The FTA Playgrounds
The FTA Playgrounds transform the energy of the shows into material for reflection and encourages the collision of minds. Since 2015 these wide-ranging activities offered to festivalgoers prolong the performance experience with get-togethers that connect heart and brain, the emotion and consciousness that are very much a part of the FTA experience.
Dedicated to enriching the spectator’s experience, the Playgrounds stimulate reflection and engage critical thinking, with enlightening discussions about the shows presented, post-show talkback sessions with the artists in the venue or at the Quartier général, fiction and documentary films at the Cinémathèque québécoise, debates and presentations that sharpen the eye and stimulate the mind. For a deeper plunge into the performances and to encourage back-and-forth reflection, the Playgrounds enhance the FTA program with numerous interesting activities for all – and they’re almost always free of charge!
A Festive Event
Thinking, debating, learning and also… dancing! The Playgrounds cultivate a festive ambience, encourage a communal spirit and invite spectators to get together at the QG after the performances when it becomes the Bar du Festival, a place for fun and social interaction. On show nights a DJ keeps things hopping. There are also themed evenings where everyone is encouraged to join in these memorable high points of Festival folly in the FTA hot spot. Get out there and boogie!
Restorative Professional Workshops
For artists and other stage professionals, the Playgrounds is a space for development, encounters and recharging creative batteries. On tap are master classes and workshops with featured artists, convivial chats over breakfast in the company of artists and specialists, networking and professional development activities.
Since 2016 the FTA Clinics offer artistic support from international dramaturges invited to the Festival. A forum for ideas open to all, the Clinics also offer individual artists tête-à-tête meetings (by appointment) with established artists to discuss, reflect, probe and question the projects they are working on. A protected space devoid of the imperatives of production, it is a place where creative work is nourished with care. The FTA Clinics have had a positive impact within the international community and are branching out abroad, notably in Valenciennes, France, and Berlin and Athens.
Quartier général (QG)
During the Festival the Quartier général at Agora Hydro-Québec (Cœur des sciences de l’UQAM) in downtown Montreal welcomes all festivalgoers. Many FTA Playground activities take place there, and the QG brings together different generations of spectators, audiences, artists and other stage professionals. Specialists, as well as the curious and neophytes, are all invited to get together and share their experience of the shows presented. A friendly, inviting locus, its services include space to work, a media room and a café.
And in the evening it becomes the Bar du Festival, a cosy retreat bathed in night-time lighting and enlivened by enticing sounds and music spun by the DJ. The Bar is home to passionate post-show conversations that extend and energize Festival nights.
School Accompaniment & Student Outreach
Students are introduced to the performing arts through these customized workshops run by professional artists. Arts education for youth has been a major focus of the FTA since its inception. By means of awareness-raising activities, performances, accompaniment and educational exercises, young spectators discover new works as well as the history of the arts, and how artists respond to the pressing issues of their times.
The most well-known of Festival initiatives is our Student Outreach program and its dance and theatre excursions for students. High school students from all over Quebec spend four days in Montreal immersed in contemporary theatre and dance. Since 2001 more than 2400 adolescents from 75 schools in 27 towns across Quebec – from Rouyn-Noranda to Pasbébiac – have benefited from this unique experience.
Attentive to the needs, resources and availability of teachers and students, the FTA also customizes workshops that increase their appreciation of the performance(s) they go to see. These sessions include discussions and activities with artists and audience development specialists, plus visits to cultural venues in Montreal, thereby enriching the performance experience for secondary, college and university students.
Exploratory Lab for Young Professionals
A veritable laboratory for ideas and experiences, the International Rendezvous for Young Performing Arts Professionals and Critics is a generative spark for artistic collaborations and long-lasting friendships. It takes place in French in the form of a seminar for some twenty young professional critics and artists from different disciplines who wish to delve more deeply into various aspects of artistic creation. During the seminar they are confronted with their own and others’ artistic realities, often radically different from one artist to the next. The clash of ideas and the shared experience of attending Festival performances become catalysts for action and reflection. Some 330 young professionals from fifteen countries have participated in the Rendezvous over the years.
This year for the first time, a pilot project entitled Conversations on Performance will allow a dozen young artists and critics from across Canada to plunge into an English-language version of the seminar.
The FTA is part of a vast network of international arts festivals, and thus in contact with presenters, artistic directors and producers, people with whom we share the same affinities. These colleagues from abroad come to the Festival to discover new voices and aesthetic shocks, seeking new forms of artistic expression. They experience the genesis of new dance and theatre works, discover the diverse approaches of Quebec artists, and share doubts and intuitions with a community of their peers.
Every year the FTA welcomes one hundred presenters, arts centre managers, artistic directors, festival directors and programmers, plus foreign critics and journalists, thus contributing to the international renown of artists. Their presence in Montreal creates openings for artists on the world stage, an often decisive factor in their artistic growth and the development of professional careers.
The biggest festival of contemporary dance and theatre in North America, the FTA gives pride of place to co-producing new works. By investing financially in a project’s production budget or by offering the services of its technical personnel as well as optimal conditions for mounting a new work, the Festival is actively involved in the gestation of new works. Creating new dance and theatre pieces always entails an element of risk, an aspect that the FTA willingly assumes, as it seeks to encourage artists to see their projects through to fruition.
Over the years the FTA has co-produced more than 125 works by Quebec, Canadian and foreign artists. Every year the Festival invests $100,000 in co-productions.
Some of our Favourites…
Le super méga continental, FTA 2017 © Robert Etcheverry
Le grand continental by Sylvain Émard: Thousands of Dancers
In 2009 the FTA presented Le grand continental on Émery Street, performed by sixty amateur dancers of various ages and origins. One year later Le très grand continental featured 120 participants. In 2011 a monumental version with 200 amateur dancers, Le continental XL, was presented at Place des Festivals. For Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations in 2017, it became Le super méga continental performed by 375 dancers. So far the show has been a big hit in Mexico City, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Ottawa, Boston, Vancouver, Ansan (South Korea), Wellington (New Zealand), Santiago (Chile), Potsdam (Germany) and Toronto, a joyful dance that offers citizens a unique, transforming experience. A total of 3000 people have participated in one or more of these 21 editions, attracting more than 120,000 spectators.
Yellow Towel, FTA 2013 © Maxyme G Delisle
Yellow Towel by Dana Michel: A Striking, Celebrated Work
In 2013 the FTA presented for the first time the work of Dana Michel. Yellow Towel was a shock for audiences and foreign producers alike. News of this strikingly original piece by a Montreal-based artist spread quickly, a work that probes stereotypes of black culture and turns them upside down. She soon found herself on the international stage. The New York magazine Time Out named it one of the top ten performances of 2014, and Dana Michel received the prestigious ImPulsTanz Award in Vienna for outstanding artistic accomplishment. In 2016 the FTA co-produced and presented her next piece Mercurial George. In 2018 Dana Michel received the Silver Lion award for innovation in dance at the Venice Biennial.
J’aime Hydro, FTA 2016 © Alexi Hobbs
J’aime Hydro by Christine Beaulieu: An Electrifying Conversation about Hydro-Québec
In 2016 the FTA enthusiastically agreed to co-produce J’aime Hydro, a project by the actress Christine Beaulieu and the documentary theatre company Porte-Parole, a piece with a bold theme that began as a work-in-progress at OFFTA the previous year. The FTA presented episodes 1, 2 and 3 of this documentary soap opera about hydro-electric power in Quebec. It caught the public imagination and generated lively discussions about the future of energy in Quebec. The following year the final version of the piece, J’aime Hydro, was staged. After performances at Usine C, episodes 1 to 5 were presented in dozens of towns across Quebec, a tour that will continue in 2019, an impressive follow-up for this exceptional, much acclaimed play.
In the Public Space
Bodies in urban spaces, FTA 2011 © Lisa Rastl Brighton + x-fois gens chaise, FTA 2012 © JulieGauthier + Dachshund UN, FTA 2013 © Nino Ellison
In each edition, the FTA ventures outside the walls of performance venues to take the city by storm, offering spectators, ordinary citizens and passersby extraordinary artistic experiences, from a man dancing a duo with a mechanical shovel (Transport exceptionnel), to a colourful horde of young daredevils laying siege to street lamps, clinging to façades and hanging from balconies – human sculptures in the cityscape (Bodies in the Urban Space), to elderly people calmly sitting on chairs affixed to the walls of downtown buildings (X-Fois gens chaise), a parliament of wiener dogs, dignified representatives of the member states of the UN Human Rights Council (Daschund UN), a flying canoe at Place des Festivals full of newly arrived immigrants (2fik et la Chasse-Galerie), and a pack of merrily delinquent moles strolling through subway stations (La parade des taupes).
The FTA’s outdoor programming stimulates spectators’ curiosity and delight in the unusual, and the energy of the Festival is conveyed to other audiences thanks to these free public offerings, generous and open to all.
History of the FTA in Print
FTA : Nos jours de fête, a collective work published in May 2018 by Éditions Somme toute, is the first book to trace the long, rich trajectory of the Festival. It focuses on the performing arts in Quebec and includes arts manifestos and aesthetic and political debates, as well as accounts and testimonials by observers from here and abroad. Their commentary is interspersed with numerous photos, from the first edition of the Theatre Festival of the Americas in 1985 to the 2018 Festival TransAmériques.
FTA : Nos jours de fête features a community of artists, thinkers and friends of the Festival, and some forty writers contributed to this look back at the FTA over three decades, including Marie Brassard, Romeo Castellucci, Olivier Choinière, Marie Chouinard, Mélanie Demers, Martin Faucher, Floyd Favel, Christian Lapointe, Louise Lecavalier, Robert Lepage, Alexander MacSween, Dana Michel, Alain Platel, Nadia Ross, Yves Sioui Durand, Larry Tremblay and of course firsthand accounts from Marie-Hélène Falcon.
A Grafika award was attributed to FTA : Nos jours de fête in February 2019. The book was designed by Montreal graphic design studio Caserne.