Rosemary Dunsmore, Jonathan Goad, Finley Burke, Michelle Monteith, Maja Vujicic, Matthew Edison, and Amy Rutherford. Set Design by Julie Fox. Lighting Design by Kimberly Purtell. Costume Design by Ming Wong. Photo by Dahlia Katz.
Seven people sitting around the dining room table, heads all turned looking directly into the camera.

See the Audience, Focus

By Jordan Laffrenier

Meet Olivier Choinière, the Siminovitch Award-winning playwright of Public Enemy 

When Olivier Choinière graduated from The National Theatre School's playwriting program, he founded a site-specific theatre company. Since many of his plays had yet to be produced, he would write, direct, and present them on rooftops in Montreal. It did not take long before he was evicted over a noise complaint.  

Pondering what to do next, he decided to bring theatre to the streets. Here, he created shows like ARGGL, an audio guided tour created for one audience member at a time. This tour reimagined the city and made the audience the star of the moment. These re-imaginings, these bold interpretations of how we live, this pursuit of making the audience the center piece of his work, is the throughline in Choinière’s career.  

 

The audience is a co-creator. The play lives in the head of the audience. The actors feel emotions too, but the goal of the performance is not for the actors it is for the audience. The audience is intelligent, full of images and background, and the role of the playwright is to activate them

 

“The audience is a co-creator. The play lives in the head of the audience. The actors feel emotions too, but the goal of the performance is not for the actors it is for the audience. The audience is intelligent, full of images and background, and the role of the playwright is to activate them” - Olivier Choinière 

Olivier's plays engage the audience directly. During Theatre du Nouveau Monde's production of Moliere's The School of Wives, Choinière rented out the entire second balcony and invited his own audience to listen to pre-recorded audio commentary of the play through headphones. The goal was to leave an imprint on another cultural event without destroying it.  

From large-scale theatre pieces with 50 actors, to small theatrical happenings, Choinière’s work continues to leave an imprint. His work has been presented in multiple countries, he is a Siminovitch Award winning playwright, and he has been twice short-listed for the Governor General’s Award.  

Public Enemy engages the audience in its own unique way. Originally presented in French at the Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, Public Enemy is inspired by Choinière’s family.  

 

It is really like I put a tape recorder on the table with my family.

 

“It is really like I put a tape recorder on the table with my family.” - Oliver Choinière 

As a result, the show feels like an investigation and tribute to writers like Samuel Shepard and Samuel Beckett. These writers presented detailed paintings of what their homes looked like, and in doing so offered the audience a picture of society.  

With its extreme specificity, relevance and musicality, Public Enemy stands out from its contemporaries. Most directly because it is about a conversation that is happening right now. 

 

In Public Enemy, the role of audience is to choose, to focus, to be like a camera in a movie. You have to focus on some dialogues and accept you won’t hear everything.

 

“In Public Enemy, the role of audience is to choose, to focus, to be like a camera in a movie. You have to focus on some dialogues and accept you won’t hear everything.”  Olivier Choinière 

When Olivier sets writes a play, he sets out as if he were a new playwright each time. He is curious and in pursuit of “why.” He asks himself what the invitation is to the audience, why he is asking them to spend their time and money, and what is the urgency. 

“In Public Enemy, I really wanted to point out how we are looking for people to be responsible for our sadness and our rage and how this dynamic is going on in banal and casual conversations. I want to bring the audience to watch and at some point to choose who is responsible in that house. I wanted to invite the audience to the house and to see how we are responsible as well.”  

“In Public Enemy, I really wanted to point out how we are looking for people to be responsible for our sadness and our rage and how this dynamic is going on in banal and casual conversations. I want to bring the audience to watch and at some point to choose who is responsible in that house. I wanted to invite the audience to the house and to see how we are responsible as well.”  

When he began writing Public Enemy in 2013 he found scapegoating happening a lot in Quebec. Now, it feels to him as though these conversations are happening everywhere.Because of this impulse, Bobby Theodore was brought in to write a "transadaptation" of the play for Toronto and English-speaking audiences.  

According to Olivier, it was particularly important for the Toronto audience to see themselves on stage rather than a Quebecois family. The transadaptation translates the play from French to English but also adapts the plays political, cultural and local references. 

“Because I was so local and so specific in the play it was important to import that as well. The play is never finished it is never sealed... it’s about today.” 

- Oliver Choinière 

 

Public Enemy is on stage September 20 – October 2, 2022.  
Public Enemy by Olivier Choinière, translated and adapted by Bobby Theodore.

Buy Tickets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

More From the Grid

view all news & updates
Nov 10, 2022
In Conversation with Mike Payette, Director of Choir Boy

Canadian Stage interviews Mike Payette

Choir Boy is in the house, and we're excited to have Mike Payette bring his vision and leadership to this breathtaking production. In this edition of CS Grid, we hear about his love and passion for reviving this play for the stage, introduce the wonderful characters, what he loves about the show, what he wishes audiences can take away from this production and more!

Oct 28, 2022
Spotlight on Tarell Alvin McCraney, playwright of Choir Boy

Written by Glodeane Brown

In this edition of CS Grid, we look at the remarkable career of Academy Award-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. Known for co-writing the film, Moonlight, guest writer Glodeane Brown takes us back to his creative milestones that eventually weaved into Choir Boy, that will be live on stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre this fall.

Oct 13, 2022
Backstage with the Performers of Human Measure

Canadian Stage interviews Jas Lin and B Gosse

In this edition of CS Grid, we take you behind the stage to hear from dancers, Jas Lin and B Gosse. We learn what makes this production unique to them, working with Cassils and the team and what they hope audiences will take away from this performance.

Oct 7, 2022
Backstage with Human Measure Composer, Kadet Kuhne

Canadian Stage interviews Kadet Kuhne

In this edition of CS Grid, we take you backstage to hear from composer Kadet Kuhne. In this exclusive interview, we learn about Kadet's creative journey exploring the material, what makes this production unique, and what Kadet hopes audiences will take away from this performance.