A Portrait of the #gensduvieux
Discover and learn more about your neighbours through our new Portrait series! This week, we will be meeting with Eda Holmes, director of the Centaur Theatre.
Eda Holmes was fully immersed in a photo shoot when we met her at Centaur Theatre. It must be noted that the new season is coming, and with it, new brochures and premiers to prepare. This institution of Montréal culture is all aflutter with excitement! Almost a year after taking the helm of this anglophone theatre, her enthusiasm carries her through all tasks she faces and it is with such confidence and interest that she wholeheartedly embraces the mission she has taken on.
As the first woman to become director of this prestigious institution, she recounts her interesting perspective on the current social context: “Women are gaining more positions of importance, people of different backgrounds that aren’t part of what was considered mainstream – that’s all changing, opening up, and becoming more inclusive. As a leader of a cultural institution, it’s my responsibility to step up to that expectation of the general population, because the general population is diverse and wanting their story to be told”.
Eda Holmes doesn’t let the prejudiced or those resistant to change get her down! Society is in transition, and for her, the theatre has a very contemporary mission. “You want to try to bridge the gap between people’s experiences and make them realize how alike we are, because… that’s what theatre can do! We gather together in a room, we laugh at the same things, and we look across at each other and realize we don’t look anything alike, but we have the same reaction to a very human story.” And this has been the thread that really inspired the programming of Centaur’s upcoming season. “We’re definitely working with the idea of ‘What is the story that Montréal needs right now?’ as a city and from all different angles. And hopefully, every show has an access point for people from different backgrounds.”
Eda well understands the issues and realities of the anglophone Canadian cultural world: from backgrounds of ballet to theatre, she has gained her experience both in Canada and abroad, and it was with great delight that she accepted leadership of a Montréal institution. This confluence of a cultural, political, linguistic, and social nature has given Centaur a particular place and a unique role: “For a long time, the anglophone theatre in Montreal was focusing only on the anglophone population. But in the last few years, because of the shift in the city itself, there are a lot of anglophones here from all over the world,” says Eda, who feels that this new reality is a prime kick-starter to creativity. “And so the anglophone community has actually become the voice of that diversity which, I think, is exciting about anglophone theatre right now!”
Through this reconfiguration guided by its oh so energetic director, Centaur finds great success as something of a first-rate cultural laboratory. Eda explains: “I think that Centaur and Montreal are unique in the country, and I feel that there is also a possibility of building something on what’s already here that’s both extremely unique and extremely Canadian.”
© Andrée Lanthier
The theatre on rue Saint-François has been in Old Montréal since its creation in 1969, and according to its director, this location is a great advantage: its neighbours, workers of the neighbourhood, and even visitors all give it an invaluable advantage over other anglophone institutions, both in terms of inspiration as well as role: “We are right in the middle of everything, right in the middle of what makes Montréal, Montréal. So for me, that is really important. We are in the old Montréal Stock Exchange. And the island, to the indigenous cultures, was really more than a place where people lived. It was a place where people met up and traded. (...) We need that now more than ever, in this polarizing world with horrific news breaking every day. We need places to come together and talk about what’s going on, tell each other stories, and find ways to be civil together around subjects that are difficult.”
Without hesitation, Eda Holmes plays the inclusivity card – a choice that is reflected in the programing of performances, or even the collaborations, co-productions, and invited artists. But this inclusivity is also extended to its public. Centaur is proposing a special that is ideal for students: “For those students who are interested, they can come an hour before the show, and if there are tickets left, we are offering the unique price of only $18 each!”
And don’t even get us started on their Saturday matinées for kids!
In the multicultural Canadian mosaic, while the Montréal anglophone population is diverse, she does admit that the francophone/anglophone barrier is tending to shift. “I think the two solitudes idea is dissolving, especially in the new generation because you go on the bus or you’re going to a café and you hear people speaking French and then all of a sudden vous commencez à parler en anglais. And they switch back and forth. And I’m always sort of fascinated by how fast and natural it is… It’s part of the city, unlike anywhere else.”
Just like on stage, things are starting to change in the streets, and Eda is among the first to notice: “I’m starting to see young French artists that are coming to me and saying “I want to work in English”, and that never happened before. I’m also noticing anglophone artists’ appreciation for, and inspiration from, the French aesthetics of making plays. (...)”
The interview having ended, Eda is once more called upon by her team which she rejoins with evident joy. She waves a hand in salutation, then puts herself back into her task, wholly and with a smile on her face. Your neighbourhood theatre is, without a doubt, in great hands!
You can enjoy the theatre thanks to the privilege of being part of this neighborhood with the #gensduvieux special offers!
For more information about Centaur (in French): https://centaurtheatre.com/
For more information about Eda: Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia