Rose in the Machine

100% cathartic documentary play

2024-05-01 19:30 2024-05-04 21:30 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Rose in the Machine

In-person event

English-language premiere An NAC English Theatre/NAC French Theatre presentation of the Porte Parole production Inspired by the writer’s own life experience, Rose in the Machine is the heartfelt and intimate journey of a mother seeking to understand her daughter’s autism, offering a compassionate window into the polychromatic shades of experience for families with neurodiverse children in Quebec. 

In navigating the many obstacles thrown in her path by our...

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Babs Asper Theatre,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
May 1 - 4, 2024

≈ 2 hour and 5 minutes · No intermission

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Scan the QR code at the venue's entrance to read the program notes before the show begins.

Last updated: April 30, 2024

Message from Porte Parole’s Dramaturg and Artistic Director 

Three years ago, Maude Laurendeau arrived in my office, driven by a strong sense of urgency. She read me passages from documents she had collected in the months after her daughter was diagnosed with autism. It was then that I realized Maude was trying to impose order on a real and extremely chaotic experience. She had turned to documentary theatre as a way of framing her reality. 

Maude’s sense of urgency spoke to me that day because I too am often confused by reality these days. Her description of Rose also resonated with me. Although I’m neurotypical, I’m sometimes unable to single out the important messages in the mass of information I receive every day. They get lost in the excessive background noise. And sometimes I feel like running away, far, far away, all by myself, to escape the pressures of society’s expectations. 

I commend Maude for her courage in bringing such a personal story to the stage, and I thank the artists and the production team for sharing their talents and insights to support Maude in her creative process. 

I hope you will be moved by this piece of documentary theatre from Porte Parole, and that you will hear in it the same urgent and heartfelt call that runs through all our productions: a call to join us in a conversation about our harsh yet wonderful world. 

Message from the Director 

Directing a documentary play requires more from you than the usual process. The heart of the project beats furiously in the person who has done the research, especially when that research has a direct connection to their own life. Taking care of the show then takes on a whole new meaning. 

You have to facilitate, support, show. I wanted to take as much off Maude’s shoulders as I could, to construct a world she could navigate, a world that was sensitive and supportive, that she could cling to while she was talking to you. Because what matters most is the contact between Maude and you—that a solid and honest listening channel be established between you. What Maude has to say is rooted in her personal experience as a mother, but its ramifications affect all of us. We live in the same world, we’re prisoners of the same systems born of good intentions, machines that have lost their soul by focusing on performance rather than the human dimension. 

Maude has the courage to tell her story, to bear witness not only to her journey through these systems, but also to her relationship with her daughter’s autism. There are many battles, and they’re not over. Most of us would have stayed at home, loving our family, unable to do anything else, crushed by the weight of these tortuous processes, these madhouses. Maude, on the other hand, has found the energy, despite the daily demands, despite the constant changes, to walk towards us; to write, to bear witness, to be here with us tonight. I applaud her strength, and I hope it will inspire others to follow in her footsteps. I hope Maude’s generous story will be one of the sparks we all need to look at ourselves honestly, to recognize ourselves and to grow. 


Parenting has many challenges, and a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) increases them tenfold. When the diagnosis was confirmed, Maude tried to understand and support her daughter. But she quickly realized that she was going to have to deal with enormous difficulties. 

An open look at difference 

As Maude documented her exhausting search for resources and the endless waiting lists, she learned about the limitations of the system. And she gradually became aware of her own limitations. How could she best listen to and understand her daughter? How could she help Rose while accepting her difference? What could she learn from this difference? 

“For a few days now, I’ve been looking at you differently. It’s as if my reading has robbed you of everything I love about you; as if your disorder dictates your every move, sums you up, swallows you. Even my memories seem false.” 

Delving into a misunderstood spectrum 

Along the way, Maude Laurendeau met a host of specialists, parents and relatives of autistic children, all portrayed in the play by actor Julie Le Breton. Gradually, through discussion and questioning, but also simply by living each day with Rose, a form of understanding and acceptance began to emerge. After the initial shock and emotional turmoil triggered by the diagnosis wore off, the suspended particles began to settle. Slowly, behind the black beast of ASD, Maude was reunited with her child. 

“With my daughter, there came a point when I accepted that I’m not the one holding her hand to take her somewhere. She’s the one showing me the way and teaching me at her own pace.” 

A call to change perceptions about autism and neuroatypia 

Driven by the need to change things, Maude began to write. She started by pointing out the shortcomings of our infrastructure, but gradually the urgency turned into a strong desire to depict her lived experience from the inside, and to change perceptions about autism in a significant way. 

Interview with author Maude Laurendeau

In this interview with Porte Parole, Maude Laurendeau talks about her motivation and the creative process behind Rose in the Machine. 

What led you to undertake this project? 

I was in a state of emotional turmoil. It’s truly an uphill battle: trying to get help and resources that just aren’t there, and trying to understand your child through it all ... You run up against a lot of refusals and a lot of absurdities. You quickly discover the limitations of the system and what doesn’t work well, which gets a bit alienating. That’s what prompted me to write: the need to speak out and call attention to this reality, and to change things. 

It started with “We have to change the system, it doesn’t make any sense.” But now there’s a sense that my daughter is better integrated into our society, that she’s a little citizen in her own right and an entity in the world, which was less the case when she was three. So today I feel a greater urgency to change the way we perceive who and what she is. And I have more power over that. It’s more doable than changing systems. 

My sense of urgency has changed; it’s not the same. My priority now is to change perceptions. 

What have you learned in the process of writing this play? 

From the moment I started writing, it was as if I’d gained the distance necessary to deepen my knowledge of autism. I wasn’t just learning things for myself in relation to my child, but with the intention of sharing them with others. It seemed to make things easier to grasp. 

When you get the diagnosis, you get so little support, so little information that your first instinct is to turn to the internet ... and it’s a jungle! There’s so much out there. You start reading about the challenges your child will face at 35, which is absurd: you shouldn’t project yourself so far into the future when you know from the start how bumpy the road ahead is going to be! It’s as if you sat down and said to yourself, “Let’s see, today I’m going to read about the cancers my children might get in their lives.” That’s no way to live! 

With my daughter, I’ve come to accept that I’m not the one holding her hand to take her somewhere. She’s the one showing me the way and teaching me at her own pace. There’s no point in projecting or imagining what’s going to happen, because I’m always surprised. 

You turned to Porte Parole quite early in the process. Why was that? 

I think when I first approached Annabel it was more of a cry for help than a project pitch! [laughs] Looking back, I think she just gave me the tools, including a simple voice recorder, to start giving myself a structure and moving towards what was going to help me, save me, get me out of the rut I was in. That recorder was a lifeline! 

Annabel has always spoken out against the unfairness and absurdities of the system, and in a way I think I went to her to validate my sense of injustice. I didn’t have any other outlet. 

The system always makes you feel that this is how things are and that there are no other options. I guess I needed to turn to someone who had enough perspective on society to say, “You’re right, it doesn’t make sense.” 

And also—this may be a bit naïve–I felt that by going with documentary theatre, I’d have a stage and a microphone in front of me two weeks later to express myself; that I’d be able to meet people and say “this doesn’t make sense.” I’d chosen to disregard the fact that it was going to take three years ... 

Do you sometimes wonder why you took on such a demanding project? 

Absolutely! I ask myself that every day. Especially at the moment, because my daughter is doing really well: a lot of things have fallen into place. And I’d like to be able to enjoy that without having to recall all the difficult moments every day ... 

I think I underestimated the emotional implications, the fact that the show meant I would have to relive painful moments. I think the play moves towards the light, but we go through a lot of darkness to get there. And even when the story moves away from my own experience, which it often does in the show, the subject matter is never external to me. 

But every time I talk to parents who are going through the same thing, to people who are dealing with this every day, I’m immediately reminded of the urgent need to do something. Every time, I say to myself, “This is why I started writing. And nothing has changed, so it’s important to keep going.” On the other hand, I’m also constantly reminded that nothing has changed, and everyone tells me it never will. So I sometimes ask myself, “Will I really be the one to make things happen?” I navigate between those two extremes. 

Did you hope writing would help you understand your daughter better? 

No, not at all. I wasn’t looking at writing as a way to understand her better—and in fact, the research I’m doing isn’t about autism. It’s more about the health and education systems, the professionals who work in them, the parents ... 

Autism is a spectrum; there are as many forms of autism as there are autistic people. It’s very complex. So I don’t think I could have written a play about autism as such. And as a neurotypical person, what I might have said wouldn’t have been representative. 

But the project led me to meet people who changed my perception of what autism is. Now, when I look at my child, I no longer see an autistic child. I see my daughter for who she is. 

When you get a diagnosis, your child becomes that diagnosis. My mission became to give my daughter everything she needed to be able to function in our society one day. Because what I was told was that she would never be able to do that. 

Maybe what writing the play gave me was an awareness of my own limitations. I realized I hadn’t helped my daughter at all by reacting badly at the beginning. And part of that shock is my own fault, because of my limitations as a human being who has to deal with difference. I think the writing process and all the people I met helped me reposition myself and see things differently. 

The play is about my thought process. I’m not trying to show all sides of an issue, I’m showing the evolution of my thinking. And through that I think you can see different facets and different possible angles, different ways of experiencing it, because I’ve been there. 

Thank you

Porte Parole would like to personally thank everyone who was interviewed by Maude Laurendeau as part of the research that led to the creation of Rose in the Machine. Their generosity and openness contributed to our discussions and made the creation of this play possible. Special thanks to Jérémie Dufour and Maëlle Adenot.

Porte Parole would also like to thank the Conseil des arts de Montréal, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts, the Théâtre Duceppe team, the Théâtre Espace GO team, the Théâtre de la Ville, Productions Spectrum, and Jasmine Catudal.

Finally, Porte Parole would like to thank Claire Léger and the Fondation Famille Léger, Andrew Molson, and all our donors, without whom we could not continue our activities. We would also like to thank the members of Porte Parole’s board of directors: Matthieu Sauvé, François Prénovost, François Lemoine, Lili de Granpré, Anne Emanueli, Mathieu Johnson, Mary-Dailey Desmarais and Fortunat Nadima Nadima; and of course the members of the External Development Committee: Judy Martin, Leslie Raenden, DeliaCristea and Alexandra Bonnefoy.

Maude Laurendeau 

Thank you to everyone I interviewed as part of this project. Your words, your stories are a big part of the reason I want this text to be heard. Thank you for sharing them with me. 

Thank you to Annabel Soutar for giving me a helping hand (and a voice recorder) at a time when nothing made sense any more. Thank you for lighting my dramaturgical path so brightly for the past four years, 

Thank you to Julie Le Breton, Édith Patenaude and Caroline Boucher-Boudreau for supporting this project so wholeheartedly and generously, for believing in it and giving me confidence. 

Thank you to the entire creative team behind Rose in the Machine for your inspired work! Thank you for making my text so resonant, for giving it depth, for adding your sensitivity, your nuances, your colours. 

Thank you to the Porte Parole team for going above and beyond to ensure that our cries from the heart are heard; thank you for giving life to our projects and for defending them so well. 

Thank you to the Duceppe team for giving us such a wonderful venue, a solid launch pad. 

Thank you to Raphaël Roussel, Delphine Bienvenu and Fred Lavallée for your listening ears, your advice and your generous hearts. 

Thank you to my family, my in-laws, and my precious friends for your wise words and your encouragement, but most of all, for forming such a strong community around Rose and looking out for her happiness. 

Thank you to all the early childhood educators, child psychologists, social workers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, daycare educators, special education technicians, remedial educators and teachers who have worked and continue to work with Rose. Thank you for seeing beyond the diagnoses, for relentlessly searching for the keys to the development of the little human beings around you, for inventing the tools and resources you lack. You weave beautiful humanity! 

Thank you to Rose, Estelle and Den for always keeping me grounded. Without you, none of this would be possible. 

And of course thanks to you, our indispensable audience. 

In this world where everything moves so fast, thank you for taking time to come and reflect with me, with us. 

Thank you for being here. 

I can’t wait to meet you. 


  • Original story and text by Maude Laurendeau
  • annabel-soutar-credit-vivian-doan
    Translated by Annabel Soutar
  • Directed by Édith Patenaude
  • natalie-tannous-photo-1
    Cast Natalie Tannous
  • Cast Julie Trépanier
  • patrice
    Set Designer Patrice Charbonneau-Brunelle
  • julie-basse
    Lighting Designer Julie Basse
  • fredric-auger
    Sound Designer Frédéric Auger


Original story and text by
Maude Laurendeau

Translated by
Annabel Soutar

Directed by
Édith Patenaude

Natalie Tannous, Julie Trépanier

Documentary Dramaturgy by
Annabel Soutar

Set Designer
Patrice Charbonneau-Brunelle

Assistant Set Designer
Margot Lacoste

Costume Designer
Estelle Charron

Lighting Designer
Julie Basse

Sound Designer
Frédéric Auger

Director of Production
Merissa Tordjman

Technical Director
Normand Vincent

Technical Director (on tour)
Jean Duchesneau

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Projectionists, Wardrobe Mistresses, Masters and Attendants are members of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 471.  

NAC Production Team

Head Carpenter  
Charles Martin  

Head Properties  
Michel Sanscartier  

Head Electrician   
Eric Tessier   

Assistant Electrician   
Martin Racette  

Head Audio  
Doug Millar  

Assistant Audio  
Sarah Waghorn

Head Wardrobe  
Linda Dufresne  

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees