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Modern Theatre in Context: A Critical Timeline

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Founded in 1983, Le Théâtre Zoopsie heralded the multimedia focus that came to dominate Quebec performance in the 1980s and 1990s, using video – live as well as pre-recorded – and the plastic arts to explore issues of space and locality and challenge conventions of narrative logic or linear development. For instance, Zoopsie's 1987 L'objet Rêvé featured an entirely dynamic, constantly metamorphosing background, a tele-present landscape that commenting on the staged action through its visible transformations; and the production combined random scenes and localities in a landscape whose colours, materials, patterns, and discontinuities created "hallucinatory effect" for the painter/sculptor/designer Claude-Paul Gauthier.

This multimedia revolution, picked up by several companies founded in the 1980s such as Agent Orange, Arbo Cyber Théâtre, Carbone 14, le Théâtre Ubu, Recto Verso, and culminating in Robert Lepage's Ex Machina, served to break open the stylistic frontiers of Quebecois theatre while at the same time calling into question traditional conceptions of the real, of the spatial, and indeed of "national" identity in a "Quebec" removed from time and space. Effectively theatre ceased to articulate the provincial aspirations to independence, offering the earliest evidence of a newly self-confident Quebec intelligentsia turning away from a narrow nationalism to make their mark on the global world of new technology.

More traditionally, Martha Ross and Leah Cherniak return from mime training with Jacques LeCoq and found Theatre Columbus in Toronto, dedicated to clown-based comic theatre. The company goes on to produce such hits as The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine; The Attic, The Pearls, and the Three Fine Girls; and The Betrayal. And, reimposing politics over aesthetic experiment (in clear contrast to developments in Quebec) the first, 20-minute version of This is for You, Anna: A Spectacle of Revenge is produced by Nightwood Theatre. This collective creation by The Anna Project tours theatres, women's shelters, and other venues, and goes on to claim a foundational place in feminist theatre in English Canada.

Playwrights Co-op (1971) and the Guild of Canadian Playwrights merge to become Playwrights Union of Canada, the major service organization for Canadian playwrights. The organization's publishing arm, Playwrights Canada Press, operates a major source of published play scripts.

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