A story to tell
EDMONTON | JANUARY 2022
Josée Thibeault is a writer, an actress, a director, and an artistic director. She passionately enjoys telling stories about her life and the community that adopted her. Originally from Trois-Rivières, she made Western Canada her home over 25 years ago. Since that time, she has contributed to the development of the Franco-Albertan artistic community.
“ I came here to work during the summer as many Quebeckers do. I spent my first summer in Banff and then moved to Edmonton. I finished my studies and started to get involved in theater and the community. My brother was already living here, but I still did not understand what the Francophonie was outside of Quebec. I think as long as you don’t come and settle here, it’s a bit abstract. What I found there was the feeling of community. I wasn’t supposed to stay at first, but I’m still there 27 years later! ”
The multidisciplinary artist discovered an effervescent and energetic environment, leaving room for people full of ideas. “ People wouldn’t think that, but it’s very open artistically. It’s not overcrowded like Montreal, and there is room, especially in French. I have friends who have set up film and television production companies in the last few years because there was a real need. Since the pandemic hit, they have had a lot of work. ”
As she started to get involved in the world of theater, opportunities quickly arrived for Josée Thibeault. She was notably on the board of directors of the UniThéâtre, in addition to performing in shows and directing. Her work was noticed by the music scene, which offered her the artistic direction of major shows. “ When people see that you are resourceful and have a good work ethic, they come looking for you. Then, one thing leading to another, you meet more and more artists with whom you want to collaborate and who also offer to work with you,” says the recipient of several awards, including the Prize for Excellence in Artistic Creation. Sylvie Van Brabant in 2012 and the IMPACT Excellence Award in 2011.
History above all
Would Josée Thibeault have had the same type of career as a multidisciplinary artist by staying in Quebec? “ It’s hard to imagine it, but I think it’s in my nature to be jack-of-all-trades since everything interests me. In college, I majored in cinema and literature. I was also interested in theater. If there is one basic thing in what I do, it’s writing. I tell stories using different mediums. ”
Telling a story, connecting with people, and creating a sense of community has always been part of her artistic journey. Her unifying ability has also helped her develop several projects. “ I’m not someone who’s going to do things in her own way. What is pleasant is working together. And to think in terms of your audience, these people who will come back to see you because they liked what you offered them, that is to say, stories that speak of ‘them and what it’s like to live here. ”
The stories Josée Thibeault tells are, above all, personal. “ It is often said that artists have a story, and we speak the same. For me, it’s very autobiographical. By the way, spoken word poetry is not fiction. This is my story and my point of view as a woman. I tackle different themes related to questions of identity: to find oneself, be well in relation to who one is, and accept oneself. When it comes to a show with several artists, I try to tell the human story of our community. ”
The postman’s daughter
In 2019, Josée Thibeault launched the most personal project of her career and the one she considers the most important to date. It’s a solo show called The Postman’s Daughter. “ It was me on stage for an hour and a half who told about my quest for identity and my back and forth since I left Quebec. I drew a parallel with my father’s illness and his job as a postman in Trois-Rivières. It’s a very personal text. ”
The artist was in the midst of performances when the pandemic struck, and everything stopped in March 2020. Disappointed that the most significant project of her career came to an end so suddenly, she is nonetheless delighted to have been able to make it happen. Having moved on, she does not believe she will retake the stage with this show. However, the text will be published in the coming months by Éditions du Blé, which enchants the author.
Like many people, when everything came to a halt at the start of the pandemic, surprise gave way to uncertainty for the artist. “ I was coming out of a big project, and I was like, okay, what do I do now? I thought I had a lot less work. I’ve had fewer on the stage side, but I’ve had a vast number of writing contracts. ”
Josée Thibeault even started a podcast … which she had to give up due to lack of time! She is, however, working on another podcast with three people. They walk from neighborhood to neighborhood in Edmonton to tell its story and the Francophone presence in this sector of the city.
Writing projects also continue to come in. For the rest, the artist is optimistic that things will pick up more in 2022 on the stage side.