Paul Buissonneau (1926-2014)

1998 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Theatre)

The City of Montreal hired its most unusual "fonctionnaire" when it engaged Paul Buissonneau in 1952 as artistic director of La Roulotte, an outdoor theatre run by the Department of Recreation which attracted thousands of children and their parents to city parks each summer. From the start he showcased some of Quebec's budding young artists, including Yvon Deschamps, Claude Jasmin and Robert Charlebois, bringing something completely new to Quebec's parched theatrical life. Four years later he started his own company, Le Théâtre de Quat'Sous, and over the next thirty-five years conducted a free-wheeling theatrical experiment that presented the early work of many of today's foremost artists: Lepage, Barbeau, Brassard, René-Daniel Dubois, Lothaire Bluteau and others. At the same time he wrote and performed, including the famed children's television character "Picolo", a magical, poetic, funny role which provided financial sustenance as he pursued his theatre activities.

Born in France, Buissonneau first performed with édith Piaf as a member of Les Compagnons de la Chanson. Shy and timid when he arrived in Canada, he soon developed a boisterously exuberant public persona. However, his temperamental style masks a deeply sensitive man with a heart of gold. His mastery of all things theatrical, from building sets to acting to directing, sets a shining example for the young artists whom he has continuously helped. Though he stepped down as artistic director of Quat'Sous in 1989, he continues to appear in stage and television productions, and is rightly hailed as a master of francophone theatre.