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Modern Theatre in Context: A Critical Timeline

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The early era of new media performance in Quebec is marked by the watershed year of 1984. La Presse refers to it as "the year Quebec opened itself to the world." This was the year the multimedia dance/performance group Carbone 14 entered the scene with Le Rail and Théâtre Répère, with Lepage's Circulations. These works redefined the stage language in Quebec, joual and the adaptations giving way to the language of visual imagery. The growing "surpresence" (omnipresence) of multimedia in Quebecois performance throughout the 1990's signified simultaneous processes: a theatre being augmented in terms of its expressive capabilities in the near-ubiquitous use throughout contemporary Quebec performances of slides, film projections, video cameras, monitors, and all manner of nascent holographic play and virtual reality technologies.

Carbon 14 mingles dance, music, architecture, and electronic media in a sensory overload. Their use of videography and projections transforms works like Marat-Sade (1984) or Le Rail (1983-1984) into free-associative explorations of the imagined. The logical is abandoned for the dynamic possibilities of dream. One work in particular stands out: Jean-Pierre Ronfard's Le Titanic (1986), co-written by Carbon 14 founder-director Gilles Maheu. Under Maheu's driving vision, Carbon 14 builds its productions from abstractions such as "soul", "duality", "urges", "childhood fears". Maheu says of his company's creative process: "The actors improvise from images, born of these [pre-selected] themes; they are confronted with discrete objects, and … keep what is most meaningful". He also remarks: "Contrary to traditional écriture (scénique), the show unfolds little by little, without text and without a firm plan". Scenes become organized hypertextually, moments linked by stream-of-consciousness flow over single-thread narrative.

Founding of Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan in Saskatoon by Gordon McCall. McCall would later, in 1989-90, co-direct with Robert Lepage the national tour of the bilingual Romeo and Juliette. A month later the Northern Arts and Culture Centre opens in Yellowknife, NWT. Its premiere performance includes an Indian prayer, Inuit singers, Dene Drummers, Carol Baker, John Allen Cameron, and the Famous People Players.

The first performance of Ground Zero productions, St. George/The Dragon, is staged for the Canadian Labour Congress School in Port Elgin, Ontario, marking the beginnings of the company and its long association with organized labour under the artistic direction of Don Bouzek.

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