Know how to prepare his audience

Savoir préparer son public

Photo: The Company spokesperson
The production team of the play “Fredy” has practiced the cultural mediation to address the story of the young man who died under the bullets of a police officer in Montreal North in 2008.


Immersed in the turmoil even before the first live show of Kanata, and Robert Lepage Ariane Mnouchkine has opened up the dialogue with the aboriginal community this week. This form of cultural mediation could allow the room to experience a better outcome than SLĀV, according to experts and stakeholders in the environment. This approach is, it has become necessary to help implement the controversial topic to pass the test of social acceptability ?

Aware of be able to face the public in addressing sensitive themes, artists of the middle of the living arts accompany their creation of a process of cultural mediation. Workshop, read, exhibition, meeting with artists, inclusion of a group in the process of creation : the practice takes many forms and depends on the artist, the work, the subject, the context, or the place of dissemination

The approach between quietly in the habits but should be all the more used when a work discusses a topic that is likely to create controversy, believes the professor in the department of Communication sociale et publique of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Jean-Marie Lafortune. “It will change, for sure, positively, the way in which the work is welcomed in the society because it will be accompanied and prepared the public to receive it. It can avoid a reaction painful as much for the creators that the audience “.

For the playwright, Annabel Soutar make good theatre, it is include cultural mediation at the heart of the creative process, because ” art is a form of cultural mediation in itself.”

“When I create, I am in constant conversation with the people involved in the topic I discuss,” she says. I listen to the questions and I am waiting for their approval, it is an essential part of my process of artistic creation.”

She gives the example of his piece, Fredy, which traces the history of Fredy Villanueva, a young man who died under the bullets of a police officer in Montreal North in 2008. “We did rehearsals in front of different cultural communities, we invited members of the committee support the Villanueva family and one of the comedians was not a professional, but a person involved in the case of Villanueva. “

Fredy , however, has not escaped its share of controversy since 2016, while the two actors have slammed the door in the course of the road, calling for a boycott of the piece. They felt that it lacked respect for the Villanueva family in serving only the interest of artists and the entertainment of the public. Annabel Soutar had met Lilian Madrid Villanueva, mother of Fredy, in the beginning of the project. The latter had given his consent to retrace his steps and to oppose the diffusion.

A necessary step ?

But to impose a systematic way the cultural mediation… the professor Lafortune remains skeptical. “Designers do not line up never behind this idea, he says. The more one puts intermediaries between the artwork and its public, the more one scrambles things, and the appreciation of the work.”

The author Annabel Soutar confirms the impression of the teacher : the support of the public at the time of the broadcast of a piece remains of the superfluous for it. “Why add a layer ? The spectators do not need a lesson and be told how to interpret the piece. Too prepare it is not to trust in their intelligence and their ability to come to their own conclusions. “

But it would be utopian to believe that a work acting always as the only mediator between artists and their audience, according to Jean-Marie Lafortune. If some of them are connoisseurs of the environment, others, less familiar with the artistic language, in need of more tools to appreciate the piece. “Beyond the debate created, sometimes a topic is going to offend or shock an audience more sensitive. It is necessary to provide upstream and do cultural mediation for the dissemination of the piece, ” he says.

The co-artistic director of Théâtre Le Clou in Montreal, Benoît Vermeulen, shares his opinion. His team works mostly with adolescents who often have no reference to the level of the form and content of the theatrical works. “We try to empower through workshops, meetings in the classes before performances, or by including them in the part creation, he says. It is certain that it changes the reception of the work. “

Mr. Vermeulen recognizes, however, that the risk of “too much to take the hand of the spectator “and thus” the guide to what to think ” was still very present in the practice.

Do the cultural mediation that is above all to provide more information, perspectives and ideas to the audience so that everyone will feel welcome and competent in front of the work, accurate and next to Anne Nadeau, lecturer at the École supérieure de théâtre de l’UQAM.

To go further

Currently the most common form of cultural mediation remains the home to the public by the venue with a flyer with elements of context. An exercise that does not go far enough in the eyes of the one who is also a cultural mediator for nearly 20 years. “I think that the cultural mediation must go through the exchange between human beings, through encounters between performers and spectators before or after the performance,” noted Mrs. Nadeau.

The cultural mediation does not guarantee the acceptance of systematic work by the company, believes Ms. Nadeau. She takes the example of the show SLĀV of Robert Lepage, accused of making proof of cultural appropriation, has been cancelled. “I can’t say that the cultural mediation, in the form of an exhibition or an informative guide, would have had a magical effect and saved SLĀV. A lot of people who have responded have not seen the show, they had it especially after the intentions ascribed to the creators who have put in the time before to explain their approach. But it may be that such an approach during the creation process would have changed the game because it would have influenced the artists.”

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