The Madonna Painter

By Michel Marc Bouchard
Translated by Linda Gaboriau

The Madonna Painter
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At the end of the First World War, to protect his village from the spanish ?u epidemic brought home by returning soldiers, a young priest recently arrived in the Parish of Lac St-Jean commissions a wandering Italian painter to decorate the walls of the local church with a fresco ... Read more


Overview

At the end of the First World War, to protect his village from the spanish ?u epidemic brought home by returning soldiers, a young priest recently arrived in the Parish of Lac St-Jean commissions a wandering Italian painter to decorate the walls of the local church with a fresco dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The painter is to choose, among four local women all named Mary, a model for his work. The presence of the foreign artist, his choice of a local virgin to serve as a model and the frighteningly strange nature of his work will upset the lives and change the fate of the entire community. The town’s doctor, meanwhile, has his own prescription for what is ailing the villagers. As superstition collides with desire, The Madonna Painter unmasks a bouquet of lies disguised as a fable.

Loosely inspired by the events surrounding the creation of the fresco that still adorns the nave of the church in Saint-Coeur de Marie, the author’s native village, the language of the play is not that of its current inhabitants. Bouchard’s characters simply echo the medieval beliefs that coloured the imagination and shaped the destiny of all Québécois, especially those living in its many rural townships until very recently, and inspire this story with their gossip about their neighbours, foreigners and the mythical marital spats between God and Satan. That fresco depicting the Virgin Mary’s ascension was the author’s ?rst encounter with art, with a foreigner and with lies, and Michel Marc Bouchard has said: ?In order to portray that fresco, I became a liar and the people from my village became saints and martyrs, artists and models, lovers and misanthropes. I presented their legends the way a ?ea market hawker displays sacred objects that have been stolen and disguised for resale.”

Michel Marc Bouchard

Michel Marc Bouchard
Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard has written 25 plays, and he is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including: le Prix Journal de Montréal, Prix du Cercle de critiques de l’Outaouais, the Governor General’s Award, the Dora Mavor Moore Award, and the Chalmers Award for Outstanding New Play. The Vancouver productions of Lilies (1993) and The Orphan Muses (1995) also garnered nine Jesse Richardson Theatre Awards. Bouchard is also the author of Written on Water, Down Dangerous Passes Road, The Coronation Voyage, which was performed in 2003 as the first Canadian-authored play at the Shaw Festival in 25 years, and The Tale of Teeka, all available in English from Talonbooks.

Linda Gaboriau
Linda Gaboriau is an award-winning literary translator based in Montreal. Her translations of plays by Quebec’s most prominent playwrights have been published and ­produced across Canada and abroad. In her work as a ­literary manager and dramaturge, she has directed ­numerous translation residencies and international exchange projects. She was the founding director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. Most recently she won the 2010 Governor General’s Award for Forests, her translation of the play by Wajdi Mouawad.

Linda Gaboriau

Linda Gaboriau is an award-winning literary translator based in Montreal. Her translations of plays by Quebec’s most prominent playwrights have been published and ­produced across Canada and abroad. In her work as a ­literary manager and dramaturge, she has directed ­numerous translation residencies and international exchange projects. She was the founding director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. Most recently she won the 2010 Governor General’s Award for Forests, her translation of the play by Wajdi Mouawad.

Reviews

“… really quite extraordinary. […] There are so many lovely and intriguing characters in this play … But the play is also filled with terrible images of death and horror … And it is this collision of beauty and horror that makes this play so truly remarkable.” – The Coast

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