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Theatre company in Montreal, Quebec, central to the development of Canadian theatre.

Founded in 1957 (opened in February, 1958) by playwright/actor/manager Gratien Gélinas, it was created to produce Canadian works. The company then went to make an indelible mark on Canadian culture by producing Gélinas's plays (Bousille et les justes, among others) and the works of Marcel Dubé (Les Beaux Dimanches and others); Françoise Loranger (Médium saignant), and Gélinas' translation of George Ryga's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe. In time, it also created a stable of actors that would go on to dominate Quebec and Canadian Theatre (Janine Sutto, Andrée Lachapelle, Jean Duceppe, Denise Pelletier among them)

Gélinas wanted to get people into seats; he lowered ticket prices and had an earlier curtain time to accommodate people who never went to the theatre because they considered it too "mondaine." Gélinas allowed discussions with the casts after the show and established ticket-sales outlets in any town or village within a reasonable distance from Montreal.

The company was housed in the old Radio-City and Gaiéte Cinema building (now the home of the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde), refurbished to become the best equipped venue in the country. However, the Comédie-Canadienne began to fail in the late 60s for the simple reason that filling the 1200 seats each night was extremely difficult. Slowly, outside repertory works entered the seasons there. The company disbanded in 1973; however its legacy of solid home-grown drama performed by home-grown actors who were nurtured on its stage, cannot be underestimated.

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois.

Last updated 2011-01-27