The Fransaskois Performing Arts Network, a non-profit organization that develops artistic programming for French-speaking residents of Saskatchewan, is launching its 10th artistic season. In the next couple of weeks, communities throughout the province will be offering special sneak preview performances to entice audiences.
Prince Albert is leading the way. La Société canadienne-française de Prince Albert (SCFPA), or the French-Canadian Society of Prince Albert, launched the new season on Thursday night with a performance by Quebec comedian Mélanie Breton.
“It just happened that we have this comedian coming in,” SCFPA president Michel Dubé said. “So we’re just kind of using that opportunity to launch our concert season and our regular community programs.”
Breton previously worked in Prince Albert schools before transitioning to a career in comedy. She opened up for the well-known comedian Boucar Diouf in 2007.
“I saw her briefly at some concert here … I want to say five, six years ago,” Dubé said. “Just for a few minutes, she just kind of improvised a couple numbers, a couple jokes … She was on tour (this year) and somehow we heard about it, so we snagged her.”
The comedy performance started at 7 p.m. on Thursday as the culmination of the evening’s festivities. Around three dozen locals had gathered at the Carrefour Fransaskois to talk over beer and beef on a bun while learning about upcoming events.
According to a 2006 Statistics Canada census, the Prince Albert region contains 8 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population but 18 per cent of the province’s francophones. It is estimated that 4 per cent of Prince Albert residents speak French as their first language. But not everyone who attends events at the Carrefour Fransaskois considers French their mother tongue.
“We get a bit of both,” Dubé said. “There are quite a few Anglophones who are learning French, of course, as a second language. So they come out if they hear from us … (but) most of them are French-speaking that come … that’s for sure.”
The goal of the artistic season is to give people who are interested in the French language ... the opportunity to be exposed to French music, and at the same time to be able to meet people and use the language. - Michel Dubé
Regardless of one’s exact relationship to the language, everyone is welcome to attend cultural events at the Carrefour Fransaskois. Occasionally demand outstrips the centre’s capacity, which is often limited to 20 or 30 people for more intimate performances.
The Carrefour Fransaskois will host four featured events in the coming months. On Oct. 13, a lobster supper is followed by Mirador, a collaboration by singer-songwriter Alexis Normand and visual artist Zoé Fortier that combines song, video and projections.
On Nov. 16, pop/rock artist Alex Nevsky will play a concert with opening act Indigo Joseph. Later, on Feb. 17, audiences can see the play Coffre-fort, written by up-and-coming Regina-born playwright Marcie-Claire Marcotte and featuring English subtitles.
Finally, on March 21, singer-songwriter Juan Sebastian Larobina will be joined by folk singer Malika Sellami for a night of eclectic world music.
“The goal of the artistic season is to give people who are interested in the French language — either they’re francophone or the people who are just learning French as a second language — the opportunity to be exposed to French music, and at the same time to be able to meet people and use the language … whether it’s their first language or second language,” Dubé said.
“It’s just living your language, living your culture. That’s basically the whole gist of it, and that’s from a spectator’s point of view. From a musician’s point of view, of course, it’s to be able to express your art … That’s why every year we have artists from Quebec, some very, very well known, some lesser known. We have artists from just about any province in Canada, plus we always feature a Saskatchewan or Fransaskois artist at the same time.”
Tickets are $15 per show for adults and $6 for students. Season passes are also available at $75 for adults and $45 for students.