By Justine Kraemer, GAC Volunteer Writer
Local artist Thomas Gallezot has proposed a bold new project for Guelph’s theatre community, the establishment of a Francophone theatre in the Royal City. The project is in its early stages, and yet Gallezot is already making a case for why his proposal will benefit the community.
According to Gallezot’s vision, the theatre would be a place for everyone, not only those who speak French. In a recent interview, Gallezot stated, “French belongs to every Canadian.” His vision is to make his theatre an accessible space for all, with any plays being presented with English subtitles for those who don’t speak French.
Gallezot’s vision is to create a space that is a balance between tradition and progress. He acknowledges the fraught relationship the French and English languages have had through Canada’s history. As an immigrant from France himself, he is uniquely positioned to speak to the beauty and necessity of the French language in Canadian culture.
According to Gallezot’s plan, the Francophone theatre will be privately funded, while tapping into existing government funding for French language projects. His current goal is to rally support from within the community to support this vision. He has begun outreach on social media to make the case for his project, and to gauge community interest.
The Facebook group Gallezot started called “Une maison de la francophonie a Guelph” is garnering attention in Guelph and the surrounding community. Many in the existing Francophone community in Guelph-Wellington have shown support for a Francophone space to celebrate the dramatic arts. Support is not limited to French-speaking members of the community, and many Anglophones have expressed interest also, Gallezot says..
Gallezot sees the local arts community as integral to making his vision a reality. With the appreciation for expanding art in a variety of media, he is confident in his ability to rally support from the arts community. Guelph has an already thriving theatre community, which Gallezot said would always be welcome in the space he intends to create.
In terms of next steps, Gallezot is in the process of assembling a team to make his vision a reality. Practicalities such as securing a physical location are currently in the planning stages. Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie has expressed interest in the proposal to local media. Gallezot is currently looking at locations to house his project. He notes that even though he has a specific vision for the aesthetics of the theatre, the project is flexible and the integral part is the community he intends to bring together.
Gallezot’s vision is expansive, and he intends to incorporate global Francophone culture. Many nations that were formally colonized by France still maintain a thriving Francophone culture. In Gallezot’s view, his centre will be a place for all cultures and backgrounds to come together in the name of learning and focusing on the French language. Francophone culture is incredibly diverse, and the proposed centre will celebrate this, Gallezot says.
This project will require a team effort to fully realize. It will be an open space for Guelphites as Canadians to claim the language, as it is part of our own history and present. Gallezot is eager to work with the community. The arts are a universal language, and theatre in particular always has potential to make a significant impact on the local community. The strength of Gallezot’s vision is that it is rooted locally, with global aspirations. Gallezot invites anyone interested in the project to join the Facebook group, and to come along for the journey.