From February 1 to 4, Mt. A’s bilingual theatre group, Tintamarre, presents Précipice, an original dramatic comedy. For prospective grads Ben Hébert and Naoise Moeller, this will be their last Tintamarre show and their first without delays by the COVID-19 pandemic in two years. But these two are not just performers, they are Précipice’s associate co-directors. In collaboration with the show’s cast and Alex Fancy, they have created a show about the lengths to which one town will go to seem perfect and what happens when the stress is too much.
Ben Hébert, fourth-year philosophy major, sets the scene: “Spectacle is a small town that has won the National Happiness Award for 35 years in a row, and we’re on the eve of the next round of judgment. […] We follow a cast of characters from around the town,” and as the story develops, “we slowly see beneath that veneer of pristine happiness.”
Bordering Spectacle is a town called Melancholia, in the midst of what Hébert calls “civil strife,” only adding to the growing unease and stress as the cracks in the city start to show.
“It’s sort of playing with the theme of happiness and what that feeling means, and how we should try to achieve it.”
“It’s a very quirky cast of characters,” Moeller agrees. Also in their fourth year, this psychology major teased at several characters we will see in the play, and with each one, the curiosity only grows: stressed committee members, a mayor slowly losing his mind, cafe-goers, gossips, and Moeller’s own character, of course— “this weird old bird who kind of watches everyone.”
Everything about Tintamarre as a troupe is aimed at inclusivity: there is no audition process the way we know it— if you want to be in the show, you are in! Nor does one have to be fully bilingual to perform in or watch their plays. Every student is involved in the creative process. Tintamarre acts instead as a gateway: to language, to creating, and to theatre.
Hébert, who coined the name Précipice, has roots in Acadian culture and cited not wanting to lose that part of himself as another reason for joining the group. “Coming to an English university in a predominantly English town, I wanted to still have contact with that side of me.”
“Language is the lens through which we view the world. There’s things in one language that you might not have in another.” Hébert also mentioned Braiding Sweetgrass, a collection of essays blending scientific wisdom with Indigenous ways of knowing by Citizen Potawatomi Nation writer Robin Wall Kimmerer. Among other topics, the book explores how certain Indigenous languages conceptualize the world with an animacy that English lacks. “[It’s] embedded in the conceptual vocabulary they deploy. […] Having multiple languages is a way to acquaint ourselves with different ways of viewing the world.”
Moeller agrees, highlighting the importance of being able to interact with French no matter your experience with the language: “I find that no matter what your level is in French, you’re always learning in Tintamarre, because you’re either learning how to pronounce words, or you’re learning about new expressions you’ve never heard before in French.”
Nor are these thespians bound to the laws of the real world. Naturalistic and realistic theatre reflects our experiences in life with strict rules as to how actors act, move, and speak. But Précipice is more than that—it is larger than life. “Tintamarre tends to be very much influenced by absurdist theatre,” Hébert shares, “and so it’s a very different theatre experience. It can be very refreshing that way. Because there’s a lot of student contribution, it’s also one that is very lively, and odd, and quirky. You can see that it’s a labor of love.”
Hailing from the other side of the province, Moeller relates to those who grew up outside of francophone culture, and urges you to give Précipice a try. “I think that it’s a really funny show. […] We have a lot of laughs when rehearsing. When people come see the show they’re always saying afterwards, ‘oh I didn’t even know what was going on ’cause I don’t know any French but it was so funny!’”
“Don’t be intimidated to come out and see [Spectacle]. […] We had a lot of fun making this show, so I hope people have fun watching it.”
Précipice runs from February 1 to 4 in Mt. A’s Motyer-Fancy Theatre at 7:30 pm. Thursday is Pay What You Can night, and masks are still required as per campus policy. To book a ticket, email [email protected]. Tickets are $10 for general admission, and $5 for students/seniors. Enjoy the show!