Zones Théâtrales kicks off at the National Arts Centre

Starting next Monday, the biennial Zones Théâtrales event marks the return of theatre to the National Arts Centre with programming from Francophone communities across Canada and the Quebec Regions. From September 13 to 18, close to 30 plays, laboratories and activities will be presented to live audiences in Ottawa, as well as viewers across Canada through a wide range of online offerings.


In the wake of the health crisis that has plagued the performing arts sector, Zones Théâtrales 2021 offers a hybrid and innovative program that reflects the new creative approaches of companies across the country. The event is a symbol of the theatre community’s long-awaited return to the stage, as it welcomes companies from across Canada to the capital’s performance venues.


“This forced hiatus has been particularly hard on the cultural community across the country, and at long last we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m delighted that this edition can finally be a time for theatre lovers and the entire performing arts community to come together and share,” says Gilles Poulin-Denis, artistic director of Zones Théâtrales.  “We had to add performances, change venues to accommodate more spectators—this particular edition has been a challenge, but the public response has been very gratifying.”


The National Arts Centre, La Nouvelle-Scène Gilles-Desjardins, Strathcona Park and the University of Ottawa will host most of the performances and presentations. In a sign of the times, programming will be available in a hybrid format—live and online—to make the event as accessible as possible.


“Most of the works we’re presenting were created during the pandemic. Artists have shown great resilience and infinite creativity during this complex time. In addition to more traditional performances, this year’s extraordinary program includes installation pieces, an audiovisual podcast and multimedia theatre works,” explains Poulin-Denis.



A dynamic and surprising program that reflects Canada’s diversity


Zones Théâtrales continues its association with the NAC’s Indigenous Theatre to present two shows.


Mononk Jules, a combination of video projections, puppet theatre and object theatre, is an ambitious documentary project by Jocelyn Sioui. Inspired by the life of his great-uncle, Jules Sioui, one of the greatest Indigenous heroes of the 20th century, the show relates parts of Indigenous history that have been largely overlooked.
Presented on September 14 and 15 at 7 p.m. in the LabO. An extra performance has been added on September 15 at 1 p.m. (Please note that the University of Ottawa requires proof of vaccination for all visitors to the campus.)


Okinum means “dam” in Anishinaabemowin. Inspired by a recurring dream of a giant beaver, writer and actor Émilie Monnet delivers an intimate reflection on the notion of inner dams, an ode to the power of dreams and intuition.

An immersive experience, Okinum combines theatre, sound and video in a unique, circular and spellbinding set design.

Okinum will be presented in French as part of Zones Théâtrales on September 17 (at 12:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.) and September 18 (at 9 p.m.) in the Babs Asper Theatre. English performances will take place on September 14, 15 and 16. The show is produced by Onishka Productions and Imago Theatre.


A gigantic, narcissistic, shameless puppet is the focus of the opening show, Ogre, a compelling social satire. Larry Tremblay’s text resonates powerfully, and its message is amplified by its relevance to today’s world. The Théâtre de la Tortue Noire and Théâtre La Rubrique production will be presented in the Azrieli Studio on September 13 at 7 p.m. and September 14 at 9 p.m.


Anne-Marie Ouellet and Thomas Sinou will present Le Musée de la famille, September 16 and 17 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Studio A of La Nouvelle Scène Gilles Desjardins. This time the couple is accompanied on stage by their two daughters as they explore the dynamics of family hierarchy in an intimate, highly engaging show. A performance in which every gesture, every detail is broken down, analyzed and studied, in a strong production where sound and lighting effects play a big part.


New at Zones, young audiences will be offered a dedicated outdoor performance in Strathcona Park: Yassama et la Calebasse aux cauris (“Yassama and the Cowrie-Shell Calabash”). A wonderful introduction to the performing arts for children ages 3 to 6.
Blending African oral tradition, theatre and dance, this timeless ecological tale is presented by Shayenne Productions and Théâtre français de Toronto in association with the WeeFestival, with performances on Friday, September 17 and Saturday, September 18 at 10 a.m. and 12 noon.


With Bande de bouffons, Abitibi-Témiscamingue-based Théâtre du Tandem takes a shot at the Francophone concept of minority. In the finest bouffon tradition, with its grotesque, ridiculously misshapen characters, the company attacks the social fabric and its colonial ramifications. A hilarious tour of Canadian clichés, presented online (September 15 to 24) and at a live screening (September 15 at 9 p.m.).


The Acadian company Théâtre l’Escaouette is offering a video of Crow Bar filmed during the final rehearsals last spring, before its first live performance later this year in the Maritimes. The magical realism of Gabriel Robichaud’s text transports the audience to a lost yet familiar village where the walls speak while the inhabitants guard their secrets.

The video will be available online from September 16 to 24 and presented at a live screening on September 16 at 9 p.m.



Some works will take innovative forms by reinventing the way theatre is presented


Durant des années, by Théâtre du Trillium and Transistor Média, immerses us in rural Quebec in the 1990s. Twenty-four years after a tragedy, the narrator returns to her hometown in search of answers. The work, which features Marie France Bazzo and, Danielle Le Saux-Farmer, will be available as a podcast. For an enhanced experience, the visual environment of Durant des années will be projected at dusk on the Kipnes Lantern.


PANAMÁ, created by Théâtre du Trillium and 2359 Productions, is a multimedia platform that combines research and narrative about the friendship between a dictator and a little girl.


In the streets of Ottawa or at home, everyone will be able to discover Demain j’étais ici, a digital audio journey designed by teenagers. A joint project by Théâtre Catapulte and the Centre d’excellence artistique de l’Ontario.



Theatre opens up to experimental forms


In the Chantiers (“workshops”) component , between laboratories, live creations and installation pieces, Zones Théâtrales offers innovative and surprising experiences, most often live but also in digital format.


Cabine/Traces by 2359 Productions will welcome a single spectator every 30 minutes to a telephone booth in the heart of the desert. La vitesse des femmes sauvages by Théâtre Catapulte addresses feminist issues at the intersection of forms. Manitoba’s Théâtre Cercle Molière joins forces with artist Marie-Ève Fontaine to distil the entire universe of Gabrielle Roy into a small box with Cet été qui chantait. A huge couch will welcome the protagonists of Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario’s Sombre Divan, whose creation can be followed on Facebook Live before the show’s public premiere on September 18.
The public will be invited to visit Noémie Avidar’s La Petite Maison, a theatrical and visual installation, and to consider La Petite Sirène (The Little Mermaid) viewed through a feminist lens by British Columbia’s Kleine compagnie. Finally, in ODE ou la vie après avoir regardé le soleil dans le blanc des yeux, La Bibitte and Théâtre Rouge Écarlate, in association with Théâtre Catapulte, invite you in a festive and rebellious spirit to be part of a small group gathered in Strathcona Park to witness the end of the world.


Zones Théâtrales, which brings together members of the professional Francophone theatre community every two years, also features a Pro component. Round tables, various meetings and showcases of new projects are on the menu for presenters who will travel to Ottawa or attend virtually from their respective provinces.


The full event program is available at



In accordance with health restrictions and Ontario’s phased reopening plan, seating for each show is extremely limited and advance reservations are required for ALL events.



Tickets for in-person events are capped at $25, and virtual tickets start at $5. An à la carte option and several special rates make the event accessible to everyone. A special “Online” package will allow viewers from anywhere to enjoy the entire digital program.

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