Montreal, Monday, April 27, 2020 — The Conseil des arts de Montréal (CAM) is pleased to announce the names of the three finalists for the Jovette Marchessault Award, the second edition of which recognizes directors: Sophie El Assaad, Claude Rodrigue and Nancy Tobin. This new award to honour and promote the contribution of women to Montreal’s theatre community is accompanied by a $20,000 cash prize that will be presented to the winner by the Conseil.
The Conseil des arts de Montréal is responsible for selecting the jury and the candidates and for the cash prize, while ESPACE GO is handling logistics and promotion for the award. The jury for this award, composed of male and female professional artists, received 30 nominations representing a broad range of theatre practices. Candidates were evaluated based on the quality and originality of their artistic approach as well as the impact of their work on the development of theatre. The name of the winner of the first Jovette Marchessault Award will be announced on Monday, May 24, 2021.
SECOND EDITION – WOMEN DESIGNERS: THE THREE FINALISTS
You can find the video introducing the finalists here.
Sophie El Assaad
Stage and costume designer
“My work as a designer is informed by my background in the visual arts. I approach scenography as I would a painting or a sculpture. I work in theatre, because I am fascinated by people and their stories, and I intend to use design to tell these stories. Costume design in particular allows me a great connection with characters and understanding of their motivations. My aesthetic and artistic approach are naturally influenced by my experience growing up in the Middle-East and gaining a unique perspective of the world, not only in its architecture, clothing, or art but in its people and their belief systems.”
“Ever since I was a child, I have always had the same motivation. I found it fascinating to observe my surroundings and the things that interested me most, especially living beings. I wanted to understand the details, the little things that make a being unique, and their effect on our emotions. My mother always told me that as a little girl, I would make observations about people aloud. Although she would scold me for my manners, she would also confirm that I was right with a sense of pride. And I would spend countless hours shaping human figures out of modeling clay. Is it any wonder that I teach courses on the shapes of faces and people’s characters now?”
“Throughout my career as a designer, I have tried to turn common perceptions of sound design on their head. For many years, I worked tirelessly to fine-tune a method for amplifying voices. The way I see it, it was absolutely inconceivable for the performers’ amplified voices to seem to come from the speakers in the proscenium. I tried to find a way to make the voices always seem closely connected with the bodies you see on the stage. You can’t deprive the actors of their voices, even if their hesitant silences turned out to have an even greater presence.”
The Jovette Marchessault Award was created in 2019 in the wake of ESPACE GO’s Chantier féministe event, where the theatre community rallied behind a proposal by the Femmes pour l’Équité en Théâtre (F.E.T.) movement that awards be created specifically to recognize the outstanding work of women in theatre and raise the profile of female artists. The Conseil des arts de Montréal swiftly responded, eliciting the collaboration of partners ESPACE GO, Imago Theatre, Théâtre de l’Affamée and the F.E.T. movement to make this new award possible. All players were agreed that the award should be named for the inspiring woman artist Jovette Marchessault (1938-2012), Montreal novelist, poet, playwright, painter and sculptor. In 2020, artist Catherine Vidal won the award’s first edition, dedicated to women theatre directors.
Each year, as part of the Jovette Marchessault Award, three female artists will be honoured and a $20,000 cash prize will be presented to the winner by the Conseil des arts de Montréal. Annual calls for nominations will be issued on a three-year rotation between artistic roles. The 2019-2020 award was for directors, the 2020-2021 edition for designers, and the 2021-2022 edition for playwrights (original work or adaptation). Eligible artists: Professional artists working in theatre who identify as female; artists must also be recognized by their peers, regardless of years of experience, must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada at the time of the nomination, and must reside on the Island of Montreal.
ABOUT THE CONSEIL DES ARTS DE MONTRÉAL
A dynamic partner of professional artistic creativity in Montreal, the Conseil des arts de Montréal identifies, supports and recognizes excellence in the creation, production and presentation of artistic endeavours. Through its initiatives, the Conseil encourages new thinking, discovery and daring at the heart of Montreal’s artistic landscape. Since 1956, the Conseil des arts de Montréal has been an influential player in the development of “Montreal, Cultural Metropolis.”
Jovette Marchessault was born in 1938 in a Montreal working-class neighbourhood. She had to leave school in her teens to work in a textile factory, where she met immigrants from around the world. Her exposure to these women and her close bond with her grandmother fuelled her search for her self-identity and her spiritual roots.
In the early 1960s, she journeyed extensively through the Americas, travels that would later influence her writing. But her first artistic forays were in the visual arts. In the 1970s, her frescoes, masks and sculptures of “telluric” (or primeval) women were featured at some thirty solo exhibitions around Quebec, as well as in Toronto, New York, Paris and Brussels.
At the same time, this self-taught artist took up the pen, publishing a romantic trilogy Comme une enfant de la terre, in 1975. She went on to write dramatic monologues, poetry, several plays and two more novels, all of which received wide acclaim.
Her theatrical works are infused with a deep lyrical and ancestral voice. Celebrating words through myths and liberating poetic language, they pay homage to women, in particular female artists and writers.
The winner of several major awards, Jovette Marchessault, made an indelible mark on Quebec theatre in the same way that more famous writers of her generation did, without ever receiving in her lifetime the recognition normally given to artists whose works are as compelling and unique as hers.
Jovette Marchessault died, alone, in 2012.
This award created by the Conseil des arts de Montréal was named for Jovette Marchessault as a tribute to a great “tuner of the soul,” whose body of work reflects her desire to bring women’s culture out of the shadows, to reshape History, and to forge a collective memory that allows women to be role models for any gender.