Until June 10

The Out Cast of Michel Tremblay’s Hosanna

Richard Burnett
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Tableau D’Hote Theatre company’s superb 2015 revival of Québec literary icon Michel Tremblay’s landmark 1973 play Hosanna about a drag queen and her biker boyfriend won 2015 Montreal English Theatre Awards for Best Independent Production, lead actor (Eloi ArchamBaudoin), supporting actor (Davide Chiazzese) and best director (Mike Payette), and all are back for the current remount at Centaur Theatre.

I hope Tremblay himself will see this superb production which has gotten the most headlines since Hosanna’s 1974 Broadway run at the Bijou Theatre.

Some years ago, Tremblay told me, “We were doing a revival of Hosanna at Place des Arts in 1975 and this English CBC reporter surprised me by asking me, ‘By the way, are you gay?’ So, just to brag, I replied, ‘Yes, by the way, I am!’ It was on TV that night. The next morning I got phone calls saying, ‘If you said it in English, then you have to say in on French TV tonight!’ So I went on live TV.”

Tremblay then observed, “You know, if I was a singer, I’d ask myself, ‘Should I come out?’ Seducing audiences is not part of my life, my job. But it is for actors and singers. Less now, but in the 1970s I would never have come out. But I did. Strange thing was after I came out, everybody on the streets – it didn’t matter to them. They kept on waving and saying hello to me.” 

In this production of Hosanna, the two leads (ArchamBaudoin and Chiazzese) are both proudly out actors. ArchamBaudoin also believes their being gay brings a fresh authenticity to their roles.

“When Mike Payette said three years ago that he thought one or both leads had to be a gay actor, I was initially taken aback,” says ArchamBaudoin. “I come from the French side of the theatre community where diversity and representation isn’t as important on the stage as it is on the English side – although things are changing. But with the controversy our original run generated, I was very glad that Mike had cast Davide and I.”

ArchamBaudoin adds, “I recently saw a production of Hosanna in Gatineau starring two straight men – who are good friends of mine and I love them dearly – but it was just like watching an Anglo put on a Québécois accent. I couldn’t identify, I couldn’t relate to it and it was a bit offensive. Because of that, I am very proud that in the history of Hosanna, our production is – as far as I know – the first to star two actors who identify as gay men. When it comes to representation and diversity on our stages, I think that speaks volumes about how far we all have come.” 

Hosanna runs at the Centaur Theatre until June 10. For tickets, visit centaurtheatre.com

Read Richard Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at www.bugsburnett.blogspot.com.