Following are texts associated with the chapter on “Culture: Build-up and Breakaway.”

Texts include:

The L’Osstidcho
Les belles-soeurs (The Sisters-in-law)
Humour
The Era of Chansonniers
Filmmaking in Quebec
Quebec Literature
Following are texts associated with the chapter on “Culture: Build-up and Breakaway.”

Texts include:

The L’Osstidcho
Les belles-soeurs (The Sisters-in-law)
Humour
The Era of Chansonniers
Filmmaking in Quebec
Quebec Literature

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

1968, the Year when Anything Was Possible

The Théâtre de Quat’Sous, established recently in a former synagogue, advertized a very unorthodox show with a title that no one dared pronounce out loud (l’hostie de show). Yvon Deschamps, one of the theatre’s owners, was responsible for this last-minute brainchild of a stage musical to close the season. He was accompanied on stage by Robert Charlebois, whom he met at La Roulotte, a travelling theatre for young Montrealers; Mouffe and Louise Forestier, classmates of Charlebois at the École nationale de théâtre; the Jazz libre du Québec quartet; and organist Jacques Perron. The show was to be a happy mixture of song, monologues, music – sometimes discordant --, supplemented by improvisation. Its creators described it as a complete musical folly (translation).

A Psychedelic Rock Mass

The first L’Osstidcho, as it was now known, took place on May 28, 1968. As was to be expected, the show was greeted with mixed feelings. Some described it as a mediocre college review while others were angered by it. Stu Read More
1968, the Year when Anything Was Possible

The Théâtre de Quat’Sous, established recently in a former synagogue, advertized a very unorthodox show with a title that no one dared pronounce out loud (l’hostie de show). Yvon Deschamps, one of the theatre’s owners, was responsible for this last-minute brainchild of a stage musical to close the season. He was accompanied on stage by Robert Charlebois, whom he met at La Roulotte, a travelling theatre for young Montrealers; Mouffe and Louise Forestier, classmates of Charlebois at the École nationale de théâtre; the Jazz libre du Québec quartet; and organist Jacques Perron. The show was to be a happy mixture of song, monologues, music – sometimes discordant --, supplemented by improvisation. Its creators described it as a complete musical folly (translation).

A Psychedelic Rock Mass

The first L’Osstidcho, as it was now known, took place on May 28, 1968. As was to be expected, the show was greeted with mixed feelings. Some described it as a mediocre college review while others were angered by it. Students at the Collège Sainte-Marie were ordered not to attend the show, whose very name hurt Jesus (translation). Woe to those who failed to comply; they risked excommunication! Alternatively, the L’Osstidcho literally seduced youths who saw it as a bold and original piece of work marked with the seal of anarchy and chaos, a counter-culture demonstration and a psychedelic rock mass.

A Major Musical Event

By word of mouth, L’Osstidcho became a major event. From the Théâtre de Quat’Sous, with fewer than 200 seats, it moved to the Comédie-Canadienne (800 seats) in September 1968 under the title of L’Osstidcho king size, then – its grand consecration – to the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place-des-Arts (3 000 seats) in January 1969. For this last lap of its run, the show was rechristened L’Osstidcho meurt.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

Photography of Deschamps and Charlesbois

Two stars of the colourful L'Osstidcho, Robert Charlebois and Yvon Deschamps on stage.

Ronald Labelle
20th Century
Ronald Labelle Collection.


Playwriting in Quebec Comes to Life

Theatrical activity in Quebec intensified after the Second World War. Professional and semi-professional troops multiplied, as did original creations. In the opinion of many, playwriting in Quebec was coming to life. The momentum continued and grew in the 1960s. In addition to classical theatre repertoires, more and more plays by Quebecers were being presented. Few among them broached the daily lives of people of modest background, the favourite theme of authors such as Gratien Gélinas (Tit-Coq, 1948; Bousille et les justes, 1960). The play Les belles-soeurs by Michel Tremblay, premiered on August 28, 1968 at the Rideau Vert theatre under the efficient staging of André Brassard, brought the working class back to the theatre.

A Working Class Version of Tragic Comedy

The setting of this unusual story was the spring of 1965. Germaine Lauzon, a housewife in a working neighbourhood in Montréal, wins one million trading stamps. Once glued in booklets, they will allow her to acquire furnishings and accessories she has always dreamed about. S Read More
Playwriting in Quebec Comes to Life

Theatrical activity in Quebec intensified after the Second World War. Professional and semi-professional troops multiplied, as did original creations. In the opinion of many, playwriting in Quebec was coming to life. The momentum continued and grew in the 1960s. In addition to classical theatre repertoires, more and more plays by Quebecers were being presented. Few among them broached the daily lives of people of modest background, the favourite theme of authors such as Gratien Gélinas (Tit-Coq, 1948; Bousille et les justes, 1960). The play Les belles-soeurs by Michel Tremblay, premiered on August 28, 1968 at the Rideau Vert theatre under the efficient staging of André Brassard, brought the working class back to the theatre.

A Working Class Version of Tragic Comedy

The setting of this unusual story was the spring of 1965. Germaine Lauzon, a housewife in a working neighbourhood in Montréal, wins one million trading stamps. Once glued in booklets, they will allow her to acquire furnishings and accessories she has always dreamed about. She invites the women of her family and some neighbours to a stamp gluing session. As the play advances, we learn about the condition of each of the 14 women in Germaine’s home and the comedy progressively becomes a tragedy. It culminates in the plundering of trading stamps and Germaine’s possessions by her guests.

A Cult Model for Theatre in Quebec

The portrait of the working class community as cruel, harsh and indifferent presented in the dramatic comedy Les belles-soeurs caused a commotion among the public. It offended the sensitive souls who viewed it as a vulgar piece of work that extolled joual and profanity. On this last point, a journalist wrote: It was the first time in my life that in one evening I heard so much profanity, swearing and filthy language suitable only for the gutter (translation). But for most of the spectators and critics, Les belles-soeurs was a revelation. Jean-Claude Germain stated enthusiastically that it marked the birth of new theatre in Quebec. Its impact was similar to that caused by Gratien Gélinas’ play Tit-Coq in the 1940s and Marcel Dubé’s Zone the following decade. Yet the play was rejected unanimously by the jury of Theatre Canada in 1966. The play was translated into English, German, Italian, Polish, Yiddish and some fifteen other languages and is presented around the world.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

Sources of Humour in Quebec

It’s a well-known fact that Quebecers love to laugh. And this character trait is far from recent. When one thinks about it, the emergence of the Juste pour rire (Just for Laughs) festival 25 years ago marked the culmination of a process begun with the Frenchification of American burlesque by pioneers such as troupe manager Arthur Pétri and comedian Olivier Guimond (senior) during the 1920s. Thereafter, the genre gained in popularity. During the following decade, a good dozen theatres in Montréal capable of seating 8 000 presented burlesque shows. From the mid 1930s to 1953, the Théâtre national, owned by comedian Rose Ouellette, operated every day with a full house. Jean Grimaldi’s theatre did just as well in 1953, with 3 500 spectators daily. Cabarets that came into being between the wars also showcased humour. But burlesque and the world of cabarets began to decline with the arrival of television.

Humour that Challenges and Bites

Like society, humour evolves and changes. During the burlesque era, humour mocked the established or Read More
Sources of Humour in Quebec

It’s a well-known fact that Quebecers love to laugh. And this character trait is far from recent. When one thinks about it, the emergence of the Juste pour rire (Just for Laughs) festival 25 years ago marked the culmination of a process begun with the Frenchification of American burlesque by pioneers such as troupe manager Arthur Pétri and comedian Olivier Guimond (senior) during the 1920s. Thereafter, the genre gained in popularity. During the following decade, a good dozen theatres in Montréal capable of seating 8 000 presented burlesque shows. From the mid 1930s to 1953, the Théâtre national, owned by comedian Rose Ouellette, operated every day with a full house. Jean Grimaldi’s theatre did just as well in 1953, with 3 500 spectators daily. Cabarets that came into being between the wars also showcased humour. But burlesque and the world of cabarets began to decline with the arrival of television.

Humour that Challenges and Bites

Like society, humour evolves and changes. During the burlesque era, humour mocked the established order and authority, much to the great displeasure of the Church. With the Quiet Revolution, it was even more engaged and anti-establishment. The leaders of this type of humour were surely the Cyniques. Their name fit them perfectly. Adjectives used to describe the humour of the quartet originating from Collège Sainte-Marie at the dawn of the 1960s were many: scathing, caustic, biting, irreverent and vulgar. And if that were not enough, they swore blithely on stage; one skit was even specifically about this theme. The Cyniques spared no one: politicians, public personalities, members of the clergy, homosexuals, police officers and ethnic minorities were all targets. Nothing was taboo to them. According to Robert Aird, author of a book on the history of humour in Quebec, they were masters of the art of social satire.

Humour Become Feminine

The Cyniques were not the only humorists to address subjects that were taboo. Clémence Desrochers did the same, but using an entirely different approach. For a long time, females acted as foils in the field of humour. One need only think of Juliette Pétri, Manda Parent and Rose Ouellette, to name but a few. At the end of the 1950s, Clémence was the first female to go on stage and tell stories about a roster of charming and anonymous personages like housewives, female factory workers, passengers and waitresses. She addressed delicate issues like the obsession with weight, sexism and menopause. Even before the term feminist existed, she talked about women and their conditions with subtlety and affection. The person known to everyone simply as Clémence is considered to be the first humorist to do social monologue.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

The Heritage of the Forerunners

Song in Quebec took flight with the Quiet Revolution. Of course, author-composer-performers had paved the way. Félix Leclerc and Raymond Lévesque were the best known, but there were also Robert L’Herbier, Jacques Blanchet Jean-Paul Filion, Germaine Dugas and La Bolduc (Mary Travers) who wrote a few hundred songs during the years of economic crisis. However, the 1960s are credited with the unprecedented explosion of song that contributed to the awakening of Quebec.

Sing about the Country to Be

Two trends marked the world of song during this era: story songs and ye-ye singing. The first was written and sung by chansonniers inspired by Félix Leclerc and French singers such as Léo Ferré, Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel and Jean Ferrat. They praised of the beauty of the country to be and the solidarity of its inhabitants, participating in the awakening of national affirmation. They performed principally in coffee houses, which were multiplying everywhere in Quebec, a unique phenomenon worldwide. The most famous among them was the Butte à Read More
The Heritage of the Forerunners

Song in Quebec took flight with the Quiet Revolution. Of course, author-composer-performers had paved the way. Félix Leclerc and Raymond Lévesque were the best known, but there were also Robert L’Herbier, Jacques Blanchet Jean-Paul Filion, Germaine Dugas and La Bolduc (Mary Travers) who wrote a few hundred songs during the years of economic crisis. However, the 1960s are credited with the unprecedented explosion of song that contributed to the awakening of Quebec.

Sing about the Country to Be

Two trends marked the world of song during this era: story songs and ye-ye singing. The first was written and sung by chansonniers inspired by Félix Leclerc and French singers such as Léo Ferré, Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel and Jean Ferrat. They praised of the beauty of the country to be and the solidarity of its inhabitants, participating in the awakening of national affirmation. They performed principally in coffee houses, which were multiplying everywhere in Quebec, a unique phenomenon worldwide. The most famous among them was the Butte à Mathieu in Val-David.

Modish Youth

At the same time, popular music in Quebec was blossoming in Quebec with its ye-ye or go-go songs. Contrary to the chansonniers, ye-ye ne singers did not compose original songs, but interpreted French versions of songs in English. They were not overtly nationalist like the story song artists, but they showcased the French language in their own way. Idols during the beautiful yé-yé eras included Michel Louvain, Michèle Richard, Pierre Lalonde, Renée Martel and, influenced by the Beatlemania storm, a slew of groups with bizarre names and extravagant, colourful attire. The most important consideration was that the look prevail over the style (translation - Le Soleil, December 9, 1994). Up to 800 groups emerged in Quebec during the 1960s, and Saint-Hyacinthe was the Liverpool of Quebec. As of 1962, modish youth could see their idols on the Jeunesse d’Aujourd’hui show broadcast by Télé-Métropole. It is in large part because of this television show that 30 000 45-rpm records were sold each week in the metropolitan region alone.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

A Difficult Birth

Post-war Quebec saw the birth of a national form of filmmaking. But it arrived at a time when the world of film was experiencing great difficulty. The advent of television in 1952 led to a significant drop in attendance at movie theatres, even the closing down of several among them. Between 1953 and 1963, no feature film was produced in Quebec. All films were subject to the dictates of strong censure, and since 1947, drive-in theatres – sanctums of sin -- were illegal.

The Emergence of New Filmmaking in Quebec

Filmmaking in Quebec experienced new and strong renewal in the 1960s. It was a very auspicious period, during which up to 350 films were made. The move to Montréal in 1956 of the National Film Board (NFB), founded in Ottawa in 1939, explains the phenomenon in large part. Right away, the NFB became the crucible from which emerged a generation of young French Canadian producers (Michel Brault, Claude Jutras, Gilles Groulx, Pierre Perrault, Denys Arcand and many more). Influenced by anti-establishment and non-conformist film directors around t Read More
A Difficult Birth

Post-war Quebec saw the birth of a national form of filmmaking. But it arrived at a time when the world of film was experiencing great difficulty. The advent of television in 1952 led to a significant drop in attendance at movie theatres, even the closing down of several among them. Between 1953 and 1963, no feature film was produced in Quebec. All films were subject to the dictates of strong censure, and since 1947, drive-in theatres – sanctums of sin -- were illegal.

The Emergence of New Filmmaking in Quebec

Filmmaking in Quebec experienced new and strong renewal in the 1960s. It was a very auspicious period, during which up to 350 films were made. The move to Montréal in 1956 of the National Film Board (NFB), founded in Ottawa in 1939, explains the phenomenon in large part. Right away, the NFB became the crucible from which emerged a generation of young French Canadian producers (Michel Brault, Claude Jutras, Gilles Groulx, Pierre Perrault, Denys Arcand and many more). Influenced by anti-establishment and non-conformist film directors around the world, from France in particular with the new wave, they produced documentaries focusing on their base material, people’s lives. This type of strongly nationalistic filmmaking was known as direct cinema or cinéma-vérité. Under the Duplessis government, the screening of NFB productions was forbidden in schools.

Author’s films were not reserved solely for documentaries. They were also present in fiction. NFB film directors left the Board to focus on this genre in the 1960s. They granted much greater importance to speech than action. To project authenticity, they banked primarily on improvisation and the use of amateur actors.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

Artists Transformed Quebec

Jacques Parizeau, former Premier of Quebec, declared: the Quiet Revolution was the work of four ministers, twenty or so civil servants, some twenty chansonniers artists and some poets (translation). This statement highlighted the lead role played by artists in the great shake-up of the Quiet Revolution. Indeed, had not some of them paved the way by publishing the Refus global in 1948, a pamphlet demanding that Quebec society rid itself of the blanket of lead that had covered it for too long?

The Arts as a Means of Affirmation

The world of arts, in its broadest sense, was in ferment during the 1960s to 1970s. Some 400 collections of poetry were published during the decade. Raoul Duguay stated that, from poetic, the poetry became rebellious (translation). The number of novels published more than doubled, compared to the previous decade. Several, like the psychological novel, were written in a new genre. The family, a cardinal value of Quebec society was critically trivialized in stories. Likewise, the visual arts were exploring new frontiers. Read More
Artists Transformed Quebec

Jacques Parizeau, former Premier of Quebec, declared: the Quiet Revolution was the work of four ministers, twenty or so civil servants, some twenty chansonniers artists and some poets (translation). This statement highlighted the lead role played by artists in the great shake-up of the Quiet Revolution. Indeed, had not some of them paved the way by publishing the Refus global in 1948, a pamphlet demanding that Quebec society rid itself of the blanket of lead that had covered it for too long?

The Arts as a Means of Affirmation

The world of arts, in its broadest sense, was in ferment during the 1960s to 1970s. Some 400 collections of poetry were published during the decade. Raoul Duguay stated that, from poetic, the poetry became rebellious (translation). The number of novels published more than doubled, compared to the previous decade. Several, like the psychological novel, were written in a new genre. The family, a cardinal value of Quebec society was critically trivialized in stories. Likewise, the visual arts were exploring new frontiers.

The Emancipation of Women through the Arts

Finally, and without precedent, women were participating actively in the renewal and effervescence of the arts. Through novels, poetry and painting, they took the floor and were emancipated. They seized as theirs the words equality or independence pronounced by Premier Daniel Johnson during his crusade for the greater autonomy of Quebec, giving them a totally different meaning.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

Acquire a historic perspective. Establish relations between Quebec as it was before, during and after the Quiet Revolution

Educational Connections (cross-curricular competencies)

Build on information (make the most of information).
Build on information (place knowledge in perspective).
Express one’s opinion (exercise critical judgment).
Take advantage of technology (make the most of information technology and communication).
Immerse oneself in a situation (apply one’s creative thinking).
Commit oneself to exploration (apply one’s creative thinking).

Educational Results

Encourage the student to examine the subject from a historical perspective.
Bring the student to understand the present based on the past.
Bring the student to express an opinion on this history.
Bring the student to develop critical thinking.

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