Quebec-based actor/director born in 1949, in Deschambault, Quebec. Gabriel Arcand was the co-founder and one-time Artistic Director of Théâtre de La Veillée (Groupe [de] La Veillée, Espace de la Veillée), and is still closely associated with the Company (renamed Théâtre Prospéro in 1999).
He first became interested in theatre when seeing his brother, Denys Arcand, acting in school plays. After getting his Masters from McGill University in philosophy, he travelled through Europe with friends Gilles Maheu and Jean Asselin, and began to develop a deeper interest in theatre. His first paying job was with La Roulotte, a travelling summer theatre in Montreal.
He has never studied at a theatre institution, but his work, as both actor and director, has featured a quality of experimentation that is often awe-inspiring (but also, occasionally, murky and pretentious). He worked with actors in Poland who had studied with theatrical theorist, Jerzy Grotowski, and he began a lifelong search for the essence of truth in the work of an actor.
Arcand has been featured in or directed many of the works presented at La Veillée (many of which are adaptations of works by Dostoevsky, Kafka and other European playwrights and novelists).
Though he has appeared often in film and on television (for instance, in his brother's film Le déclin de l'empire americain/Decline of the American Empire), his performance in Tankred Dorst's Moi, Feuerbach in 1995 at La Veillée (revived in 1999) was particularly notable. This story of an ageing actor forced to audition at an alternative house was Arcand at the height of his powers: strong, weak, pompous, frightening and genuinely touching. The artistic, critical and theatre-going community fell in love with this difficult artist all over again.
He made a step towards more commercial theatre by playing the title character in Molière's Tartuffe at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (directed by Lorraine Pintal, 1997), but returned to his home company to perform in Camera Obscura (February, 2001). More recently, he performed in Écoutez nos défaites by Assem Graieb at Théâtre Prospero (2018-2019), and Avant la retraite by Rudolf Holler (dir. Catherine Vidal, Prospero, 2014).
He lives in the Plateau district of Montreal.
Profile by Gaetan Charlebois
Last updated 2020-02-21