronger from year to year, encompass a widespread range of cultures and the varied communities within them.

Works include themes and ideas about questioning one’s community connection without knowing the language or following traditions; the gap between certain immigrants’ conservative culture and that of liberal Québecois; reconnecting with lost roots; exploring what it’s like to come from two different cultures and races; falling in love with the ‘enemy’ from another religion; the stigma of disabilities; women suffering the consequences of war; the stress of immigrant children; our accepted history of the settlement and occupation of the Canadian West; shame amongst members of marginalized communities; the current crisis in Venezuela; notions of sovereignty and nationalism; intergenerational impacts of the residential school system; and Muslim women on the path to self-determination.

Performance styles include comedy, drama, multimedia, dance, spoken-word, musicals, storytelling, mask work, cabarets, staged readings and using virtual reality devices.

Commissioning grants include:

Productions Ondinnok – Nmihtaqs Sqotewamqol / La cendre de ses os by Dave Jenniss
Geordie Productions – From You to Us to You by Alexis Diamond
Geordie Productions – The (Little) Mighty Superhero by Marie Barlizo
Tableau D’Hôte – Blackout by various contributors (also production grant)
Onishka – Marguerite by Emilie Monnet
Simoniaques – Je suis, tu es, nous sommes un produit by Simon Boudreault
Collectif Passeurs de Voix – J’irai migrer chez vous by collaboration
Surreal SoReal Theatre – Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Singulier Pluriel – The Doorman of Windsor Station by Julie Vincent and Hugh Hazelton (also production grant)
Système Kangourou – Le pouvoir expliqué à ceux qui l’exercent (sur moi) by several authors (also production grant)
Theatre Osmose – Sissi by Nathalie Doummar
Theatre de l’Oeil – Furioso by Olivier Kemeid
Infinithéâtre – Fight On! Part Two by Guy Sprung

Blackout: The Concordia Computer Riots -

Blackout – Image: Mathieu Murphy-Perron

Production grant awards go to:

Les Productions Hôtel-Motel – Première neige / First Snow by Davey Anderson, Philippe Ducros and Linda McLean
Jamais Lu – Faire le pont by various authors (also translation grant)
Centaur Theatre – Century Song by Neema Bickerseth and Kate Alton
Segal Centre – Children of God by Corey Payette
Black Theatre Workshop – Simon Half & Half by Christine Rodriguez
Voyageurs Immobiles – Le Cheval de bleu by Marcel Cremer
Productions Quitte ou Double – Intersections by Mireille Camier
Festival TransAmérique – Tous les oiseaux by Wajdi Mouawad (also translation grant)
Thought Experiment Productions – Numbers Increase As We Count… by Ülfet Sevdi
Talisman Theatre – Me and You by Talia Hallmona and Pascal Brullemans
Black Theatre Workshop – Fences by August Wilson
Teesri Duniya Theatre – Global is Local by Dipti Mehta, Nadia Manzoor
Silk Road Institute – Spun by Rabiah Hussain
Odd Stumble – Elsewhere by Joy Ross-Jones
Festival interculturel du conte de Montréal – The Geography Teacher’s Orders by Marta Singh.

Translation grants are:

Joe Jack et John – Violette by Amélie Dumoulin
Collectif Aalaapi – Aalaapi by Laurence Dauphinais (also production and commissioning grant)
Théâtre Jean-Duceppe – A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (also production grant)
Espace Libre – Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools by Evalyn Parry and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (also production grant).

Grants for the next competition relate to shows starting March 1, 2020, and for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 theatre seasons. The deadline for the next competition of the award is September 27, 2019. Theatre companies interested in applying for a grant will be able to download the necessary application forms and information from the Cole Foundation’s web site at

The Cole Foundation

The Cole Foundation is a private family foundation based in Montreal, initiated in 1980 by the late J. N. (Jack) Cole, a Montreal businessman and philanthropist. It supports research in pediatric leukemia and related diseases, as well as a program of support for community initiatives. Intercultural Conversations is one of its community initiatives. The catalyst for Intercultural Conversations was the Bouchard-Taylor Commission which recognized the multicultures of Montreal and the need to increase the intercultural dialogue between these communities.

Barry Cole, President and Chairman, Cole Foundation has had a 30-year career in the management of the performing arts, with an emphasis on classical music. He has been the Director of the Performing Arts Office at Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, designing a cultural programme for both the city and the university communities; a Grants Officer in the Music Section of the Canada Council in Ottawa; the Managing Director of the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in Ontario; the Executive Director of the Royal and McPherson Theatres Society in Victoria, British Columbia; and the Manager of the theatre programme at the formerly named Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts in Montreal.

Feature image: Children of God, by Leslie Schachter

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Read also: Past articles about Intercultural Conversations

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