Success and failure

“Success isn’t something you can buy at the supermarket…”
Jacqueline in Lévriers

The Queen of the hop, the King of hip hop, the Prince of profit: the “nobility” of today seek the shining crown of success at any cost. Courageously, the performers in Lévriers look at the other side of the mirror to examine their disappointing flaws and shattered dreams, openly talking about it on stage.  

Sophie Gee has directed a poignant work that searches through our warehouse of ordinary failures in search of bright spots in the world.  

By the way…

Lévriers is described as a breath of fresh air, in Le Devoir. (In French only)

Script: collectively, in collaboration with Pénélope Bourque and Mercedeh Baroque / Director: Sophie Gee / With Sophie Gee, Jacqueline van de Geer, Corinne Crane, Steven Korolnek, Ghislain Shema Ndayisaba and Lucas Charlie Rose / Coproduction: Nervous Hunter and MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels)

The three key ingredients of theatre

Just imagine that the script, costumes, sets, sound, lighting and performance by the actors are separate items in front of you, like a batch of ingredients. It wouldn’t work. The director is the person who works to make sense of things, to put them together, fine-tune and link them. 

In Lévriers, there’s something special about it; it’s as if the play is being created before our eyes… Sophie Gee, the director and creator, performs alongside the actors and actresses. This gives us a simultaneous overview of the staging process. 

Sophie Gee is telling the story of her relationship with theatre.    

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How did theatre enter your life and when did you decide to make it your profession?               

My parents are immigrants who did blue collar work and we never went to the theatre, but I always enjoyed it when children’s shows came to my primary school classroom. In high school, I was in a club that went to shows together and we would be given a tour backstage before each performance. That’s what introduced me to the magic of theatre. I can remember a production of Macbeth at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton in which the actors created a storm by synchronizing their body movements, and it made a great impression on me.   

But theatre remained a pastime when I was growing up. I was just in the audience. I wanted to become a writer at the time. At university, I changed my mind and enrolled in film studies, and after that I worked in film for quite a while. But I continued to attend theatre productions and took courses. I began to act and direct. I eventually decided to go back to school and was fortunately accepted into the National Theatre School’s directing program.                                            

What are the three ingredients of your ideal theatre? 

Wow, three ingredients of theatre. I love that question. For me it’s –            



Vulnerability (or something else that you don’t want others to see – vulnerability, ugliness, something shameful – I suppose that might mean honesty)

“Falling down is not a failure. Failure means staying where you fell.”

Taming failure 

Failure is scary. Just thinking about it can paralyze us. And yet, whether it’s a simple mistake or a total mess, it can teach us a lot, surprise us, and even make us more creative.     

Three generations will be sharing their perception of the subject. One thing is certain, and that is that they agree on one thing, which is that failure is an experience! 

Is it possible for someone to never experience failure in their life?

What can we learn from failure?

« Jealous? Me? »

Jealousy  (noun): Lit. Resentfully envious (for something you care about).

It’s neither easy nor exciting to speak about this emotion. Think back to a moment when you felt jealous. Ask family members, friends and yourself about this.                           

To help out, try the following:

What kind of situation gives rise to jealousy? Do you have an example?

How does jealousy express itself in you?

Did this feeling go away? If so, how did you manage to get over it?

Take down everything they say in short paragraphs, and above each paragraph, state the name and age of each person (they are, of course, entitled to remain anonymous if they wish). You can also add your own recollections and thoughts. With this in hand, you now have a good starting point for a classroom discussion or a conversation among friends.

Don’t forget! A recollection can turn into a poem. Many artists use them as a basis for a work. In La patience du lichen, Quebec poet Noémie Pomerleau-Cloutier recalls stories about residents of the North Shore – Innu, Francophone and Anglophone – to bring their voices to life in a poem. You can find a summary of her research/creation phase here

“That’s impossible, everyone gets jealous!” 

—Sophie Gee in Lévriers

A day as a photo booth 

Our days can be routine, messy, wide-ranging, started on the wrong foot, fresh, complex: they do their best to hold our lives together. That’s how our successes and the lack thereof follow one another. 

For an entire day, take photographs of your everyday life as things happen, without necessarily staging anything. They can be routine, unexpected, or surprising.                                  

After that, place a short descriptive caption on some of the photographs, and don’t bother to put a caption on others.    

If you put it all together, you can make a poster that uses words and pictures. You could also opt for a digital version by creating an album of your entire day. In any event, it will be a wonderful addition to your personal diary, or simply a memento. 

“Failures and victories, that’s what’s in my mirror.”


Obstacle course 

The performers in Lévriers talk about their setbacks. They tell their stories to one another, recount them and share them. Some tribulations are invisible, like the conflict that Lucas, who is transgender, experiences every day. Others, like Ghislain and Jaqueline, have abandoned what they have experienced so far and are reinventing a new world. 

When there are problems, and we will all encounter them in life, people can help one another out.

“The fear of failure is greater than the desire to succeed.”

Record a piece of advice in a voicemail and treat it like a message in a bottle that you can perhaps recover in the future. 

What tips do you have to help you get through the storms?

Are there actions, words perhaps, that get you back on your feet?

P.S. To be kept safe in your archives, whether for you or someone dear to you.

“Success for me isn’t a destination it’s a journey.
Everybody’s working to get to the top, but where is the top?”


Success in your own words 

How about taking apart the short and serious definition sometimes given to success? Like Rihanna’s or Jacqueline’s, who wrote in her letter, “I’m successful in the sense that I’m comfortable with myself and I forgive you for everything.” Come up with your own personal definition.

Healthy tutorial 

1. On a sheet of paper, begin by writing the following words: “I’m successful because…”, or “success: definition.” 

2. Your personal touch: your definition may be drawn from an anecdote, a personal event, an accomplishment that you’re proud of, no matter how often it has occurred or how important it might be.   

3. What next? A demonstration in your schoolyard, in which everyone talks together. Or a huge collage on the classroom walls, a reinvented fresco of what success means.

“Luckily, every success is the failure of something else.”
Jacques Prévert

Still curious?

Here are some suggestions to continue your exploration:

Additional resources 

Reading list 

“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” 

—Coco Chanel