The intrepid Christian Lapointe mobilizes citizens, legal scholars and experts to endow Quebec with a fictitious, albeit genuine constitution. An astoundingly ambitious theatre project!
Quebec didn’t sign the Canadian constitution in 1982? Desperate times call for desperate measures… Hijack reality! For over a year, the intrepid Christian Lapointe mobilized citizens, legal scholars and experts far and wide so that Quebec would have a fictitious, albeit genuine, constitution. An astoundingly ambitious project that restores to theatre its function as a communal agora.
With the new, freshly adopted constitution in hand, Christian Lapointe takes us behind the scenes of an unprecedented democratic exercise, a troubled zone where reality and simulation merge and hybridize. As in ancient Greece 42 citizens, representative of our society, were selected in random fashion. With unshakeable good faith, they plunged into extensive questioning, engaged in lively discussion, were both annoyed and enthusiastic as they worked to present to hundreds of other Quebecers a proposal they could all then debate and discuss, a vision of an ideal Quebec. Art can indeed create grand moments.
Produced by Carte Blanche + Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui
Directed and performed by Christian Lapointe
Set Design Anick La Bissonnière
Original Score Martien Bélanger
Light Design Martin Sirois
Documentary videos Alexis Chartrand (LZR Films)
Video Lionel Arnould
Dramaturgy Marie-Claude Verdier
Realization of the Citizen Constituent Assembly Institut du Nouveau Monde
Direction Assistant Emmanuelle Kirouac-Sanche
Set Design Assistant Catherine Le Gall-Marchand
Production Manager Catherine Desjardins-Jolin
Technical Director Mickaël Tétrault-Ménard
Project Manager and Logistic Esther Charron
Communications Isabelle Mandalian
Administrative Coordinator Isabelle Tougne
Coproduction Festival TransAmériques
Co-producers on the Québec territory Espace K Théâtre (Baie-Comeau) + Théâtre À tour de rôle (Carleton-sur-Mer) + Théâtre de la Rubrique (Jonquière) + Théâtre les gens d’en bas (Le Bic) + Théâtre Périscope (Québec) + Théâtre du Tandem (Rouyn-Noranda) + Théâtre du Double Signe (Sherbrooke) + Théâtre Parminou (Victoriaville) + STO Union (Wakefield)
Special holding of a citizen forum Théâtre de la Ville de Longueuil
Constituent Assembly Co-Chairs Daniel Turp + Mme la bâtonnière Claudia P. Prémont Constituents Serge Alfaro + Gabrielle Arguin + Michel Ayotte + Judith Boucher + Mélanie Camirand + Pascal Chrétien + Trevor Cook + Guillaume Corriveau + Lise Couture + Jean-Philippe De Choinière + Julien Desormeaux + Ahmed El Berrak + Martine Garceau-Lebel + Andréa Genois + Louis Gingras + Suzanne Lacoursière + Josette Grimard + Michel Héraud + René Herrera + Geneviève Lafrance + Ysabelle Lafontaine + Gabrielle Landry + Tomy Léné-Bradet + Ronald Lenoir + Renée Lajoie + Jacques Lepage + Soledad Lubin + Denise Marquis + Marie Soeurette Mathieu + Bernard McNicoll + Diane Morency + Patrice Ruest + Cezar Serbanescu + Brian Taillefer + Judy Tetreault + Ghada Touir + Derek Trudel + Daphnée Turenne + Robert Valentine + Jean De Dieu Wandeu + Jean-Sébastien Reardon
With the support of Université du Québec à Montréal dans le cadre des 50 ans de l’UQAM + École supérieure de théâtre + Fonds de développement académique du réseau de l’Université du Québec + Partenariat des Fonds de recherche du Québec + Syndicat des professeurs et professeures de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi et de l’Université du Québec à Rimouski + Fédération québécoise des professeures professeurs d’université + Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux + Fédération des professionnèles + Fédération nationale des enseignants et enseignantes du Québec + TÉLUQ + Fonds François-Gagnon pour le théâtre de création + Fondation Chopin-Péladeau + Théâtre Il va sans dire
Presented in association with Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui
Written by Paul Lefebvre
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on June 1, 2019
Christian Lapointe (Quebec City) Carte Blanche + Centre Du Théâtre D’aujourd’hui
A writer, actor, director and teacher, Christian Lapointe is renowned in Quebec theatre as an actor and researcher.
He founded Théâtre Péril in 2000, and since 2013 has been artistic director of Carte Blanche, originally established in 1979 under the name Théâtre Blanc. He has been teaching since 2016 at the École supérieure de théâtre at the University of Quebec at Montreal.
His approach to stage presentations is threefold, and is focused on the performative dimension of theatre: revisiting scripts by symbolist writers (.e.g. Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande at the TNM in 2016); a cycle of works known collectively as Théâtre de la disparition, including C.H.S. (at the FTA in 2008 and at the Avignon Festival in 2009); and stage plays by contemporary writers (Larry Tremblay, Peter Handke, Claude Gauvreau, Fausto Paravidino, Mathieu Arsenault, Ivan Viripaev and Martin Crimp, whose play Le reste vous le connaissez par le cinéma was presented at Théâtre ESPACE GO in autumn 2018). Over the years his work has shifted to staging the reality required by any act of representation in the theatre, with Constituons ! being the high-water mark of that approach.
In 2015 Christian Lapointe presented a highlight in the history of the FTA with Tout Artaud?!, a 70-hour nonstop staged reading of texts by Antonin Artaud.
How is the writing of a Quebec constitution based on democratic principles part of your artistic approach?
I started asking questions, increasingly specific questions, and the project expanded and grew from there. For example, what is a stage play? I also wanted to include politics in my works, the world I live in, but I realized that I was unable to because I didn’t know where to begin. What do we want, and how do we get there? Quebec did not sign the 1982 constitution, but is nonetheless part of Canada. The context is different in English-speaking Canada, due to its history and the global economic power of the English language.
The attitude for example, given the lack of a Quebec constitution, that Quebec should adopt Canadian multiculturalism, which reflects the colonialist reality of this former British dominion. In Quebec we have a social framework of peaceful coexistence that is distinct from that of English Canada, but has not been codified. So my thought was, let’s put our collective way of living in writing, let’s draft our own constitution! For in Canada, a province can have a constitution.
What was the reaction to using theatre to draft a constitution?
The goal of the project is to put to the test the idea of theatre as a place for debate, to restore its role as the agora, a centre of social and civic life where citizens meet and exchange ideas, and to document the process and turn it into a work of art. That generated many different reactions among the people I approached for funding and organizing the project.
Some see theatre as the perfect cover for this sort of democratic experience, and feel that something will be learned. Others, generally from the world of partisan politics, feared that we would be “playing with democracy”. In short, financing this civic process of direct participatory democracy was not easy. In the end, I think it was made possible thanks to the faith of those involved – people from diverse backgrounds – their faith in art as a force for social change.
This non-partisan civic exercise has probably irritated the partisan political class. For me, the best moments were linked to establishing the context of the legal reality of Indigenous peoples. The complexity of our Canadian apartheid, with its legal loopholes and regulatory vacuums, is absolutely fascinating. It reveals a system where, to preserve a certain “social peace” that favours large corporations, we continue, collectively and on a daily basis, to perpetuate a cultural genocide that is very much a part of a colonialist mentality.
Has Constituons ! answered your questions, e.g. What is a stage play? What do we want, and how do we get there?
The idea that language imposes conventions on our lives is at the very heart of this project. I am more convinced than ever that the law and theatre have much in common. In both types of discourse, conventions must be established. In the world of constitutional law, the fact that a citizenry has a text that establishes the rules for peaceful co-existence is to my mind similar to theatre, where conventions are established that allow a stage play to unfold before an audience. To a certain extent, this project is rooted in the fictional nature of politics.
Never has Shakespeare’s phrase “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” seemed so relevant to me. As for how do we get where we want to go, at the time of this interview the final text of a Quebec constitution has not yet been drafted. It should be finalized by the constituent assembly just before the first performances at the FTA. Perhaps I’ll finally discover how to convey my ideas about politics by reading this new constitution on the night of the première!
How do you think Constituons ! might affect the future of your artistic approach?
With this adventure I’ve created what could be termed a “useful work”. I’m a grand defender of the pointlessness of art. In a world like ours, art as a “useless object” is essential in its opposition to utilitarianism, where everything is formatted. While this process has deeply affected me for the way it opens theatre up to new possibilities, I still believe in the power of text-based theatre, works from the repertoire and unrefined creative works. My career has consisted of various adventures and highly diverse artistic forms; far from me the desire to identify with a tightly defined movement. The theatre is a place for discovery, and I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the oblique paths it explores and the places it takes us.
« Le metteur en scène Christian Lapointe a imaginé le projet un peu fou de sortir le Québec du vide juridique et de créer une constitution pour le seul État francophone d’Amérique. »
Thierry de Noncourt, Le Citoyen Val d’Or-Amos, 2019-01-22
« Les gouvernements échouent systématiquement à la mettre en place : voici donc un homme de théâtre résolu à faire advenir une véritable démocratie populaire. »
Philippe Couture, Voir, 2018-09-21
« Avec son projet, le metteur en scène souhaite redonner au théâtre la substantifique moelle de sa mission, soit une agora comme lieu d’expression de la parole citoyenne. »
Normand Provencher, Le Soleil, 2018-08-23
« [Christian Lapointe] est de ces artistes implacables, qui embrassent leur art de tout leur corps, de toute leur âme, dans un engagement total, incandescent. »
Michelle Chanonat, Jeu, 2018-02
« Le théâtre (…) semble tout indiqué pour accueillir une telle réflexion. »
Philippe-Antoine Lupien, Voir, 2019-01-15