Five Minutes with Anne-Marie Ouellet

Wo 2 credit jonathan lorange
White Out © Photo: Jonathan Lorange

In April, as part of NAC French Theatre’s 2021–22 season, Anne-Marie Ouellet of the theatre collective L’eau du bain presented two plays for two different audiences. White Out was conceived for an adult audience and La chambre des enfants was made for children. Through innovative lighting and sound effects, both productions explore the fine line between dreams and reality, and were brought to the NAC stage with support from the National Creation Fund.

We spoke with Anne-Marie, who directed the performances, to learn more about her creative process:

In 2018, NAC French Theatre presented your production of Impatience, which was created with teenagers. This month, you returned with the atmospheric White Out and its adaptation for children, La chambre des enfants. How does it feel to be performing again at the NAC?

It feels great! We feel extremely fortunate to be here to put the finishing touches on these two works and share them with NAC audiences. We have a lot of support from the team members. When you finish a new work, you feel stressed, excited, but also a little vulnerable. So it makes all the difference to get such a warm welcome; it helps us take care of what is being created.

What inspired you to create an adaptation of White Out for children?

In White Out, there are children playing; they animate the void that we experience at the beginning of the show through the whiteout effect. When we saw them on the set, we decided that we wanted to go further with them, give them room, let them make the space their own.

We understand that you chose not to use professional actors for La chambre des enfants. What led you to make this decision?

What interests us most about theatre is that it’s a living art. So we’re constantly looking for strategies to maximize the living, spontaneous, uncontrollable part of what happens on stage, while creating a stage setting that highlights the vitality that animates us. For La chambre des enfants, we built the show around the children's suggestions, their imagination and their personality. They’re not playing parts, they’re being themselves, magnified by the sound and light all around them.

How did the support of the National Creation Fund help you bring these works to the stage?

The support of the National Creation Fund allowed us to extend the creation time. Without that support, it would have been difficult to produce two shows at the same time. White Out and La chambre des enfants create authentic stage landscapes in which we invite audience members to imagine wandering around. So we write the shows with lighting and sound, which means we have to work in a theatre with lighting and sound equipment. Here in Canada, it’s rare to have the opportunity to have such an extended period in the stage setup; that’s what allows us, among other things, to create works that stand out and contribute to the renewal of the discipline.

Is there anything you’d like to say to donors who supported the National Creation Fund?

Thank you! It’s gratifying and reassuring to know that many people believe in the importance of art, and support artistic practice so generously.

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