Second Expo Theatre Opens

By Frank Daley of The Ottawa Journal

MONTRÉAL -- Sunday was the second night of the World Festival, Expo '67's entertainment program and it was also the happy occasion of the opening of the second of three theatres in Montréal's Place des Arts.

The Theatre Maisonneuve, a 1,290 seat beauty of a theatre was inaugurated by a tribute to Antoine St-Exupery, the French authors from whose writings the phrase "Man and His World" -- Expo's theme -- was taken.

Jean Louis Barrault and his Theatre de France were joined by Jean Gascon, Jean-Louis Roux and several members of the Theatre de Nouveau Monde in a program of readings entitled St-Exupery et Les Hommes, which roughly translates as St-Exupery on Man, for all of the readings dealt with this writer's thoughts and feelings on man and his nature.

St-Exupery was born in 1900 and trained as a pilot in his war service. Later he was a commercial airline pilot and returned to military service for the Second World War. He failed to return from a mission on July 31, 1944.

St-Exupery's writings stress the nobility and grace of man particularly when man measures himself against nature. His novels ("The Little Prince," "Wind, Sand and Stars") exalted the courage and indomitable spirit of man. He is an internal optimist and his seven books attest to it.

Countess Consuelo De St-Exupery, who was in the audience last night, has said of her late husband: "He dramatized everything. He didn't tell life the way it happened, just the parts with action."

She said that "Le Petit Prince," her husband's novel, was an allegory which was in reality, the story of his own soul.

M. Barrault chose not to scenically "cover" the readings from St-Exupery's works and he and the other 13 actors played in front of black curtains. They used no props, only chairs and one table.

SEATS 1,300 

The Theatre Maisonneuve is a gem. Beautifully appointed in brown carpeting and orange rust seats, it boasts two balconies and an orchestra that will seat nearly 1,300.

Theatre Maisonneauve is the second of three theatres in the complex known as Place des Arts on downtown Montréal's St. Catherine Street. The 800-seat Port-Royal Theatre will open officially June 3 with an appearance of the McGill Chamber Orchestra. Both theatres are connected by tunnel to the 3,000-seat Salle Wilfred Pelletier.

Continental seating has been installed in the Theatre Maisonneuve. This seating eliminates the centre aisles and allows for greater leg room between the rows. Like most modern theatres this one, even though it accommodates 1,300 people, is relatively intimate: the distance from the stage to the back of the orchestra is 70 feet.

Sight lines and acoustics are excellent in both the new theatres and their stages are huge. The Theatre Maisonneuve stage measures 48 feet deep and is 152 feet wide. It has 20 trap doors. The Port-Royal's depth is 57 feet, has a width of 152 feet and boasts a phenomenal 187 trap doors.

The orchestra pit in Theatre Maisonneuve holds 50 musicians and can be raised hydraulically to stage level allowing for the installation of an additional 58 seats.

The grid in the Theatre Maisonneuve is 85 feet high and the proscenium opening is 65 feet wide.

The theatre has an extremely modern and attractive foyer. It and the theatre proper were designed by Montréal architects David, Barott and Bouiva.

- End of article. Copyright by The Ottawa Journal, May 1, 1967.