Richter > Interviews > Festival TransAmériques
Martin Gilbert, Vice President

Festival TransAmériques

Martin, a member of the organizing committee for the FTA benefit gala.

What is the mission of the Festival TransAmériques?

The Festival TransAmériques (FTA), held annually since 1985, is dedicated to contemporary theatre and dance. By encouraging the presentation and co-production of contemporary works, the FTA acts as a springboard for our creators by offering them a space where they can experiment freely. For instance, a few years ago, the FTA presented Christine Beaulieu’s documentary theatre piece J’aime Hydro, which went on to be (and still is) a huge success.

The Festival draws both creators seeking inspiration as well as big names in the artistic world. Last year, dancer and choreographer Louise Lecavalier was the spokesperson for the benefit gala. In a previous edition of the Festival, director Robert Lepage also presented one of his more experimental works.

The FTA also serves as a bridge between Quebec and the international scene. It invites artists from around the world and also showcases Quebec works to a global audience. For example, festivalgoers were able to see the production Tous des oiseaux by Wajdi Mouawad in 2019. As a story set in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the dialogue was in several languages, including Arabic and Hebrew. There are few limitations on what may be presented during the Festival!

“When we are so fortunate in our own lives, I think we have a responsibility to give back to the community.”

How did you start getting involved with the FTA?

In 2017, I accompanied a friend to the Festival’s benefit gala. She had been invited by a lawyer from her professional network who sat on the FTA’s Board of Directors and who was also in charge of the benefit gala committee. At the gala, he and I quickly realized that our paths had already crossed a few times, particularly during cultural events. Seeing my interest in the arts and cultural community, he asked me if I would like to get involved in the Festival. A few months later, I was invited to join the benefit gala committee. I discussed the proposal with my colleague Sophie Caudiu, who has been involved for a number of years with the Théâtre de la Manufacture / La Licorne, and she strongly encouraged me to accept the offer. The committee members come from many different backgrounds: from the artistic world, for sure, but also from the business sector. It’s been a particularly rewarding experience for me as it allows me to contribute in my own way to the vitality of Quebec’s cultural creativity, while meeting people I would probably have never gotten to know otherwise, and while promoting our firm.

Why is community involvement so important to you?

I have a good job, and every day I get to work with interesting people in a stimulating professional environment. When we are so fortunate in our own lives, I think we have a responsibility to give back to the community. There are many ways to do this, and no cause is better than another: it’s up to each person to decide where they want to invest their time and effort. Personally, I wanted to contribute to the cultural sector because of its considerable impact on our communities. But the vitality of this milieu depends largely on the financial support it receives. And since I work in the business sector, I felt I could be effective in this area. When you choose a cause, it’s important that your intentions be sincere.

Have you had to face any challenges as a result of your commitment?

Making sure that the benefit gala is a success is a challenge in and of itself! One of the roles of the committee members is to participate in selling tickets for the benefit gala. As it’s a fundraising event, the tickets are quite expensive. When I contact people to invite them to the gala, I take the time to carefully explain what the event is about. People need to expect to be taken out of their comfort zone and shaken up a bit, because it’s a cultural experience that’s very different from what we’re used to. I also tell people why I’m dedicated to this cause, because people are more likely to support it if they see how much the cause means to you. And I’m very grateful to all those who have stepped up to help. Funding is a challenge for every community and cultural organization, and the business sector’s participation is often very essential.

What have you learned from your involvement?

This experience has allowed me to learn more about and be exposed to a milieu that I was previously not too familiar with. As with other organizations, the FTA’s success depends on many people who work tirelessly for close to a year, primarily in the background, to pull off an internationally-renowned festival. As volunteers, we can feel that our contribution is appreciated and that it makes all the difference to the Festival organizers. These are people who believe deeply in their project, who have unbounded energy and who do not calculate the time they devote to the work. I also recognize in them the same type of passion that motivates the entrepreneurs I work with every day.