Alex Tétreault’s new play explores Sudbury’s unique marriage of queer and Franco-Ontarian culture

·5 min read

Alex Tétreault considers himself a Franco-Sudburian and with his new play, he’s examining not only what that means, but what it means when you are also a member of another minority community.

“The project I am working on is a specific marriage between queer culture and Franco-Ontarien culture,” said Tétreault. “But for me, being Francophone isn’t an identity, it’s a language. The Franco-Ontarien community is rallied around that language, but there are so many other aspects to culture. I call myself Franco-sudburian because I know specifically what that culture is.”

He also knows another specific-to-Sudbury community.

“There is a hyper-specific reality of queer folks in Sudbury,” said Tétreault, and he finds that there is a commonality there. “I think very many Francophones could understand that journey of independence, the journey to having your identity understood.”

That journey will be dramatized in Tétreault’s new play, “Nickel City F*fs”. It’s a piece he has been working on for a long time, but not for lack of inspiration.

“For years, I’ve had the opposite of writers’ block,” he said, “in the sense that I have had nothing but ideas. The most difficulty I had was just starting.”

But once he did? “I couldn’t stop.”

It’s a difficult path to write something so specific, and as Tétreault admits, a more niche audience, more outside pressure. But he says while he may have momentarily created something in English, his identity won out.

“It’s a choice all Franco-Ontarien artists in general have to make,” he said. “Because you are a minority group, because there aren’t as many creators, whatever you make, whether you like it or not, will become a benchmark – it takes on a role much bigger than yourself as an artist.”

He adds that there is an exponential increase in that aspect if you belong to other minority communities as well.

“But for me, it makes sense. I’m francophone, so why would I create in English? I apply that same principle to my queerness. It’s like, why wouldn’t I let who I am influence my writing?”

The opportunity not only to create it but to workshop it with actors and the public as a part of Dramaturgie en chantier, an annual program that this year partners three Francophone theatre groups in Ontario: le Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario (Sudbury), le Théâtre Catapulte (Ottawa) and Le Théâtre Français de Toronto.

“Essentially, it is to help Franco-Ontarien playwrights develop scripts,” said Tétreault. It’s to support artists, making sure that the Franco-Ontarien culture remains vibrant by providing financial, administrative and artistic support.

That support can come in the form of funding that can help the artists make their work better. For instance, Tétreault says a valuable opportunity for playwrights to hear their work, rather than read it.

“When you’re writing theatre, it’s different than when you are performing it,” said Tétreault, who is also an actor. “A play is meant to be performed, and because of that there may be things on paper that work, but then you hear it out loud and you think ‘oh, this is too long,’ or ‘this doesn’t make any sense.’ It’s restructuring and getting a better idea of what it is going to look like.”

Dramaturgie en chantier allows Tétreault the opportunity to hire actors to read the play so he can change and add as he sees fit. For this year, there are also a few more chances to learn.

“What’s different this year is that within the project, there are also three panel-like discussions, as well as between the three artists,” said Tétreault, referring to Charlotte L'Orage (representing Ottawa) and Merlin Simard (representing Toronto).

The first of these panels took place Jan. 19. Some of the items discussed the importance of “ensuring that we allow queer artists to tell their own stories by giving them adequate resources and giving them platforms to do so,” said Tétreault. “We also mentioned the need to ensure more interconnectivity between queer artists from our communities or, at least, have better networking between the regions, so that we know what everyone is up to and so that we might develop projects together. The pool of francophone queer artists in each of our regions isn’t particularly deep, especially in Sudbury.”

The next of these learning opportunities comes on March 30, and it is open to the public. The topic discussed with focus on balance.

“The next meeting is going to be about the relationship between our art and activism and how the two mingle in our practices, and if they do. I’m most excited for this one,” said Tétreault.

Then on May 18, the final of the series: Présentation des cartes blanches, an open opportunity for the three playwrights to present whatever they like.

Tétreault says that the solitude of writing has worked well for him over the course of a difficult year.

“It’s the perfect time for me to take time away from everything else going on in the world,” he said with a laugh.

He is currently working on the fifth version of the script, but like the rest of the world, also holding steady to see what happens.

Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,