A theatrical introduction to vibrant discusson

Play imagines emotionally charged meeting between two famous writers

Two literary heavyweights meet in a bar….

George Rideout’s Michel & Ti-Jean the latest offering from Sage Theatre imagines a meeting between young French-Canadian novelist and playwright Michel Tremblay (Mathieu Bourassa) and aging beat poet Jack Kerouac (Duval Lang) in 1969 one month before Kerouac’s death from alcoholism. Tremblay has taken a bus to Florida in pursuit of his idol Kerouac. He wants the famed poet to read his new play Les Belles-soeurs .

The two meet in a bar and discuss myriad topics — from art to their differing approaches to the written word (one stream-of-consciousness the other more deliberate and purposeful) to their shared French-Canadian heritage. Director Kelly Reay says while the play has aspects of the academic and philosophical it also is “emotionally visceral and charged.”

“It’s the kind of play that runs the full gamut of human emotion” he says. “It doesn’t try and solve the world’s problems but it tries to celebrate the things in life that make it worth living.”

While this meeting between the poet and the playwright is born of Rideout’s imagination Reay says it captures the “flavours” of these artists’ lives. “After watching the play you feel you have met them” he explains adding that Tremblay is on record as saying Kerouac was a major influence in his life.

While Michel & Ti-Jean draws upon the somewhat familiar theme of the mentor-protégé relationship Reay says this play stands apart from others with its instances of high theatricality. “Through their conversation they delve into moments of vivid imagination where their stories and their thoughts take over the environment.”

Rideout’s play also emphasizes the pair’s common cultural heritage (Kerouac was born in Massachusetts to French-Canadian parents). “They discover through their familiar family roots they share a passion for food large families and obnoxious relatives. These men bond over the fact they have much more in common than they first thought” Reay explains.

He adds however that an audience member does not need extensive knowledge of either of the literary main players to engage in the narrative. “It’s a very dense play. There’s a lot for the audience to think about. I want people to go away talking about the art they love the food they love the people they love.”

The play is complemented by an original ’50s- and ’60s–inspired jazz score by Brendan McGuigan.