2012 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Theatre)
A major figure in Quebec theatre, Denis Marleau is a director, production designer, adaptor, and creator of stage installations whose reputation extends far beyond Canada’s borders. His artistic approach is distinguished by his challenging literary choices, meticulous direction, and innovative use of audio and video technology. Drawing freely from visual arts and literature, his productions also propose an investigation of language and the limits of stage performance. He is regularly featured at Montreal’s Festival TransAmériques and at prestigious festivals around the world, including the Avignon Festival, and in 2011 he became the first Canadian invited to direct a play at the Comédie-Française in Paris.
Denis Marleau was born in 1954 in Valleyfield, Quebec. He studied acting at the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Montréal and in Europe before founding the innovative theatre company UBU in 1982, which he co-directs with Stéphanie Jasmin. As head of the National Arts Centre French Theatre (2000–07) he founded the Laboratoires du Théâtre français, a training opportunity for Canadian theatre practitioners, and has given theatre workshops in Canada, Europe and Mexico.
Mr. Marleau first attracted attention for his collage productions based on works by 20th-century avant-garde and modernist writers—Schwitters, Beckett, Pessoa, Bernhard, etc. Known for his unique interpretations of the classics (Seneca, Shakespeare, Goethe), he has also directed plays by contemporary writers, including Normand Chaurette, Jon Fosse, José Pliya, and Elfriede Jelinek. To this wide-ranging repertoire he brings his signature attention to formal consistency, guided by his concept of a theatre that puts the text first and foremost.
His directing credits include Merz Opéra (1987), Les Ubs (1991), Roberto Zucco (1993), Maîtres anciens (1995), Nathan le sage (1997), Les Reines (2005), Othello (2007), Une fête pour Boris (2009), and Agamemnon (2011). His “technological phantasmagoria” Les aveugles (2002) was acclaimed by the international press and is still touring worldwide, 10 years and some 700 performances after it premiered at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
Awards and honours include Officer of the Order of Canada (2011), Recognition Award from the Conseil des arts de Montréal (1996), National Arts Centre Award/GGPAA (1998), Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec (1999), Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la France (2002), several awards from the Association québécoise des critiques and the Académie des masques, and honorary doctorates from UQÀM and the Université Lumière Lyon 2.