'The luckiest man ever': Get to know Michel Marc Bouchard's incroyable career

Six notable things about the Quebec playwright (writer of Lilies and Tom at the Farm among others) to celebrate his Governor General's Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement.

Six notable things about the Quebec playwright to celebrate his Governor General's Performing Arts Award win

A portrait of Michel Marc Bouchard, a middle aged man with white hair, a watch and a bracelet, looking directly at the camera.
Michel Marc Bouchard will receive a Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement this Saturday. (Olivier Clertant)

This is part of a series of articles about the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards laureates

For Québécois playwright Michel Marc Bouchard, winning a Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement is just the latest stop on his journey from small town Quebec to the world's biggest stages.

Since his professional beginnings in the early 1980s, Bouchard has written over 25 plays, earning him numerous prizes both at home and abroad. His French texts have been translated into many different languages, earning him a global following.

His first major achievement was a story of gay love entitled Les Feluettes (Lilies), first staged in 1987 and directed by the late Québécois director André Brassard. Since then, he has collaborated with numerous well-known creatives, including filmmaker Xavier Dolan who transposed Bouchard's Tom à la ferme (Tom at the Farm) into a film in 2013 and La nuit où Laurier Gaudreault s'est réveillé (The Night Logan Woke Up) into a miniseries in 2019.

In his French video message for the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, Bouchard underscores the privilege of having written his life's work in his native tongue: "I've been lucky enough to be able to work and write in one of the most beautiful languages in the world: the French language. This language is rich, polyphonic, multiple and it has allowed me to explore a wide spectrum of its musicality." Despite seeing his plays travel the world, this artist remains rooted in his cultural heritage and the memories of his home.

In honour of Bouchard's achievement, here are a few notable things about his life and career.

Going to church had an early impact on his theatre work. Speaking with CBC's Julia Caron following the announcement of his Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Bouchard described his 1960s upbringing in a community that was, at the time, largely isolated from mainstream culture. For the playwright, the church represented a perfect entry point into the pageantries of theatre: "The mass is full of codes of theatre … set, music and the men in dress, you know? It was the only place that we had this kind of exotic story!"

Bouchard was set on his path to becoming a playwright early on. In a French interview with journal Voix et Images from 2008, he spoke about the influence his childhood had on his storytelling: "For me, there has always been a need to talk to someone who is not there. A lot of that need came from my sister's death. [Josée] was three-and-a-half years old. I was six, and I remember after she died, I talked to her a lot. It all got complicated when I started to believe that she was responding to me." Bouchard has three other sisters, Luce, Caroline and Claudine. His father, René Bouchard, was a farmer and butcher who married Madeleine Fleury, a teacher, in 1954.

CBC Arts named Bouchard one of its Super Queeroes in an online feature celebrating LGBTQ Canadian artists on the 50-year anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots.

An operatic adaptation of Les Feluettes saw pushback from a few opera subscribers who cancelled their tickets. Co-commissioned by Opéra de Montréal and Pacific Opera Victoria and staged at Montreal's Place des Arts, the performance underscored how onstage displays of queer love continue to provoke discomfort and controversy for some audience members.

He's a strong advocate for Ukrainian theatre under attack. During the winter of 2023, in response to the destruction of cultural spaces in Ukraine following Russia's invasion, the playwright helped coordinate performances in multiple Montreal theatres dedicated to the people of Ukraine. On his Facebook page, Bouchard wrote about the silencing of Ukrainian stages, including Mariupol's Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre, where close to 600 civilians taking shelter were killed in an airstrike.

A recent health scare left him feeling grateful. A few weeks after it was announced that Bouchard would be receiving a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, he had a heart attack while at his home in Montreal. In a social media post following the incident, the 65-year-old playwright wrote about seeing his life flash before his eyes while on the operating table: "Awake, during the operation, tears flowed, tears provoked by all the memories of those moments of happiness, joy, ecstasy, friendships, families and love with which I have been filled all my life. And I thought if that was the end, I would have been the luckiest man ever."



Didier Morelli is a Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQSC) Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Art History at Concordia University in Montreal. He holds a PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois). Associate editor at Espace art actuel, his work has also been published in Art Journal, Canadian Theatre Review, C Magazine, Esse Arts + Opinions, Frieze, Spirale, and TDR: The Drama Review.

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