Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
If you’re a French-speaking Ontario teen with some Molière in your soul, then Guy Mignault wants to shine a spotlight on you. On November 20, five Toronto-area teens will, once again, get a chance to shine as playwrights, when Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) presents Les Zinspirés Puissance 4. Now in its fourth year, Les Zinspirés Puissance 4 will debut five short stories, all written by teens from across Southern Ontario, workshopped by professional writers and performed by professional actors.
The program begins as a writing contest organized in schools followed by three dramaturgy workshops for the students whose texts have been selected. Eventually, five stories are reworked into a professional theatrical production, which is then performed the Berkeley Street Theatre. This production is not child’s play. These are truly inspired aspiring playwrights and Les Zinspirés is no ordinary youth-development program. In fact, the final production is ovation-worthy. In 2013, its inaugural year and again in 2015, Les Zinspirés was nominated for 2 Dora Mavor Moore Awards: Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance – Ensemble.
And no worries if your French is rusty. The public performances are performed in French with English surtitles–making Les Zinspirés accessible to just about everyone. We at Sesaya are so, well, inspired by this program that we wanted to find out all that we could about this year’s production. So SesayArts caught up with the Artistic Director of Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) and the founder of Les Zinspirés , the dynamic and visionary Guy Mignault, and asked him for details about how this concept was born, what we can expect to see this year and some inspiration for budding playwrights.
The texts are chosen on many criteria: the story, the originality, the relevancy, the talent with which the story is written. Then, when we approach the show, we analyze which 5 texts can go together to create a “show balance,” considering comedy vs. drama… punch and poetry, etc. And at the end, we try to see to intermingling the stories, creating links between the stories and possibly having characters participating in the other stories.
Sébastien got involved about 4 years ago. Being an author himself, he became writing coach. And this year, when I spoke to (previous director) Pierre Simpson about the season, we decided that he would step down. I immediately asked Sébastien. I have been working with him since 1999 when I directed him in a show for children and in 2000 when he played an traumatised youth.
I guess they might be talking about a guy kissing a guy.
Actually, what we ask the kids is to write stories, ten-minute long stories. We create the show with the stories. I agree that to be a playwright is highly specialized, but storytelling is easier. And we at TfT hope to give those kids the will to tell stories and, eventually, they might specialize in playwriting.
Write, for crying out loud write. Read out loud in front of people, and listen to how your work is heard. Make corrections, and write–and write again.
I am very proud of everything that has to do with les Zinspirés. And Sébastien is, with a couple of the actors, the new links to making les Zinspirés grow more and go further.
News You Can Use
Who: Sébastien Bertrand, director; featuring Mélanie Beauchamp, Geneviève Dufour, François Macdonald, Matt Raffy and Alex Weiner.
What: Les Zinspirés Puissance 4, presented in French with English surtitles
Soliloque d’un menteur (Soliloquy of a Liar) by Mande Tonde (École secondaire Saint-Frère-André – Toronto): Proud and sure of himself, Jérémy Laval is a skilled liar. He’s been lying since before he could walk. He just can’t help it. Lying is his drug of choice; a bad habit that will eventually teach him a hard lesson.
When: November 20, 25, 8:00 pm and Nov 28, 3:30 pm
Where: Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street (Upstairs), Toronto, ON
For Info and Tickets: theatrefrancais.com and (416) 534-6604 or 1-800-819-4981
© 2015 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya