City’s Anglo ears finally get chance to enjoy Franco-Manitoban’s voice

City’s Anglo ears finally get chance to enjoy Franco-Manitoban’s voice

By Kevin Prokosh
from the Winnipeg Free Press – Oct 30, 2008

For English theatre-goers, francophone playwright Marc Prescott has been lost in translation.

When he attempted to make contact with les anglos across the Red River, interested but unilingual artistic directors were unable to read his plays, which had been produced en français all across the country.

“For the longest time, I was arguably Winnipeg’s most produced playwright and least known,” says the bilingual Prescott. “It was pretty lonely.”

That will begin to change with the English version of Prescott’s 2003 romantic comedy Encore, opening Theatre Projects Manitoba’s 2008-09 season tonight at the Rachel Browne Theatre in the Crocus Building (211 Bannatyne Ave.).

With his translation, Prescott becomes the first local playwright to single-handedly bridge the city’s linguistic and theatrical divide. That was his stated objective five years ago and it’s taken all this time for an English theatre to want to crack the language barrier.

“I wondered why we didn’t have anything to do with each other,” says Projects’ artistic director Ardith Boxall. “I really wanted to know what was going on over there. English and French theatre are like these two ships in the same water but never meeting.

“I think this is the first English translation of a French-Manitoban’s play here.”

Encore was the one play — he has written more than 15 — with which he wanted to introduce himself to English Winnipeg. It is by far his most conventional script — about a couple who meet in a bar and fall in love. The hook is that the scene is replayed over again each major anniversary.

“In order to not make it boring, I had to have lines that were flexible enough to convey at least two different meanings,” says Prescott, a graduate of both St. Boniface College and the National Theatre School, where in 1998 he was the first Manitoban to complete the playwriting program. “It seems easy to recreate the scenes, but there’s a lot more going on.”

No one seeing the expletive-free Encore in English will guess that its author was once considered the enfant terrible of Franco-Manitoban theatre. Prescott’s 1993 work Sex, Lies and Les F-M’s, was penned in a Franglais language that he purposefully used to unleash his displeasure with his community. His black comedy Poisson had a swearword for a name until he was pressured by Cercle artistic director Roland Mahè to change it to something more socially acceptable for a season brochure.

“I’m known as the bad boy for writing about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” says Prescott, who is working on a new French play called Eclipse. “I wrote Encore to prove to the Cercle I could write in proper French.”

After premiering at the Cercle, Encore was produced in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. Prescott says his English translation will open doors into theatres more familiar with Shakespeare than Moliere. And he hopes to take some local writers with him.

Prescott, who married last summer and lives in Norwood Flats, is planning to establish a new theatre company called Vice Versa, which will present plays that have been translated from English to French and vice versa. He says he would like to introduce the works of Rick Chafe, Brian Drader and Ross McMillan to French Winnipeg and beyond.

“It’s all because of Encore that we see all the possibilities,” he says.

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