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In theatre as well as in other disciplines, Gratien Gélinas has been, throughout his career, a pioneer - often going into unexplored fields.

He started writing in 1937. The recent success of Fridolinades at the National Arts Center and at the Rideau Vert, 50 years after its creation, is an irrefutable proof of the durability of Gélinas' work; having played to full houses for months in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and in the whole province.

In the same month (January 1987), a new play by Gratien Gélinas, La Passion de Narcisse Mondoux, created at the Théâtre du Rideau-Vert in Montreal, was welcomed by both critics and public as a triumphant success.  There was a revival of this play at the same theatre beginning September 1, after which it was scheduled to go on a long tour.

These two simultaneous successes by the same author with a half-century interval is a precedent for the whole of Canada.



It is generally thought that TIT-COQ was one of the major starting points for creative theatre in Canada.  However, it should be remembered that at the time of his first play, in 1948, Gratien Gélinas had already spent 10 years as dramatic author working on the Fridolin series, without which Tit-Coq may never have been born.

In March 1938, on the stage of the Monument National, a revue artist by the name of Gratien Gélinas appeared as Fridolin, and proved to be a total theatre unto himself: playwright, stage manager, actor, director,. and a completely original comedian. His accent is raw, different from that of any of his predecessors in the genre. Moreover, he brings to the Fridolinons revue a style of presentation and a tasteful choice of scenic material which is as novel as his impertinent tone and his spontaneous humour. In short, the revue becomes with him a great genre, of national dimensions: not only does he manage to break down the famous East-West barrier which, at least symbolically, separates Montreal between francophones and anglophones, but he also manages to attract to his revue Canadians from every province. Thus, long before the creation of his three-act play, Tit-Coq, in May 1948, the name of Gratien Gélinas becomes that of the greatest theatre personality in Canada.

                        (Jean Béraud,  The Arts in Canada (MacMillan) p.79)

Since the publication of the text of these revues - played again on the stage later - we can appreciate even more the importance they have achieved, not only  for Gratien Gélinas as their author, but also in the establishment of a Canadian theatre literature; very few lasting works had been created in Canada before that, either in English or in French.

Tit-Coq was the first Canadian play to not only reach the l00 mark but to be played 200 times in the same city (Montreal) in one season (1948-49). This was all the more remarkable in that it was presented not in a little hall, but in two large theatres (the Monument National - 1408 seats and le Gésu - 963 seats). It was essential to have large audiences, as there were 9 actors and l2 scene changes and this was 10 years before anyone in Canada knew what a grant from the Arts Council meant.

Tit-Coq was the first play to be translated into the other official language of Canada and to be staged in French and in English by the same bilingual cast throughout the country. (It even played in English in Quebec City and in French in Toronto.) Gratien Gélinas was thus paving the way for other enriching experiences for the cultural unification of Canada. We could ask ourselves whether the famous Plouffe Family by Roger Lemelin would have been telecast in English on the national channels of the CBC without the lucky precedent of Tit-Coq.

Gratien Gélinas was also a pioneer in films. In 1942, he made - with makeshift means and an obviously inexperienced crew - a talking film La dame aux camellias, la vraie.. This twenty minute film may be the first Canadian fiction color film and has proven its durability by being presented in France, 30 years after it was made, at the Journées Cinématographiques in Poitiers, as the ancestor of a retrospective of Quebec films. It is still being used as a teaching tool in Canadian schools where film-making is taught.

Bousille et les Justes (Bousille and the Just) was revived in 1976 1990, and 1996, 17 30 and 36 years after it was written, and played more than 705 times in four languages by professional production companies.

The film Tit-Coq made in 1952 from the original play is still shown about once a year on television.

It is interesting to note that Ti-Coq, Bousille and the Just, Yesterday the children were dancing! and The passion of Narcisse Mondoux are amongst the Canadian plays which have been staged the most often in English.

Three of these plays by Mr. Gélinas are part of the curriculum in schools, both English and French, throughout Canada.

The Comédie-Canadienne, which Gratien Gélinas founded and whose mission was to contribute first and foremost to the establishment of a Canadian identity in the interpretative arts, did not become a pedestal for Gélinas the actor, the director or the playwright: in 15 years, he staged only three of his plays, and produced two other shows at the Comédie-Canadienne. Bousille et les justes It was truly a stage open to all Canadian creative artists and which offered the public during its existence more Canadian productions than all the other Quebec companies together.

Since then, Gratien Gélinas has continued in this vein; for 8-1/2 years, most of his time has been devoted to the Society for the Development of the Canadian Film Industry, where he has been able to put at the disposal of his colleagues a knowledge of playwriting quite unique in Canada.

It should be noted that Mr. Gélinas has served the community in many other functions: among others, as vice-president, for 7 years, of the Arts Council of the Montreal Region and as a member of the Executive of the National Film Board (3 years).

In conclusion, Gratien Gélinas, during the 60 years of his career, both in the theatre and in his other activities, has never deviated from this principle: to serve first and foremost the expression of a national identity.

This did not prevent his works from being presented, at the theatre or on television, in the USA, in England, in Scotland, in Ireland, in France, in Sweden, in Finland, in Poland, in Italy and in other countries.