A long-standing local theatre company is breaking through the language barrier to reach out to a wider audience.
The St. Boniface-based francophone company Le Cercle Molière has been offering audience members the use of a limited number of iPod Touches loaded with English subtitles for select performances of its current show, Le Dieu du Carnage, by Yasmina Reza.
The last subtitled performance is scheduled for Wed., April 9 and the show is set to run until Sat., April 12 at Cercle Molière Theatre, 340 Provencher Blvd.
Geneviève Pelletier, the company’s artistic director and general director, said the idea was inspired by the traditional form of theatrical subtitling using scrolls at the side of the stage and is intended to engage members of an ever-changing community.
"We’ve been looking at how we work on audience development and how we regenerate our audience," said Pelletier, 44, who lives in St. Vital, noting the theatre is a "stronghold" in the community.
"Also, the French community has changed in the last 10 or 15 years. Now, kids with two francophone parents are becoming more the minority, and there are also lots of new Canadians, which we are welcoming as citizens of the world. These are examples of how the diversity of the community has changed a lot."
While it’s still in its infancy, Pelletier hopes the pilot project — overseen by the company’s technical director, Richard Dupas — will extend into next season. Not least, she says, because the subtitling enhances the theatrical experience without being intrusive.
"There is a level of intrusiveness by having a scroll on stage, as your eyes naturally stray towards it. This way, the iPod is directly in your sightline, which is a key part of this," Pelletier said, adding 10 devices per show have been made available to audience members.
Noting the positive comments from individuals attending the subtitled shows on April 1 and 2, Pelletier said organizers are welcoming audience feedback.
"One comment was that the writing on the screen was too small, so these are things that we’ll bring into the future. Generally, the response has been great so far, and we think it adds a new layer to the experience," she said.
Pelletier hopes the theatre company, which has been in existence for almost 90 years, will continue to evolve with its audience.
"It’s a very different experience here. When you walk in there’s a bar, which gives a cabaret feeling. And when you consider the choice of plays we offer, there’s a full French experience to be had," she said.
"I really believe the core reason bilingualism was made official in this country was so that we can come together and do things like this. I’m looking forward to seeing how the future develops."
For those attending the show, the handheld devices are available at the front of house with a credit card deposit. Because of their limited availability, individuals are encouraged to reserve one ahead of time by calling 204-233-8053.
For more information, go online at www.cerclemoliere.com