Dimanche matin

Dimanche matin très tôt, suspendu entre l’ordinateur et la radio.  The music, rock and folk that brings together Maritimers at this time every week, always shapes a space for reflection, but this is not like those early Sundays spent wrestling with emerging characters and scenes.  On dit que la nuit porte conseil.  Dimanche aussi.

Les personnages se sont imposés, les scènes se sont enchaînées, et l’Île de Hurlevent – ‘la Hîle de Hurlevent’ – est sortie du brouillard.  Thanks to so many people, for it  takes a village to make a play.  At this point, Ray Stevens is singing “Everything is beautiful,” a soporific number from 1970.  C’est pourtant vrai.

La vie est belle quand on parcourt deux provinces avec douze comédiens qui partagent nos idées,
leurs personnages, leur talent et leur élan exceptionnels, avec tant de jeunes spectateurs. Like the young man in Grade 5 or 6, sitting on a gym floor, who started the post-show talkback by saying “Tell us how you conceived the play and rolled it out.”


Never pre-judge, or under-estimate, a spectator.   They are the most important players in the magical ritual we call theatre.  Like the Grade 12 student who said how much he had enjoyed the references to Mister Bouffe, the fast-food restaurant we created and shared with him when he was in Grade 9.

Ou les trois professeurs qui sont restés après le départ des étudiants, et qui ont discuté avec les comédiens et moi jusqu’au moment où il fallait que nous partions pour une autre école.  “Pour moi, Hurlevent était le Cap Breton, a dit l’un d’eux.

We need convincing and radical stories for an age where we all deal, every day, with radical discontinuity.  “Depuis quand est-ce qu’on ferme les îles? demandait Pilote peu après le début du spectacle.  Our plays aim to be “absurdo-réaliste,” stories that are only absurd until spectators have had some time to think about them.  Maybe this is why a middle-school spectator wrote, after we had left,  “It’s live, it’s not old, it’s right there, it’s cool that you invented it yourselves, and it made me think of when they closed the ferry.”

I could dedicate this post to so many spectators we met at our twenty-two performances.  Like the restless fellow in the green hoodie who was “spoken to” by a teacher during the performance. But was he talking in spite of the play he had been brought to watch, or because of it?  I’m still not sure, but he did ask three excellent questions, told 200 peers he liked the play, and asked the cast to repeat the “gumboat” dance favoured by the Hurleventeux.  He also raised two approving thumbs when Makyla explained to the audience that gumboot is a physical language of resistance and joy developed by South-African miners who were forbidden to speak their first language.

Plutôt comme Philippe qui s’est transformé en Philip avant de partir à la recherche d’un boulot.

Qu’est-ce qui reste quand on enlève la résistance et la joie?  L’acceptation et l’apathie qui sont trop souvent au rendez-vous dans notre monde passif et consumériste.  Monique, the homeless Hurleventeuse who left her island because her natural habitat was disappearing, knows all about passivity and consumerism because she does not ascribe to either.   Vive le théâtre qui nous encourage à articuler, avec respect, nos résistances.

As the ferry arrives, Hurlevent is “fast disappearing over the sea” in more ways than one.  But not as long as the Hurleventeux, real or in spirit, have words, music and dance, trois stratégies de résistance.  Michel Bouquet disait que “le théâtre est le seul endoit où toutes les questions sont posées.”  On September 10th Natalie and I told those who had come to our improvised rehearsal hall they had come to a safe space.  Un endroit  sécurisant où il est permis de jouer, de rire, de faire du bruit, voire du brouhaha, de poser les questions les plus difficiles.  A one-time visitor would be excused if they did not discern our efforts to be deep listeners in the midst of the pandemonium.  On ne fait pas d’omelette sans casser des oeufs.

And when we listened, what did we hear?  Cliifs eroding.  Livelihoods eroding.  A light-house crashing into the sea.  Sounds of protest.  ¨Peculiar power ballads and dances that involve a lot of thumping.”  As far as I know, the New Brunswick  light-house that  fell into the sea did so after I had written this event into the script.  I had wanted to record the fictional demise of an iconic structure on the Island of Hurlevent.  Something to dramatize both physical and socio-economic erosion, a metaphor for their convergence.  Perhaps an attempt to be phare-sighted.

Notre formule se veut très simple : une comédie bilingue – et activiste.  Pour ce faire, il faut écouter le monde qui nous entoure.  Et celui-ci finit par nous répondre, nous dépasser.

Que les cyniques nous disent que nous exploitons les malheurs d’autrui pour créer des spectacles saisissants.  I doubt that will worry the young spectator who said our work is “live,” “right there,” and reminds them of cutbacks in services.

And why was VILLAGES  ”right there”?  Because it’s theatre, not television which the play parodies?  Because we were invited into the spectators’ communities, and into their space, to share our story, our characters, our ideas?  Parce que nous avions tenté d’évoquer le vivant de nos publics?  Parce que ceux-ci ont vraiment ressenti l’anxiété éprouvée par les personnages qui se trouvent dans l’oeil de la tempête socio-écono-éclimatique?  À cause de l’énergie irrésistible des comédiens?  I hope it was for all those reasons.

VILLAGES met en vedette deux villages.  But its success depended on four villages : the somewhat blasé mainland village of Port-à-Petit, the mysterious and marginal island of Hurlevent, the communities of spectators; and the team of actors, supported by everyone whose names appeared on the program, not to mention the spectators who had gone before.

Actors who have not toured before must be at least a little bit surprised by the warm welcomes, the hugs, the occasional lunches, the treats, the energy exchanges, and the “Come-back-next-year” farewells that await us in schools.  Nos hôtes sont invariablement des personnes dévouées qui veulent faire une différence positive dans la vie, et dans le monde, de leurs étudiants.

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This year, in fracking country, a spectator said “You have no idea what your visit has meant to us.”  And he can have no idea of what his  disponibilité has meant to us.

We have been to that spectator’s school more than twenty times. This year we went to another school, also in fracking country, for the first time.  The contact teacher was absent due to illness and, no matter how well-prepared the students were, they could not possibly have had clear expectations of the actors, for it was “a theatre presentation,” not “this year’s Tintamarre visit.”  As I was  starting to welcome the spectators, the prinipal rushed breathlessly into the gym to say that not everyone was there.

I asked the actors to sing two more warm-up songs;  the false start was the best thing that could have happened because the spectators warmed even more to the actors as the fourth wall evaporated.  The applause was warm, the talkback seamless, the principal came outside afterward to thank the actors and ask us to return next year, and a teacher posted this Facebook message a day or two later :  “Our kids LOVED the play.”

Their village loved the play because our village gave themselves to their spectators with no strings attached.  Dare I say the love was reciprocal?  Quoique les comédiennes et comédiens ne soient plus avec moi, j’ose croire qu’ils diraient que oui.  Les échanges que j’ai vus récemment révélaient un véritable pacte de générosité, d’attachement, d’amour, malgré les innombrables distractions qui guettent à tout moment tous les participants.

A Beckett character, encased in an urn and hovering above or beyond the humdrum,  says “All that was just play.” (Play).  Is there any more luxurious fun than playing with the fourth wall, which our actors are already doing as they warm up as spectators are entering the space that will become a theatre?  To go over the fourth wall you have to build it first, then you have to rebuild it if you are tempted to go over it again.

When university students venture into schools, they rediscover the world of bells and announcements.  Whenever a bell rings, everyone on the stage freezes, and the speaking actor uses split-second judgement to decide whether to start up again at the next syllable (Vive le comique) or to return to a previous beat (Vive la compréhensibilité).  Inevitably, this humble display of  commitment and presence of mind brings everyone closer together, a point that more than one spectator has pointed out so far in written post-show evaluations.


I, as Director, am not absent from this equation.  How I loved that fact that the actors made what was probably the least compromising space appear as if it had been designed for VILLAGES!  Another example: in one school the ferry that plies between Hurlevent and Port-à-Petit travelled the width of the stage in front of the performance space, more or less in the audience.  The pride was palpable when we told the audience how much we enjoyed playing in their space.

Its seemed that the entire school was glowing with satisfaction when a teacher said, towards the end of a talkback : “You’ve demonstrated everything I try to teach in my Drama courses.”

I have just watched with fascination a video entitled “Sur le lit” and filmed by Bernard, our actor-webmaster-magician.  Douze comédiens s’étaient donné rendez-vous sur un lit énorme à la fin d’une journée où ils avaient monté VLLAGES trois fois, et roulé plus de 200 kilomètres.  As I listened  to the more than eighteen minutes of seamless, tireles, hilarious conversation about their day and their tour, one  thought kept recurring : C’est radical, ce projet qui s’appelle Tintamarre!


Alex, le 25 mai 2014


Rétro-blogue: quelques photos

Comme les tintamarriens sont des plus talentueux(et des plus occupés!) de la planète, il ne vous surprendra pas de savoir que nous avions avec nous une photographe hors-pair. Cate, our tour photographer, took the time to record moments from life on the road–and we thought we’d share some with you today…

Setting Up Singing; or, The Actor As Human

We screech into the parking lot, scramble out, and sprint towards the school’s entrance.

“Bienvenue!” yells Alex, who’s just come out of the main office, where he’s met with our contact person. “Vous avez quinze minutes!”

Right! Fifteen minutes to park the van, unload the set, negotiate tricky passageways with a boat and half a dozen chairs, assemble the set with reasonable sightlines for backstage costume changes, warm up, get into costume, troubleshoot a few problems–will the boat go onstage or on the floor? Will the Cup Song be sung from the lamppost or will we play it wide?–check projection, and start. We can do this!


People grab weights to hold doors, fling costume bags over their shoulders. The boat’s loaded off while three people assemble the café walls, position the island flats, check with Doris and Alex for the angle of the counter. No one has an assigned role, but everybody knows what to do. We trust each other. This isn’t, as we say, our first rodeo.


Et puis, à mi-chemin entre le déchargement et les costumes, les élèves arrivent. Ils s’arrêtent brusquement à la porte quand ils voient que nous ne sommes pas encore prêts. Il y a un moment de silence. Puis nous sourions: “Entrez! Entrez! Come in! Don’t be shy!”

DSC_1173“Dix minutes!” Alex calls from the darkness of the audience, where he’s checking lights. He starts to hand out programmes as our audience files in.

Quelqu’un commence à chanter: Oh, what a lovely evening, lovely evening… une de nos rondes préférées, pour éveiller la voix et aider à ce concentrer. Sous les yeux ébahis des élèves, nous terminons l’assemblage du décor, puis nous nous cachons derrière les rideaux pour se changer, comme si de rien n’était.

When those who are done come out, they ask the constant question: “What do we need?” The chatter from the audience is growing louder. We have five minutes–maybe less. A song with some energy? Someone asks. There’s a little whisper from our circle, which spreads out as people hear and agree–Siyahamba!

So with some of us periodically breaking off to set stools or check props or line boats up, we sing. We keep eye contact, make sure we start low, checking our consonants–it’s a big space, so we need to bite into them to be audible. And the music builds, until our harmonies are weaving together in the early morning air; until we smile at the first backup chorus, courtesy of Pilote; until we start to clap along, to dance, and set off into the audience and around the stage, claiming the space, making eye contact and getting smiles in return.

The song ends, and we hear Alex shuffle up to us. “Je vous adore!

“Un. Deux. Trois. MEEEEEEERRRDE!” Now, the show starts.

That kind of arrival and warmup is absolutely normal for us; we’ve done it everywhere, with more or less stringent time constraints, no matter when the students come in.

But I’d like to talk about it, because this is an unusual phenomenon. Isn’t it? To have actors onstage before the show? To have actors warming up in front of their audience, talking aloud about how they’re tired and need energy, running around, setting props in plain sight? My inner theatre critic is puzzled. What about suspension of disbelief, and the fourth wall, and all these wonderful things we try to maintain? Doesn’t breaking into the space take away… I don’t know, the magic of theatre?

But when I mull it over, I don’t think so. In fact, I think that warming up in public–something we do very consciously, no matter how rushed we are–adds magic to the entire affair.


For us, as actors, it’s so much fun to meet our audience before we come onstage as characters. Some students recognize us from last year. Some laugh at our bear costumes, our fake beards. Some applaud when we’re done singing. Acting is all about energy exchange, and that exchange begins then and there, way before we’re in our places.

And when we begin that exchange, it lets the audience know that we’re people. When we mess up a harmony because we’re rusty from the weekend, it lets them know we’re vulnerable. When we laugh at a perfect Moose impression, we let them know we’re here to have fun, too. We’re people. We mess up and have fun and do great things like people do. And they respond in kind, no matter the time of day: they stay quiet when they can’t quite hear. They laugh when we freeze during bells and alarms. They give themselves to the play just as we give ourselves to it. There’s a kind of magic to it.


I think that so much of the respect we’ve been given by our audiences during the Tintamarrathon, despite the last periods/Friday afternoons/post-lunch slumps, stems from the fact that at no point in time have we ever claimed to be anything else but ourselves. We may be acting, but we’re not trying to hide that actors are human, too. And in no way do we try to maintain the illusion that actors appear out of nowhere, as if by magic. Actors are people–all sorts of people, and they make magic together. Onstage and offstage, alone or before audiences. And when we show that, we begin an honest, respectful relationship with the students who come to see us.

I think that knowing that actors are people, and that audiences are people, begins a contract of generosity. Both sides are open and vulnerable. That makes us generous. And that generosity brings creativity and joy, and good storytelling, and meaning to it all.

We come in and set up singing, and they listen–because they want to, because we respect them, because they let us tell them stories. In doing so, we all make the play together. Any space can become a theatre, no matter for how long–just like any person can be transformed, if we all agree and want to play along.

I can only hope that it’s what we leave our audiences with: A dozen people were on a stage. We saw them. We watched them build a different place for us. We watched an empty space–a cafeteria, a gym, a classroom–transform into a theatre. Twelve people transformed into different characters. And then they did a play, and we watched. And then they were gone. Like magic.

But to paraphrase Alex here–the actors don’t do the magic. We all do the magic.


– Joe/Pépère/Hibou/Gothique/Bernard

Rétro-blogue: On Bridges

I want to tell you a story about something which happened our first week of tour—on the day we ventured into the deep bush of Central New Brunswick.

We were coming back from Doaktown, where we’d just played the Central New Brunswick Academy. It was a new school for us, and we’d driven three hours through the forest for a two-hour show… but oh, how it had been worth the sore limbs! In that cavernous gymnasium, we’d found an audience on hundred strong who asked us about our first roles as actors, the motivators behind bilingualism, the origins of our Figure de proue. Bref, ils nous avaient charmés, nous les avions charmés, et nous étions repartis avec la promesse de revenir l’an prochain.


We were keeping ourselves awake with games of Think Tank and discussions of second-language learning—when all of a sudden, with no exit ramp in sight, our lead white van pulled over onto the shoulder.

“Hey, they’re pulling over!” one of us said. Worried, we followed, leaving our little caravan of white, black, and brown sitting by the side of a forest which edged a river, around kilometre 375. We watched as Alex hopped out of the passenger side of the van and started to march towards an overpass about a hundred metres off. We scrambled out and went after him.

Once we’d caught up with him, Alex pointed ahead to the overpass and said, “That’s the Canaan River.” And we understood why we’d stopped.

La rivière Canaan où, il y a quelques semaines, alors que nous répétions pour la première fois, une inondation avait arraché le pont couvert de Cherryvale à ses amarres et l’avait emporté. Were were walking towards the covered bridge that floated down the river—or what was left of it, anyways.

We came to the lip of the bridge, Alex looking down at the water, searching. “Ça devrait être là,” dit-il. “Nous l’avons aperçu en passant…”

Les plus casse-cou d’entre nous ont vite dégringolé la pente rocailleuse pour s’approcher de la rivière. C’est près de la clôture que nous l’avons enfin vu, bloqué par un pilier du pont de l’autoroute. Excited, we called up to the rest of the troupe.

“Is it worth it?” Alex called back from the top of the rock, looking somewhat warily at the steep descent.

“You need to see this.”


So everyone clambered down a somewhat safer grass slope, with David and Luke acting as Alex’s Bergstöcke, to see the brdige we had included in our play look back up at us from the waters that had swept it there. A half-sunken, wooden reminder that art and life are so close, sometimes.

What an incredible thing, we thought as we looked out at the roof that kept above water while the current pushed past it. A reminder that our story wasn’t just a story; it was a way to tell the truth, to bring it to other people who might never see it otherwise. Just as we were witness to the bridge now, VILLAGES was a witness to the changes the world is going through—some of them bad, some of them good. And in witnessing and telling our stories, we build bridges between people, between communities, so that we can all live in this new world together. That school we’d just come from, for example, where we’d never been before: there was a connection now between us, something that could never be swept away by any flood. Something that would keep together now matter how high the water rises.

“Je crois,”, a dit Alex après un moment de silence, “qu’il faudrait faire une merde pour le pont, et pour la route que nous allons emprunter jusque chez nous.”

Et nous l’avons faite: une merde pour le pont couvert, en plein milieu de nulle part, sous le ciel du retour, pleine de gratitude et d’espoir pour les autres ponts que nous continuerons à bâtir.

We walked up the slope and into our cars to go back over the water, to our own rivers and flood plains. Back to our stories, our dinner, our home.


And just like that, as quickly as we started… we’re done. Le Tintamarrathon 2014 tire à sa fin.

La troupe à Miramichi, after our final show...

La troupe à Miramichi, after our final show…

Après 22 spectacles dans 17 écoles, avec plus de 3000 spectateurs et des milliers de kilomètres parcourus… nous sommes rentrés au bercail.

Ce fut une semaine de fous. Tout a commencé avec la graduation de quatre Tintamarriens (bravo, Luke, Lizzie, Natalie et Amber!)–s’en sont suivis une demi-douzaine de spectacles, a hundred-and-eighty-degree stage, la première panne en route en vingt-quatre ans de tournée, trois Tim Hortons, et un après-midi des dieux qui nous a surpris en rentrant de Miramichi.

It has been an incredible three weeks–and I’m only just starting to remember them.

It’s not just me, either. Last Saturday afternoon, as we were cleaning the last bits of evidence of our living there from Bermuda House–after after we’d finished our last show, but just before we realized that there wouldn’t be a show on the coming Monday–Alex came to visit us. “Do you feel,” he asked, “as though your memory is slowly coming back?”

He was talking about that feeling you get right after the tour: as though something very wonderful, very tiring has happened, but you can’t remember the details–at least, not right now. I had been feeling that all day, trying to reflect on the incredible three weeks we’d all just been through. Trying to remember particular shows, what the gyms in certain schools looked like, the expressions on some of our audience members’ faces as they asked a question. Rien. Le vide.

It’s only now, after four long days, that our memory is returning. I get flashes of certain kinds of gymnasium lights in Doaktown, the echoes of our voices against auditorium walls in Miramichi, the laughter from the audience in Rexton… and the smiles from all the students we talked to, who told us that they’d liked it. That we didn’t know how much it meant to them. That they had a play, too, and that anyone could do what they wanted! After the exhaustion of the last load-in, after the farewells and the on se reverras, we can finally take the time to feel it. All this love we sent off together, echoing back to us.

Today, as I biked up a sunny street in Sackville, a blond-haired boy called out to me: “Hey! You were in that play!” Then he smiled and said, “It was awesome!”

Friends, it was. It really, really was. Je me sens si fier, et j’éprouve tant de gratitude, d’avoir eu la chance de faire partie de cette épopée inoubliable avec une équipe si talentueuse, si créative, si drôle, si… tintamarrienne.

À Oxford. Il ne faut jamais oublier de jouer!

À Oxford. Il ne faut jamais oublier de jouer!

And now, over the next few days, I can feel the stories coming. We have so much to share with you! So many pictures, videos, thoughts from the road… So stick around. Over the next few days, we’ll be posting stories from the road, pictures, and everything we can to let you know what went on. It’ll be so worth it. Je le sens! Et nous avons si hâte de vous raconter notre périple.

Stay with us as we get our memories back.

– Joe/Bernard

TintaTour To Date


We have had a whirlwind week! It’s a reminder for those of us that have toured before that no two audiences or schools are alike, and that uniqueness keeps us continually on our toes. Although we’ve got a lot to catch up on in this blog, il faut que nous partageons nos experiences à chaque école qu’on a visité.

We started our tour at Pugwash District High School last Thursday and it was the perfect way to begin our tour. We walked in to see pictures of the scenes and characters drawn by students and posted in their gymnasium. There was a drawing of La Figure de Proue reinterpreted as a horse head on Le Patineur, and many other cool and imaginative art works that anticipated our show. It was amazing to see that the students and teachers had engaged with our story so much before we actors ever arrived — we felt so welcome at Pugwash, and this energized us to perform the first show fearlessly AND to have a great workshop afterwards. Superfantasmagorique!

Next up, we went to Milford, NS to the Riverside Education Centre. This was our first two show day and we performed in a cafetorium. One highlight of our experience in Milford was the  audiences’ responses to the way we would freeze in mid-action during school bells, of which there were at least three over the two shows. Every time we “came back to life” after a bell or announcement finished, we could hear their murmurs and laughter but also their increased attention to what we were doing. I guess it doesn’t seem very impressive to us because it’s just what we do. Yet for our audiences, it’s unexpected and gives them a glimpse of how theatre can adapt to life, which makes it so delightful.

After Milford, we had a weekend before our next show at Lauren’s former school, Mirimichi Valley High School. A past Tintamarrienne, Allison, met up with us there and stayed to watch the show. Once a Tintamarrien(ne), always a Tintamarrien(ne)! It was our first New Brunswick show and a great way to start off our week. In the afternoon, we had a show at Bonar Law Memorial School in Rexton, NB. On our way to the show, we passed many anti-fracking signs, premonitions of our Rexton audience’s engagement with the environmental issues discussed in the play. This was a show that went exceptionally well, and it was the engaged and supportive audience that really helped us go to that next level in our performance. Rexton showed us that this tour is not only important to us, but that it also makes an impact on the students at the schools we go to. It was sort of a magical show and it started us off on a streak of amazing performances.

Tuesday’s show was another special performance. We went to the only school that is new to the Tinta-tour, Central New Brunswick Academy. It was a long, long drive and on our way there we passed by a lot of the flooded areas of New Brunswick that get discussed in Villages. The audience was very welcoming and open to what we had to say, and the discussion period afterwards was full of interesting questions. On our drive returning to Sackville, we had the opportunity to pass by the covered bridge that floated down the Canaan River a month ago. Yet another real world resonance with the content of our play.

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to visit Harmony Heights Elementary School in Salmon River, NS. It was our first performance for elementary school students, and we adapted the show accordingly, softening some of the tension between characters and playing up some of the humour. The audience’s energy was very positive, and we were approached afterwards by two students representing the school news broadcast, Harmony Happenings. We posed for photos, as well a video of our gumboat dance routine. We were flattered!


As we are writing, David and Cate are on CHMA 106.9, doing a special show called Tinta-Hour. Since this has already become a very lengthy blog post, we will be sharing our adventures in Oxford, Sackville and Moncton, as well as Springhill (where we are performing tomorrow!) in our next post.

À plus tard,

Doris, Monique et Figure de Proue.

A bientôt!

Only 8 days ago, we were wrapping up another school year: camping out all night in the library, writing exams and final papers, and subsisting on Mr. Noodles and Kraft Dinner. Starting last Thursday, we began the exhilarating and exhausting rehearsal process. And oh, it is so much more than just learning lines! We began the process of adapting the play we created all the way back in September through the input of our wonderful 27 mainstage actors to a shorter version for only 12. We took ownership of the newly formatted script through short brainstorming sessions and character work as we strove to make our characters come alive. Next came discussions of how to masterfully fit a complex set into one that could neatly pack into one cargo van. What height should the stools be? How do we fit in an incredibly tall lamppost into the trunk? How many flats to give us a taste of island life while leaving enough room for quick costume changes? All those games of Tetris will finally pay off…

This process also extends far beyond the rehearsal space.  We have made the trek with all our belongings from our apartments to Bermuda House. We have already become one big family through giggling around the kitchen table while running lines and bonding over good food and stories. It’s almost as if 12 months haven’t passed since many of us were all in the house together. It’s not only practical to live together: a 6am departure is much easier to organize when everyone lives in the same house; but its a lot of fun too. Soon we will only communicate through lines of the script, the inside jokes have already reached a whole new level.

On viendra bientôt chez vos écoles et nous sommes tous très enthousiastes!! A bientôt!

Pilote & Phyllis