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Mercredi, 29 mai 2024

Death of playwright David Fennario

Story Pierre Lussier

Playwright David Fennario died on September 16. Originally from Pointe-Saint-Charles, the author of the successful play Balconville lived a good part of his life in Verdun, notably on 2nd Avenue and Beatty .

Born into an English-speaking working-class family in Pointe in 1947, under the name David Wiper, Fennario would later adopt an artist name as an adult (David Fennario), a name inspired by Bob Dylan in a song that he greatly admired. In the meantime, the young man will work in different professions after leaving school.

In 1972, Fennario published his first novel in the form of a journal entitled Sans Parachute, in which he spoke in great words about Verdun, his place of residence.

Fennario has even more merit because he’s iself-taught. He did not study literature in major universities, but he is recognized as having “a real talent for his dramatic writing”, critic Adrien Gruslin said in the margins of the play On the job, in forwarding his story in Le Devoir of February 1, 1975.

Balconville, the consecration

Balconville is the first bilingual play written in Canada, with one third of the dialogue in French and two thirds in English. The story illustrates balcony conversations between French-speaking and English-speaking neighbors in Pointe-Saint-Charles. Created at the Centaur Theater, the play received an enthusiastic reception from critics and was performed almost everywhere, even outside of Canada. Singer and actor Marc Gélinas played the French-speaking role in the play. With Balconville, David Fennario became Centaur Theater’s first resident playwright.

Several documentaries have been made about David Fennario, notably by the filmmaker Martin Duckworth, who revealed to us the playwright’s social commitment.

Encyclopédie canadienne

Fennario, the activist

Through his political activism, David Fennario has a lot in common with trade unionist Léa Roback, with whom he has the same concerns for social justice and solidarity. Fennario and Roback also share a certain marginality in Quebec in the 1960s despite la Révolution tranquille underway at the time.

Successively candidate for the Union of Progressive Forces in 2003 and for Québec Solidaire in 2007, David Fennario remained faithful to his socialist convictions despite the illness which confined him to a wheelchair for several years.

Fennario, little known to francophones

In a brief press release, Tom, the playwright’s son, emphasizes that his father “defied medical science to get here”, resisting Guillain-Barré syndrome much longer than expected. Tom describes his father as “a writer and activist who did well for a punk kid”.

And as the former director of the defunct daily Montreal Star, Hugh MacLennan, reminds us in a novel, the French-speaking and English-speaking communities are like two solitudes that ignore each other, hence perhaps the little reaction from the French-speaking media to the death of Fennario, although reported in Le Devoir and La Presse.

Fennario with his wife, Elizabeth Johansen.

In closing, ExploreVerdunIDS.com and his weekly publication offers its most sincere condolences to the family, including the playwright’s wife Élizabeth Johansen and their two sons, but also to the many friends of David Fennario.

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